Episode 60: Jamie Denbo
Comedic actress / improvisor / writer / podcaster Jamie Denbo talks about being an only child, born to Jewish parents whose lives, culture and ancestors she feels are informed by fear. She talks about growing up in Massachusetts and feeling guilty for not having more obvious reason to explain her sadness, panic and anger, and how motherhood is helping her to recognize the familial and cultural cycles she would like to break. Listeners may know her as Beverly of the podcasting duo Ronna & Beverly, or her many television appearances, including FX’sTerriers, Conan, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Weeds and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Paul: Welcome to episode 60 with my guest Jamie Denbo, I’m Paul Gilmartin, this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, to everyday compulsive negative thinking, feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy, and that vague, sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour, we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counselling. It is not the doctor’s office. It is more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck.
The website for this show is mentalpod.com. There are so many things to check out at that website, please go to it. There’s a forum, there are surveys you can take, there are survey responses, you can see how everybody else responds on these surveys. There’s a basic survey, there’s a survey about shames and secrets and fantasies, there’s a survey about boys and babysitters, because that seems to be kind of a, really under-discussed phenomenon in our culture, is the way boys have been touched and dealt with by female babysitters—and male babysitters—in the past, and uh, big disparity between what people think is appropriate and not. The Twitter name you can follow me at is @mentalpod as well, but just go to the website, there’s also blogs, I write a blog, people write guest blogs, you can support the show there, etc. etc. etc. And you can sign up for the newsletter. We’ve got about 500 people already signed up for the newsletter! So thank you, those of you that have been signing up for that. I will start sending out more newsletters very shortly.
Uh, what did I want to say? Let’s... We’re gonna kick things off with a survey respondent, this person’s name, her name is Maureen, and... she’s straight, she’s in her 20s, raised in a stable and safe environment.
‘Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse?’ She writes “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts. I gave/received oral sex with a slightly older female friend in the third grade. I don’t think she was abusing me or coercing me, she was only one year older and I was curious. Same deal with a female cousin, though that was slightly more coercive.”
‘Deepest darkest thoughts,’ she writes “I have sexual fantasies about rape and gangbangs. They’re not very realistic, and I have no desire to act them out in real life. I’ve had dreams about my husband being anally raped by a man. It’s very explicit and very upsetting/unpleasant. I’ve also had a dream where my mother violently beat me to death with an iron.”
‘What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?’ She writes “Being tied up and my physical sensations purposefully controlled. I don’t like much pain. I like being out of control—being masturbated, stimulated, fucked, etc. at someone else’s leisure, but they need to be interested in controlling my sexuality, not just in getting off.”
‘Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?’ She writes “I have some of them, but I do not share fantasies I would never want to enact in life, like gangrape fantasies. My fantasies are generally very tailored to create a theoretical situation I’d be comfortable with, whereas being so out of control in reality is terrifying, and doesn’t turn me on. I only like the trappings of a lack of control, not the reality of it.” Boy, that is such a... one of reasons why I wanted to read this, her response, is, she so succinctly explains the difference between fantasy and reality, and that clear demarcation between the two, and why one doesn’t necessarily make the other true, which surprises me then that she wouldn’t want to, um, wouldn’t feel comfortable telling her partner about that.
‘Deepest darkest secrets, things that you’ve done or things that’ve happened to you’, she writes “I saw my little brother get dondled”—I guess that must mean ‘fondled’—“by an older female friend of mine in the fourth grade. I did nothing. He mentioned it once, I pretended I didn’t remember. I asked if it affected him, and he said it did not. When I was very little I drew a drawing of a man and a woman in bed and the woman was about to stab the man. I was imagining a James Bond-esque female assassin who used her prettiness to trick men. I really didn’t understand sex, but my mother made it very clear that that was wrong. I think she thought I knew more about what I had drawn than I did. We never discussed it. I think about it often and am embarrassed because it seems like it revealed a sexual tendency in me that I couldn’t have known or understood, and it was revealed to the least helpful person, and they were kinda mean about it, and I still wish I could go back in a time machine and defend myself.”
