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Op-Ed: Crying While Others Laugh

By KJ Mullins     Aug 30, 2007 in Entertainment
Owen Wilson is the latest comedian who has had suicidal thoughts. The young star joins a list of funny men whose own lives are troubled. Sir Donald Wolfit said it best on his deathbed.
"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."
Freddie Prince and Richard Jeni both shot themselves to death. They followed the footsteps of Lenny Bruce who died of an overdose.
Mark Curry thought about it. So has Stephen Fry
Richard Pryor, John Belushi and Chris Farley all were troubled using drugs and alcohol to calm the pain inside. Belushi and Farley both ending up dead from their "cure".
Why? Why do the ones who help us laugh have such troubled lives?
Mark Breslin of Yuk Yuk's chimes in, Suicide is the leading cause of death of comics under age 50," says Breslin, 55. "I can think of six in Toronto alone.
"Standups are especially prone because they create their own material. They dig deep in their souls and sometimes when they get there, they don't like what they see.
"And there's a juxtaposition between the tragedy you see in the world and the comedy you create.
"It can drive you mad.
"Living that lie is a psychological thing if you're sensitive. And comedians tend to be pretty sensitive."
It's sad that the ones that we laugh with often fall so hard. They are observers of life. Offering up the parts that make nonsense or just the basics and somehow twisting it in a way that laughter is produced.
"Comedians have this genius brain," says Jamie Masada, who runs The Laugh Factory, the Hollywood comedy club that was the site of the Lovitz/Dick confrontation as well as some other recent bizarre moments in comedy, including Michael Richards unleashing racial epithets at black hecklers last November and Chappelle delivering a surprise marathon six-hour set in April. "But they are so sensitive to other people. They are so vulnerable to other people; 75% of the comedians I know, something is missing inside them. Something is not filled. They try to overcome it by going on the stage and making people laugh."
In the end the public doesn't know what goes on behind those smiles. Hopefully Wilson won't join the ranks of the dead. He's getting some help as he stays in the hospital. This would be a nice circle to break.
Let the harvesters of laughter be able to laugh too.
More about Suicide, Comics, Owen wilson
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