Prior to his career in comedy, Gary Gulman was a football player, an accountant, and a high school teacher. Now, he’s one of the most popular touring comics in the country, and one of a handful of comedians to perform on every late-night comedy program, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Late Night with Seth Meyers, to name a few.
Gulman brings his Peace of Mind Tour to the Music Hall this Saturday.
His first stand-up special, Gary Gulman: Boyish Man, aired in 2006 on Comedy Central, with a second special, In This Economy? on Comedy Central in 2012, followed by the Netflix special It’s About Time in 2016.
In October of last year, Gulman made a big return after a brief hiatus from stand-up with his fourth comedy special on HBO.
The Great Depresh is traditional stand-up special meets short documentary — and it isn’t just Gulman cracking jokes about the absurdity of ’70s and ’80s masculinity. It’s also him opening up about his depression, anxiety, hospitalization, and recovery for the first time.
The stand-up in The Great Depresh hits a wide range of emotions. Gulman goes from talking about his depression to making love to a water fountain to discussing the femininity of Sprite. In between segments of stand-up are clips that dive into Gulman’s early life, featuring his childhood home in Peabody, Mass., his mom, his wife Sade (“not the Sade, but my Sade,” Gulman jokes in the special), and his psychiatrist.
The Great Depresh was something Gulman had been wanting to do since his recovery.
After his hospitalization and “coming out of the other side,” Gulman wrote a few jokes about being depressed that he worked on in the summer of 2017, and started doing stand-up again in fall of the same year. When his manager, Brian Stern, heard an audio version of one of these shows, he asked Gulman, “Have you thought about doing a special where you talk about your depression and recovery?”
While Gulman liked the idea, he was still unsure, as his recovery was still in its early days.
“I thought it sounded like a good idea, but at the same time, I was careful not to derail my recovery by putting too much pressure on myself to immediately create something really different from what I’ve been used to doing and to also put myself in a position where I could get rejected and maybe lose some of my momentum,” Gulman says about the initial pitch.
“The good thing about just getting on stage at that time was that it was going well and I felt good about it and the stakes were very low. They were just the audiences from night to night.”
Eventually, Gulman was ready to do the special.
“The entire product was therapeutic,” he says about the special. “Even if I didn’t talk about depression, it would’ve been therapeutic just to get on stage and be around people and get laughs from them.” He wants others to know they’re not alone, and to help de-stigmatize the negative views on mental health and getting help.
“But then, by redeeming this catastrophe or setback in my life through comedy, that was very therapeutic. And then getting feedback at the end of shows when I did meet and greets, that was therapeutic, too. From people saying they felt better or thanking me or telling me they felt less alone or understood or seen, that was really a godsend.”
Growing up, Gulman was always comfortable in helping others and teaching them, especially with basketball, a sport he loved to play because “it was the only sport where you can practice alone.”
And now that he’s in “remish,” as he calls it in the special, he continues to educate people through jokes, but also in a more practical way by tweeting daily advice to aspiring comedians.
“I always have a desire in my act to address things from a different angle, perspective, or opinion than other comedians, so that when most comedians deal with certain issues, they come from the same angle with the same opinion with the same take, and with having an opinion that differs from most people,” says Gulman. “If my true opinion differs from the status quo, I see it as a great opportunity to stand out in comedy.”