‘Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?’ She writes “I have shame about my cowardice in not protecting my brother, and my additional cowardice in failing to admit to the original cowardice.”
And the second survey response I wanted to read was from a male, also the ‘Shame and Secrets’ survey. A male named—calls himself ‘Tarlo, zero zero,’ he’s straight, he’s in his 30s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment.
‘Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse? He writes “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. In high school I allowed a troubled male friend who had been molested as a child to touch my bare penis and scrotum as we laid in bed.”
‘Deepest darkest thoughts,’ he writes “Killing my mother, who had severe emotional boundary issues with me throughout my childhood. Making money as an assassin, becoming a drug dealer, becoming a superhero, becoming a religious messiah.” This guy, his survey fascinates me, ‘cause it’s so, it’s so rich and detailed, I mean everybody’s is that fills them out but, I’d never heard one like this before so I just kind of... why am I explaining it?
‘Most powerful sexual fantasies to you.’ “Being comforted and safe. Giving up control and being a slave. Having my will stolen in an instant by a hypnotic sorceress mistress. Being enslaved by a babysitter. Becoming a love slave and being made a cuckold”—I like that word, ‘cuckold’—”being made a cuckold by my ex-wife, whose body I still covet. Being a warrior from a rival tribe who is enthralled by an elegant Cleopatra-esque woman.” ‘Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend these fantasies,’ he writes “Yes.”
‘Deepest darkest secrets, things you have done, or things that have happened to you,’ he writes “Molested by high school friend as mentioned previously.”
‘Do these generate any thoughts or feelings toward yourself,’ he writes “Shame, anger, excitement.”
Both of these surveys made me think of a phrase that a listener shared with me in an e-mail earlier this week, I think they heard it somewhere on an NPR program, and uh, this person had said: “Unless you have compassion for yourself, compassion is incomplete.”
Paul: I’m here with Jamie Denbo, who uh, is a comedic actress and improviser, did some standup, people would recognize her from—probably most notably from a podcast that she does called Ronna (row-nuh) and Beverly, uh—
Jamie: ‘Ronna.’ (raw-nuh) ‘Ronna.’
Paul: Oh is it ‘Ronna?’
Jamie: It is ‘Ronna’.
Paul: Okay, ‘cause I’ve only just ever read it in print, so—
Jamie: No no—well you say it the way the English do, ‘row-nuh, row-nuh,’ they always say ‘row-nuh.’
Paul: ‘Raw-nuh. Raw-nuh.’
Paul: Ronna and Beverly.
Jamie: Ronna and Beverly.
Paul: And uh, she plays Beverly, we’ll get to that in a minute—she has appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, um, Conan, uh, uh—
Jamie: Terriers, for the few, for the five people that actually watched that, with Donal Logue. That was, oddly enough, one of the ones that—although my podiatrist actually, who I went to yesterday, was like “I loved you on Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and I was like “did you Google me, before I came in—how would you, know that? How would you know that?” And he was like “I recognize you”, I was like “you are, full of shit.”
Jamie: There’s no way. I think—it was one episode, seasons ago, so it was weird. But anyway, yeah. I don’t know that your listeners would know me except from Ronna and Beverly.
Paul: Yeah, um... you’re an improviser who started out at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in New York, then you moved out here, and that’s where people would probably, most likely see you if they’re gonna see you live...
Paul: I started listening to Ronna and Beverly—did I pronounce it it now—
Jamie: Yes, you did.
