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Recovery Comedy: Laughing your way to Recovery

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

Stereotypical as it may be, comedians have long been associated with drinking and doing drugs. Entertainers in general seem to receive this stereotype. Musicians, actors, comedians, even some athletes are associated with partying. Surely not every entertainer abuses substances. However, as in life, many do abuse, and so in the end we see tragic deaths from addiction. Overdoses kill over 100 people a day.

This is no joke, especially not for comedians. It’s no secret that addiction truly does pervade the comedy lifestyle; many comedians are addicts. For those in comedy who have recovered from addiction, it may be joked about here and there, but it’s taken seriously… and soberly. Here are a few examples of comedians who overcame addiction and what it meant to them through a comedic lens.

Craig Ferguson – He’s serious about sobriety.

craig-fergusonYou may know him as the host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Prior to his great success, he was a struggling alcoholic and drug addict, even suicidal. As of February 18, 1992, (yes he knows his sobriety date), Ferguson has been clean. He began his career as the host of the popular television program in 2005.

He has not been afraid to share his story with fans. He even went so far as to avoid joking about Britney Spears and her issues in 2007, instead going on to “tell an incredibly personal story, admitting to his own struggles that persisted to that very day.” Watch this moving monologue; it’s worth it.

Richard Pryor – From a ‘Fiery’ Addiction to an AA Recovery

richard-pryorRichard Pryor is a legend. Named the greatest comedian of all time on multiple lists every year, his work stands as textbook for awesome comedy. Unfortunately, a portion of his genius comedy was based on his true-life addiction to drugs and alcohol. He was very open about his drug use in his earlier routines. People knew he took things too far, freebasing cocaine and slamming down liquor. Pryor took things way too far on June 9, 1980, when he set himself on fire while drinking liquor and freebasing.

Amazingly, that was not enough to stop Pryor from abusing. He continued drinking and drugging for a short while, but eventually realized the light. Perhaps it was his new wife and child, perhaps it was sheer will, but Pryor teamed up with Alcoholics Anonymous and dealt with his addiction, living the rest of his life a sober man. Watch this revealing video of Pryor speaking on his addiction.

Mike DeStefano – From Heroin Addict to Drug Counselor to Comedian

mike-destefanoNot quite as well known in comedy circles as the prior two comedians, Mike DeStefano’s story is no less important and moving. DeStefano began using heroin at age 15. Later on, his first gig as a comedian gave him hope that his life had meaning. His next gig was at a Narcotics Anonymous convention. Fittingly, DeStefano sobered up as he grew in popularity, and even became a drug counselor!

His career as a counselor was relatively short-lived, as he soon realized he enjoyed the monologue rather than the discussion. Using his background as a comedian, he infused his story of recovery with his comedy and rose so far as to appear on the TV show Last Comic Standing.

In the end, it’s not funny.

Recovery is a grueling process, and it takes time and dedication. Catching a good laugh from one of these comedians or any other funny person can be a nice reprieve from the stresses of the addicted life. Perhaps you can take your recovery and turn it into a bit! Better yet, hire a comedian from the world of “recovery comedy,” where the focus is sobriety and the comedians are recovering addicts!

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