One of the final events in this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival was a performance from Scottish comedian Gary Little. Known as a master storyteller, Gary is a regular headliner at many of the top comedy clubs in the UK. The show, accurately titled, A Little Bit of Personal, took place on Halloween at Glasgow’s The Stand.
Gary has that distinct ability all good comedians seem to have, being able to take seemingly mundane everyday experiences and turn them into something undeniably hilarious. However, mental health is something comedians often struggle to talk about, or to talk about without causing offence, but Gary managed to have the audience bent over laughing, even while relating his performance back to mental health and the festival’s themes.
Gary organised his performance around his own past and personal experiences with depression. He described the reactions of his friends and work colleagues, who encouraged him to “find a hobby”. Gary continued to talk about his own desperation and vulnerability, relating the events that followed his decision to take up his friend’s suggestion of going hillwalking as a way to make himself feel better.
Although Gary performed his stories in a way that had the audience crying with laughter from the start, the show was a great display of the different ways individuals deal with and work through depression. In a sense, the use of comedy and wellbeing were interconnected throughout the evening, and the atmosphere in The Stand was a reminder of the healing power of laughter, good company and having someone there to talk to. On the other hand, Gary’s discussion of hill-walking, although it seemed like just a motif in his performance, highlighted that getting out there and doing something you wouldn't always do can have a therapeutic effect in itself.
Towards the end of the performance, Gary told the story of a community help group he attended, where he experimented with dancing as a tool for healing. Gary demonstrated his work from Angie’s Abba Class, with the words to Abba’s most famous songs running through. The audience, by this point, were crying with laughter, but again this was a reminder of the way in which different people deal with mental illness. He said that “not everyone has an Angie”, suggesting that we all have a responsibility to help those around us who are in a position where they need a friend.
Gary’s show unarguably helped to shed some light on the stigma surrounding mental health, and the way that, although many of us are suffering from the same issues, we choose to hide it. Gary’s courage to stand up on stage and tell his own story was an extremely admirable act. After Gary was held on stage for one last routine by the audience’s demand for an encore, he headed to the bar to interact with everyone who came, furthering the sense of the power of community and connection in times of personal struggle.
by Taylor Gardner
Presented by Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Gary Little's A Little Bit of Personal tour continues until Thursday 8 December, with Scottish dates listed below. For full details and to book tickets online, click here. You can also read Talking Heads reporter Anne Austin's interview with Gary here.
Sunday 13 November | Gardyne Theatre, Gardyne Road, Dundee DD5 1NY | 01382 434 940
Friday 18 November | Platform, 1000 Westerhouse Road, Glasgow G34 9JW | 0141 276 9696
Wednesday 30 November | The Stand, 5 York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EB | 0131 558 7272
Thursday 8 December |The Tolbooth, Jail Wynd, Stirling FK8 1DE | Book Online