Paul: Okay, Ronna and Beverly, about a month or so ago, and um, I—it’s hilarious, it’s such a detailed—there are few things that I love more than really detailed satire. And, the characters that you guys create, um, can you describe the characters to these people ‘cause I—
Jamie: Sure, yeah. It’s sometimes it’s a hard to think, uh, to understand without sounding like you’re just describing the same old schticky Jewish mother act that everybody sort of expects, when you say it’s—
Paul: Because on the surface you would think that it is that, but they’re not from New York—
Paul: —they’re from Massachusetts—
Paul: —and there is a depth and a detail to it that, you know after listening to it for 10 minutes, ‘oh they’re channeling people they know.’
Jamie: Not just people—I mean I think um, you know, Ronna and Beverly, oddly enough, it has come very easy to me, meaning that yeah, it is, it’s the women that I grew up with, it’s the women that mothered me and grandmothered me, and were around a lot in the community, and I think the New England thing is pretty specific in its own weird way, because there’s a reservedness that counteracts the innate Jewish yelling thing, so there’s a real dichotomy of these characters, but oddly enough the more specific we got with it like anything, the more universal of a reach it seemed to have. Which is, something that we preach in improv, but you don’t often—you don’t always believe it, like ‘how can that possibly be true,’ and then when we took the show to other areas of the country, when we took it to England, it’s the matriarchy. I think our ultimate—now what it’s really become is it’s... Jessica Chaffin, who plays Ronna, she has brilliantly become the matriarch in your family who passes judgement.
Paul: Oh my God, she’s so good at “excuse me!”
Jamie: “Excuse me.”
Paul: “Excuse me!”
Jamie: She knows you better than you do.
Paul: She does.
Jamie: And she knows, everything about—and she’s decided that that’s the truth, before you have a chance to even defend it. She’s made up her mind, she knows. And half the time she’s actually right—well, she would argue that most of the time she’s actually right. Um—
Paul: And in many ways, I feel she like she grounds it, and you’re like the little kid kind of running around...
Jamie: Yeah! Well, I try to channel the matriarch that embarasses you. You know, the one that—they both embarrass you—but the one that really, you know, feels that her age and her experience give her the uh, the excuse to be as racist as she wants. ‘It doesn’t matter! I’ve lived a long time, so it doesn’t matter.’ It’s like, ‘I already know, that racism is re—it’s, it is, you know what, you can call it racism, but I don’t I don’t—I call it preference, and it doesn’t matter’, you know what I mean, like she has, it’s like ‘who cares? I’ve lived, I have my life, I have my family,’ like, she doesn’t—she’s that person, and we want the experience, ultimately to be, when someone uh, experiences your mom basically meeting someone that you love. Like if my—for me it was always Goldie Hawn—like if my mother met Goldie Hawn, I can just—I know how it would go down. ‘This is—Goldie, hang on a sec—this is my daughter, she does what you do, she loves you—we used to watch Private—Jamie, come on do something for me—’ it’s that. and it’s like, who hasn’t really experienced—especially living in LA, like, your parents come to visit, you’re gonna run into someone famous, and they’re gonna fuckin’ embarrass you, or you’ll nail them to the chair in the cafe and say ‘don’t.’ So, ultimately that’s kind of what it’s become.
Paul: Yeah. Have your parents ever gotten up and interacted with somebody famous and embarrassed you?
Jamie: Um, at my wedding, my mom’s best friend—Amy Poehler was a guest at my wedding, she had probably had been on SNL for a couple of years at that point, and my mom’s best friend, Beverly—not, again, my Beverly is an amalgam. But my mom’s best friend Beverly, I took Amy over to meet Beverly and my mom, and Beverly just said “why can’t you get Jamie on Saturday Night Live?!”
Jamie: And honestly, it was one of the worst moments of my life. It really was. It was fucking horrible. Horrible. So a lot of that, yeah, that happens, sure.
Paul: Well, when I heard probably the, I suppose it was the maybe the second episode of your podcast that I listened to... There are things that Beverly blurts out that are so inappropriate and dark, I went ‘Jamie would be a good guest.’ Well, first I had to Google to find out which one did which character, but I knew, whoever it was that did Beverly, was comfortable with the darkness inside her, and that to me is ultimately what makes an interesting guest on this show.
