Comedian Dana Eagle is OK with it if you compare her to Maria Bamford. Both comediennes mine their own mental health issues for hilarity, turning their anxiety and depression and, in Eagle’s case, bipolar disorder, into comedic fuel. For Eagle, who will be in Miami this weekend headlining at Comic Cure’s Florida’s Funniest Female competition, comedy has helped her cope. “Because my job has become to write jokes, when my head starts going in a bad direction, which it’s naturally predisposed to do, I am able to take that turn and go, ‘OK, where’s the funny?’”
Isolation also causes depression, so getting on stage and performing is somewhat therapeutic, says Eagle, who was diagnosed with depression as a teenager. But it’s not always easy to be so frank; she admits, “I tend to get embarrassed to be so revealing.” Some things she has kept out of her act, like a few years ago when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, though she found the treatment for cancer was less of a challenge than dealing with mental illness. “My imaginary problems are far worse than my real ones.”
The “Last Comic Standing” semi-finalist has channeled some of her stories about her struggles into a one-woman show, “Stones from Glass Houses,” which she performed at the Aspen Comedy Festival. She has also been working on a play called “Mood Disorders: A Light-Hearted Romp Through Crippling Depression,” which she originally imagined as a one-woman show but is now expanding. The process of writing the play got Eagle in the frame of mind she needed to create her book, “How to be Depressed: A Guide” (Knock Knock, $15). Filled with drawings, lists, quippy one-liners, silly instructional guides and other hilarious takes on mental illness, the book addresses the stigmas associated with depression by joking about the universality of the experience. The book’s epigraph: “80% of the population suffer from depression. The other 20% cause it.”
“How to Be Depressed” opens with a quiz: Do You Have What It Takes to Be Depressed? Readers find tips on selecting a proper wardrobe to go with their depression (yoga pants work), a checklist on leaving “things unfinished” and a word find game (the medley of despair). The book includes a travel section highlighting the perks of being depressed in Chicago, New York and even France (“Your depression isn’t chronic, it’s deja vu!”). Miami is not included, but because of the heat, the comedian suggests we “borrow Phoenix’s.”
Eagle calls the book her “revenge” on self help books. “All the self help books are like ‘This is the answer to everything!’ It puts the onus on you, and if you don’t get better, it’s your fault. I worked so hard that when I got sick, I felt like a failure. The acceptance part is important. In order to solve anything you have to be honest about it.”
Sometimes things are just funny because they are true.
IF YOU GO:
What: Florida’s Funniest Female
When: 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22
Where: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 2750 McFarlane Road, Coconut Grove
Cost: Advance tickets $25, $150 VIP (includes table for four). At the door $35, $175.