Chris Gethard Discusses Turning His Battles With Crippling Depression Into Comedy In His New HBO Special

It’s not until around the 10-minute mark of Chris Gethard‘s new HBO special, Career Suicide that you realize you’re watching a comedy show. The opening moments of his performance, which he performed last year during a run at New York’s Lynn Redgrave Theater, aren’t lacking in humor. In fact, the Upright Citizens Brigade alum is quite adept at getting his audience to laugh — even when most people wouldn’t even think of laughing at his subject matter. After all, when it comes to mental illness, depression and having suicidal thoughts, no one should be laughing.

Yet the audience held captive by Gethard’s storytelling, be it the crowds who attended the taping or those watching at home, are laughing. Mainly because at around the 10-minute mark, the former Saturday Night Live guest writer calls himself out for seeming so serious at what was billed as a humorous program. “Sometimes people break,” he says before quipping, “Welcome to a comedy show!” Cue the laughter, audience applause and a short title credits sequence reminding everyone that Career Suicide will, in fact, make them laugh.

It does many times over, though Gethard refuses to take all the credit. In his interview with Uproxx, he thanks everyone from director Kimberly Senior and executive producer Judd Apatow, to fellow comics like Mike Birbiglia. Even so, The Chris Gethard Show host ultimately acknowledges his desire to produce the most intimate and funniest show possible about an otherwise dour topic. And judging by the reactions he’s heard from countless live show attendees, he succeeds with flying colors.

This has a rather long introduction. It’s not until almost 10 minutes in that you pause and say, “Sometimes people break. Welcome to a comedy show!” Then the title credits roll and the show goes on. What prompted this?

It grew very organically, actually. I don’t think the idea of putting any of those titles at that point in the show occurred until we actually got it up and on its feet. However, as I worked on that part of the show more and more with my director, Kimberly, it started to feel a little bit more of like something necessary. Especially that last line, “Welcome to a comedy show.” It stopped feeling like a throwaway and started feeling like it was really getting a response from the audience. They would generally start applauding then, and that’s when I knew the show was really cooking.

I noticed it during the run, that the show built itself up very organically, into having a long prologue. Even when I would walk into the room, I thought it was kind of weird. How and why people dig that. But I’m really proud of it. I’m proud we’re taking some chances and doing things a little differently.

It works really well. It never occurred to me, while watching, that I was missing title credits or a typical stand-up special introduction. I was too focused on what you were saying.

That’s cool to hear. I think a lot of that comes from Judd Apatow. When he first got involved, he was just giving me a few notes here and there become ultimately becoming a producer of the show. He’d heard I was doing this weird show and asked if he could see a tape. So I gave him one and he graciously gave me some notes. I kept asking him if I should come out of the gate with harder jokes, because I just wasn’t sure about the beginning. He set me straight and said, “Look, this is not stand-up. This isn’t not stand-up. This is a show that uses stand-up, and the spine of it is stand-up, but more than anything this has to be a show. You have to let it be what it wants to be.” That was a big hurdle for me to get over, mentally.