Jamie: I can’t argue with that. And as a long-time—or short-time, I guess, like I really only discovered your podcast through my husband a couple of months ago, but I am a fan, and I was hoping somehow—I don’t know what it says about me that I was hoping to delve into all my majorly personal shit on your show, but... I agree! I agree. Beverly’s dark, I’m dark, there’s a darkness there for sure.
Paul: Do you think the hope that you would be asked to come on is because, that feeling when you connect with somebody that understands you, fills that little part of you that feels like... not that something’s missing, but that you’re not completely understood?
Jamie: Well, it’s interesting. We can work backwards. When I get into a depression, or rather when I come out of my remission from depression, one of the things that I really have to remind myself to do, and actually I’ve just started keeping it on my bed table is The Noonday Demon, by Andrew Solomon. It’s sort of, uh... my husband had actually introduced me to it many years ago but it’s, one man’s battle with a massive depression. It’s 600 pages long, it is what is but they’re incredible passages—
Paul: That alone depresses me.
Jamie: Yeah. It’s very depressing—
Paul: The thought of reading a 600-page book. But it’s good, huh?
Jamie: It’s the discovery—it’s a man’s discovery—Andrew Solomon who I can’t—it’s so awful, I’d love to say ‘and, he was this, and this this and this’—I believe he was a journalist. Is a journalist. And he chronicles his own struggle with depression. And, he in doing that, as a journalist he also researches depression. And so it’s really one of those reads that chronicles your own path and gives you real definition and context.
Paul: I love that.
Jamie: It’s very good. And I, have to read that, every so often to remind myself, because it’s so easy to slip back into ‘this is bullshit. I have nothing to be sad about.’ You know, that same, immature philosophy of depression that just never really seems to disappear but is there.
Paul: ‘I’m just feeling sorry for myself, I just need to snap out of it.’
Jamie: Unbelievable. ‘Snap out of it!’
Paul: ‘I’m weak.’
Jamie: Yep. And to forget so easily that it is an illness. To really forget. And to forget what you’ve gone through! To forget how, you couldn’t get out of bed for a month. And how... the number of experimental antidepressants you’ve been on, and the viciousness. I mean... to forget all that? Because you’ve had a few good months or years? And, yeah. You forget.
Paul: And that’s one of the characteristics of mental illness. Especially addiction, because addiction, you romance what it was you were addicted to, and you forget about the pain, and the times when it was out of control.
Jamie: Oh I can only imagine.
Paul: Yeah. So let’s start uh, let’s start from the beginning. What kind of environment were you raised in, what do you remember about your childhood, are there any seminal moments that kind of stick out?
Jamie: Yeah, um... I’m an only child. I grew up north of Boston. Like that—
Paul: [New England accent] Swampscott (swampskaht)?
Jamie: Swampscott (swampskit), Swampscott, they call it Swampscott. It’s Swampscott (swampskaht). It’s spelled Swampscott (swampskaht). But, I grew up in Swampscott (swampskit). My parents were transplants. I grew up there, but my parents—my dad was from south Jersey, and my mom was from Montreal. And they sort of settled somewhere in the middle. I only mention this because, that suburban, Boston environment is very... it’s very rooted. People, New Englanders are salty, they are proud of where they come from, they usually go back generations, they’ve settled in these areas. This is their—
Paul: Tradition’s very important to them.
Jamie: Very important. So, we were already a bit odd because my parents sounded different, you know, their—I had a very good ear for accents very early on. I knew that newscasters sounded very different from the way that people around me sounded, and the way my parents sounded.
Paul: Yeah, ‘cause you have no dialect, that I can hear.
Jamie: No, no. My dad’s from down the shore from south Philadelphia, and my mom’s from Montreal, which is totally weird.
Paul: Does she speak French?
