7 Comedians Who Have Battled Addiction, Depression
Williams reportedly committed suicide at his home on Monday, August 11. He had entered rehab last month to “fine-tune” his sobriety, but continued to struggle with depression and anxiety. His wife, Susan Schneider also revealed that Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
The world of comedy is known for being filled with brilliant minds who struggle with inner demons. Some have been successful in defeating their addictions and getting sober, while others have succumbed to their illnesses. Here’s a look at seven famous comedians who have struggled with addiction and depression.
The comedian and host of the WTF Podcast battled addictions to cocaine, nicotine and alcohol while trying to make it as a comedian. He finally quit his vices in 1999 and has even used his podcast as a way of making amends to comedians he knew while using.
“Because of sobriety and because of the process of the podcast, I was now talking to my peers about things that were important to me, and they turned out to be important to them too,” he said. “Through the podcast, I was able to sort of reintegrate myself into the community, change my peers’ attitudes about me as well as my own attitudes about myself, be a little more accepting of myself and what I was really feeling, and also know that it was relatable.”
The Scottish TV personality experienced his first blackout at the age of 14 and alcohol eventually destroyed both his career and marriage. He planned to commit suicide on Christmas morning in 1991, but was ironically talked out of it by a friend at the bar. Ferguson eventually quit drinking for good in February 1992 and his career took off when he moved to the U.S. shortly after.
He publicly acknowledged his sobriety during an opening monologue on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in February 2007. “Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the hearts of too many others. Even though it did this to me and it almost killed me and I haven’t touched a drop of it in seventeen years, sometimes I wonder if I could get away with drinking some now,” he admitted. “I totally subscribe to the notion that alcoholism is a mental illness because thinking like that is clearly insane.”
Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the hearts of too many others.-Craig Ferguson
Best known for his time on Saturday Night Live and ‘90s films like Tommy Boy, Farley had sought treatment for drug abuse and obesity on 17 occasions. He became such a regular at the Hazelden rehab center that one friend remarked “they should have named a wing after him.” Despite his wild popularity, Farley was never able to get past his own self-loathing and beliefs that his comedy career amounted to an ongoing “fat guy falls down” schtick.
In December 1997, he reportedly went on a massive drug and alcohol bender for four days. Farley died on Dec. 18, 1997, at the age of 33, from an accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine. In August 2005, he was posthumously given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Glee star attended her first AA meeting in January 1992, at the age of 31, and hasn’t looked back since. In her 2011 memoir Happy Accidents, Lynch spoke openly about the kinship she felt with others in AA and her own semi-embarrassment for not having a drinking problem that was as severe as others who attended the meetings.
“In AA there would be one dramatic story after another, with people losing everything to drugs and booze. And here I was with my Miller Lite and morning hangovers and some occasional unremembered vomit in the bathroom,” wrote Lynch. “Some of the stories I heard in the rooms of AA were so endless, horrible, and tragic that I would have to stop myself from screaming at them ‘At what point did you hit bottom?!’ I guess what I’m saying is: when I stopped, I had reached my limit. I knew that my mind, body, and spirit had just had it.”
Best known as the foul-mouthed sidekick on Howard Stern’s radio show, Lange’s addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine and gambling led to him very publicly spiraling out of control. He was eventually let go by Stern after repeatedly not showing to work, falling asleep during tapings and yelling at guests. In January 2010, Lange attempted suicide by chugging from a bottle of bleach, stabbing himself in the stomach nine times and then slitting his wrists, resulting in him spending the next eight months in a psych ward.
He continues to attend meetings since leaving rehab and despite acknowledging two relapses in the last four years, Lange appears committed to his sobriety. “I love writing sober. I think more clearly and have better references in my act now because I remember more,” he said. “It’s a million times better than the romantic thought that you need to be using something in order to write. Some people might be able to get away with that, but I think most of us need to have a clear head.”
…Lange attempted suicide by chugging from a bottle of bleach, stabbing himself in the stomach nine times and then slitting his wrists…
“I used to do drugs. I still do drugs, but I used to, too.” This classic line from Hedberg, once dubbed as “the next Seinfeld” by Time magazine, gave a small glimpse into the comedian’s ongoing drug problems. He was arrested for heroin possession in 2003 and spoke only about his drug abuse. In an interview with Howard Stern in the final weeks of his life, he declared that his cocaine use was “under control” and was taken only “for the creative side.”
Although Bamford dealt with an eating disorder in her teen years, her biggest lifelong struggles have been with bipolar disorder and depression. She has been more open about mental illness than perhaps any other comic in the industry and a vocal advocate for getting treatment.
“It’s something people are so powerless over, and so often they want to make it your fault. It’s nobody’s fault,” she said. “I started thinking of suicide when I was 10 years old—I can’t believe that that’s somebody’s fault. Like, ‘Oh, you’re just an attention getter.’ Mental illness isn’t seen as an illness, it’s seen as a choice.”
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