“Humour is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humour and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is Fun, Free and easy to use.”
International award winning comedian of Warner Brothers Movie World / Police Academy Stuntshow fame Michael Bennett knows only too well about depression and despair.
Mike and his fiancée Donna Perfect of “Dream Guards” fame have each survived immense heart-breaking personal tragedies, and have come out the other side of it. Their solution? learn to talk about it. And have a laugh in the process. Mad Mike caught the attention of PSYCoaching Psychology Solutions for the clever and courageous way in which he works awareness of depression into a comedy routine in a way that destigmatises it and challenges the audiences to speak up. And that’s not an easy job for a man whose job is it is to keep people laughing all night. I attended a few of their adult shows and kids shows and I laughed my pants off while talking about depression, trauma and bullying.
I caught up with Mike after a show once to ask him how he pulls hit off.
I first saw you at Movieworld Gold Coast in 1992. How were the ensuing 16 years?
Becoming a stuntman for the Police Academy Stunt Show in 1993 was a major bucket list and boyhood dream tick for me. So glad my wild youth of motorbikes, cars and martial arts paid off. Taking over as the Police Academy Stunt Show comedy warm-up act from Chris Knight in the late 90’s was another Dream. It was a total spin out being a solo performer in front of 2,000 people 3 times a day. Making them laugh till tears came out without a spoken word was a very powerful and rewarding feeling. The icing on the cake was when I was awarded Winner of the Big ‘E’ Award from IAAPA (International association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) for Best Atmosphere/Street Performer in 2006.
How did you come to incorporate talk of depression into your routine (and what’s this about Robyn Wiliams?)
Robyn Williams was a huge influence on my life from the very first time I saw him on Mork and Mindy. He was wild and crazy and the words “Na-Nu Na-Nu” made it feel alright to be a little different. I was always a little different – I wasn’t very academic and had a tough time at school and home. The Black Dog of Depression has been on my tail for as long as I can remember but last year it really hit home how nasty this beast can be; when it bit Robyn Williams so hard that he took his own life. I mention in my shows now how Robyn’s death has effected me and my battle with depression.
How is it possible to mix depression and comedy?
I weave this material amongst comedy, but mostly it is a serious bit explaining the importance of communicating your depression. During a comedy show this piece does surprise people but I would not say it makes people feel uncomfortable. Witnessing people in awe and attentive to a profound and important message delivered in a unique and inspirational way is uplifting.
How have audiences responded to your message about depression?
The power of my piece and the message it resonates amongst the audience has surpassed any expectations of the gift it was meant to be. I am inundated with love and thanks after my show from people who are grateful that this important message is being delivered to the masses. Everybody knows someone who is battling their own demons. You are Not Alone.
What is the message you would like to get across about depression, and what do you think about the word?
The message I would like to get across is that “You are Not Alone”. It is ok to talk if you are feeling down and in despair. The word depression conjures up images of white lab coats, electric shock treatment and crazy people from “One Flew Over the Coo-Coos Nest.” This perception is based on uncompassionate, ignorant and old-fashioned views. Depression is an invisible disease that has no outward physical appearance is the problem.
What is the connection between mental health and comedy?
Laughter is the best medicine and helps the wellbeing of my audiences immensely. I will share with you what I have found on the benefits of laughter for you health and wellbeing. Repetitive mirthful laughter enhances your mood, decreases stress hormones, enhances immune activity, lowers bad cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and raises good cholesterol (HDL).
Humour is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humour and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, and protect you from damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is Fun, Free and easy to use.
The version I saw was certainly not Kids friendly (and I loved it). However you also do a kids show. What is the purpose of your kids show?
Adults brains and kids brains are worlds apart. No – they are galaxies apart. Hence the delivery and messages are performed and executed in a different yet most profound way. The “Dream Guards Show” my Lady Donna-Leigh Perfect and I perform is amazing and is being hailed as one of the best shows seen by all the teachers and parents who have witnessed it. We empower children to stand up to bullying in a powerful, positive way and tell them to Dream Big. Our mission is to excite children by delivering a high energy interactive and dynamic stage show that will nourish a child’s passion, inspire self belief and fertilise imagination.
Check out Mike’s website where you will find his gig guide along with my blogs and other information. He hopes to de-stress you at a gig soon. michaelbennett.com.au. For the kids show, check out perfectfunnfitness.com.au
In case you missed it last week – here are some links.
Adult Only – https://youtu.be/DLqEUjQzes0
Family friendly – https://youtu.be/E67MmES-ZFw
Depression Pinky Promise – https://youtu.be/NauebWyFVmQ
Mad Mike Police Academy Stunt Show – https://youtu.be/lySOMU2E_C4
Dream Guards – https://youtu.be/79_aHALeoyE
Did you know that depression or anxiety are normal, but that 50 per cent of us will experience clinical levels at some point in our lifetime? Do you need help with your own depression? Did you know that Medicare might cover most of the cost? Did you know that you get counselling over Skype? visit psycoaching.com.au to get started.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Remember to like, share and comment below.
Have you laughed today?
-Richard Moore, Psychologist