Jamie: She claims she does. I have never heard her utter a full sentence, I have to say. Never heard it. I have no proof of that. Um, and they’re Jewish, I’m Jewish, um... You know, it was, um... Without boring everyone to death, it was a lonely existence. You know, also to grow up in—another thing about growing up in suburban Boston I think I was the only only child with parents that were together, until they weren’t, and then they were again. Everybody else has a family of three kids. But I will tell you this, this is something that signified I think a lot to come, and it’s even starting right now. I remember, from a very early age, not being able to catch my breath. A very early age.
Jamie: Yes. It’s happening, right now, we don’t have to talk about it... But um, it’s clearly anxiety. Which I am now very aware of. But, as a kid, I would do it, I would sit in the car—I remember being a passenger in my mother’s car, and her just saying “What are you doing? Stop breathing like like that.” Like she, you know, there was nothing physically wrong, and I also remember filling out, whether it was camp forms or... ailments, or lists of whatever and me seeing it like ‘Write down shortness of breath, it says shortness of breath, I have that’, but there’s no, it’s—no one ever diagnosed it as anxiety, until much much later. Um—
Paul: You’re feeling it right now.
Paul: Describe what it is that you feel.
Jamie: [deep breath] The only thi—it’s a massive tightening in the chest, um, and I can’t get—it’s like I cannot get a deep enough breath. [deep breath] There. I just caught it. Like, sometimes I can go deep enough... often I have to yawn, which is weird, I become very self-conscious of it. So I suppose talking about it, is making me more self-conscious, but it seems to have passed for the moment.
Paul: How uncomfortable would it be, if I said ‘You’re weird, we’re done.’
Jamie: ...If you what?
Paul: If I said ‘You’re weird, and we’re done,’ and we just ended the interview.
Jamie: Then I would cry. I could cry. Just imagining that.
Paul: Oh okay—I’m relishing this power that I have right now.
Jamie: Oh, God.
Paul: It’s so tempting...
Jamie: [laughing] You’re a terrible person! You’re a terrible person!
Jamie: Um—I would start weeping. That would be a horrible—oh God, that would be so fucking horrible!
Paul: And then I aired it. I aired it. And I said ‘I wish I could have given you more, but Jamie really had nothing interesting to give.’
Jamie: [laughing] Oh God...
Paul: We-we just met really for the first time about ten minutes ago, downstairs, at the coffee place, and we hugged each other, and-and the first thing I said to you was, “Just the fact that you wanted to come on this show, I feel close to you.”
Paul: “And I feel, safe.”
Jamie: Oh, I’m so glad... me too!
Paul: Oh yeah, yeah. I just, um—
Jamie: I knew—I knew I would feel that way, because of what I’ve heard, but there’s no reason that you would necessarily feel that way. None.
Paul: I can tell you just hearing you do that character—
Jamie: You know what? Honestly? Honestly? We’re done. I’m outta here.
Paul: [laughing] You turned the tables!
Jamie: [deadpan] Yeah. Go fuck yourself. Honestly. Fuck yourself and your podcast. Um, I can’t believe I started talking about—I used to and I still call it ‘the breathing problem’—talking about the ‘breathing problem’ gave me the ‘breathing problem.’
Paul: It makes sense!
Jamie: People are gonna think that’s fake. They’re gonna think that’s fucking fake.
Paul: No, people that listen to that podcast know, that that’s, that is, uh—because you were saying that listening to the Steve Agee episode, you felt like he was the brother you never had.
Jamie: Well, I feel that way about Steve anyway. I know him, outside of this but yeah I do, I did. I do and I—more so, I mean, honestly, I heard him do Julie Klausner’s podcast and talk about Three’s Company and I knew we were somehow related in another life, because that’s also a past obsession of mine. But then yeah, hearing him on your podcast... I definitely think it’s a very brotherly thing.
Paul: Yeah. And he talks about fear of having a panic attack being almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. And then you’re kind of this in this prison where you’re just waiting for it to happen.
Jamie: Oh yeah. I—it took me a very long time to realize, even I think after I went through some of the major bouts of depression that I’ve been through, to recognize that the breathing problem was panic, or anxiety disorder. And... God, I keep thinking about how crazy that will have sounded!
Jamie: To have had—to have just brought it up.
Paul: No! That’s what this show is about, Jamie!
Jamie: It’s so weird.
Paul: I couldn’t disagree more.
Jamie: Okay, good.
Paul: I was just thinking what a great moment that was.
Jamie: Yeah. It’s—well, when I think about—I think when I—you know, here’s the thing about being an only child, is that you are perpetually outnumbered. You just are. And I also believe—and I know a lot of people have really good experiences being only children, that’s just—a lot of people do, I’ve grown up enough, and talked to enough people in my adulthood that had really positive, wonderful experiences with it. But for me, I always felt incredibly ganged-up on, and also—
Paul: By who?
Jamie: Oh, by my family, my parents. But I think it was also that no one was there to look to, and say—
Paul: ‘Am I just crazy?’
Jamie: Yeah, yeah. There’s no... and again, that coupled with a predisposition for anxiety, and panic, and depression...
Paul: So, was your parents’ energy towards you kind of a microscopic analyzing of everything you did, and you were waiting for the criticism, or—don’t let me put words in your mouth, describe—
Jamie: No, no no no. You know, here’s the thing. My parents were—still are—they’re good parents. It’s funny, you know, I have the parents that I have the issues with, and everyone else in the world who meets them thinks they’re fantastic. Which has also contributed to my isolationist view, of family, in that way. My family. I’ve actually been reading quite a lot—this is sort of sidestepping—a lot of information on this one topic, that has given me a tremendous amount of insight into the way that they parented and treated me as a kid. And actually what it has to do with, is—I love to read about cults. That’s just one of my things. I don’t think I’m the only person. People love cults. They’re fascinating. I read Helter Skelter recently, I’d never read it before, I read Inside Scientology—I love it. So I started reading the book Unorthodox. And Unchosen. Everything that begins with ‘un-.’ And they’re about the Hasidic Jewish sects that are in Brooklyn, and about people that have grown up, and then moved on and distanced themselves and broken away. The most interesting thing that I have taken away from that, that really has resonated and I can’t stop thinking about is, the slightly older generation of Jewish children of immigrants, and then the immigrants, who came from eastern Europe, as most—certainly New England Jews, a lot of displaced, pre-war and then post-war survivors, and what have you. The ultra-ultra-religious—and as the generations have gone on, they’ve become a lot less religious, that’s Americanism, secularism, it’s whatever. I can say the same for my family, generationally speaking. My parents grew up in very Orthodox families, they were a lot less Orthodox, I am much less Orthodox than they are, and so on and so on and so on. I’m inter-faith married, whatever. I consider myself a very reformed cultural, somewhat-Jewish atheist.
Paul: And your children are going to worship the Devil.
Jamie: My children are destined for fucking hellfire. But, ultimately what I learned, is what a culture of fear that generation of American Jews existed in, and Canadian Jews I include in that. It is such a fear-based society, that there is no way my parents could not have interpreted and internalized—it is literally the opposite of mental health. They way that they process the world around them, that, if you don’t pray with every move you make, then something bad will happen.
Paul: That’s awful.
Jamie: It’s an awful—it’s truly—I think that—
Paul: And it’s such an idea of a punishing God.
Jamie: Oh it’s all it is. ‘You will be punished for this. Everyone is wrong but you because they’re not a following the rules, the way—’ and obviously, massive extremist in that particular culture, but there’s no—again, we are all splintered, secularized versions of that culture—because ultimately, the Hasidim tried to recreate the shtetls of Europe. That was their initial objective, was to create what Hitler destroyed. And the Russian pogroms, and to create that, in America. But there is this insane culture of fear. And when I was reading about it, I could hear my grandmother’s voice, like I could hear this fear! Everything is fear-based. It is—seriously, what we spend our lives in therapy undoing, if—you know, the expression ‘if it’s not love it’s fear, if it’s not fear it’s love,’ it’s like... You’ve gotta like work to find that love!
Jamie: And I think that I blame my parents and my upbringing so much less now that I’m starting to recognize just how severe even that one weird cultural Jewish aspect of fear. And I’m sure it exists in other cultures.
Paul: I wonder if that’s why the overwhelming majority of my female guests are Jewish.
Jamie: Oh I’m—we’re—yeah, I’m sure. And Jewish male comics. That’s like Woody Allen’s fear-based neurosis. I mean that’s—it’s not like it’s a huge—I guess now that I’m looking at it, it’s like ‘well how is this a revelation?’ I mean most of the comedic, you know, all of the Jewish comedy writers, everybody fuckin’ hates themselves.
Paul: And I suppose, um, that’s probably why I have quite a few Catholics on as well, is because we have a lot of the, imagining God as being this punishing person who’s just waiting to bring the hammer down, but minus what Jewish people have, which is also an actual history of the hammer being brought down.
Jamie: Well, and that we all have to pay for it somehow. I mean that’s the other thing, I mean, you know. I guess what I really realized is like—first of all, how many times I say ‘like,’ which I’m upset about, now that I’m realizing.
Jamie: I feel like I’ve said ‘like’ every fuckin’ two seconds.
Paul: I haven’t even noticed.
Jamie: Horrible. Horrible. I hate it.
Paul: Tell me what Beverly would say about you doing that.
Jamie: ‘Oh, you know what, you’re young, who cares? Who cares, you’re young, doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. You sound cute. You sound like a valley girl. You remember valley girls? Are they cute? With the side ponytail?’ Um... I think what I’m recognizing is how that extreme fear seeps into your blood. And seeps into your bones. And ultimately how much fucking time, money, and chemical you spend just trying to exorcise that. Fear is everything! Fear is evil! That’s it, right there.
Paul: And it separates us, from each other. And that’s one of the things that I love about having deep conversations with people, is the fear evaporates for that hour that I’m talking to people. I’m not afraid. I’m not alone. I feel accepted. And I had therapist express it this way, she said: “You need to feel that you’ve been felt.” And, it made me want to cry when I heard it, ‘cause it was like ‘oh my God, I never realized, I never felt felt. I never felt understood.’ I thought it was just about ‘being good.’
Jamie: Mm-hmm. Well, yeah. I mean I... Once you accept that you’re a depressive, too, and you do read things like The Noonday Demon and other people’s accounts of their own depressions, and you start feeling... legitimized. You start to think about when it started. And you start seeing these flashes, this slideshow in your mind of the times that—’oh, I was depressed, oh I was depressed—’ and you can be more forgiving to that inner child.
Paul: So give me—let’s talk about the specifics of your childhood. So you had this shortness of breath.
Jamie: Oh yeah.
Paul: You felt kind of ganged-up on. I haven’t really understood what it is that you felt, how you felt ganged-up on by your parents.
Jamie: My parents... I think it’s safe to say that for most of my childhood they were in a very unhappy marriage with each other. I think they both felt like foreigners in a foreign land, even though they were from a six-hour drive in either direction, I still think that they felt lonely in their own way. I think there was a lot of resentment and blame about that. If one of them was unhappy with their new environment, I think there was definitely quiet resentment. My dad is a big guy, he was very intimidating, and he had a temper, he’s softened quite a bit... My mom, uh, was um—you know, listen, my mom—being a working mom in the 70s, I mean, being a working mother is fuckin’ hard in every era, and I can speak a lot to that as well, but in the 70s I don’t think I gave her as much credit, for realizing how fucking hard it had to have been. ‘Cause she wanted to make a name for herself, whether it was in sales, or—she was in sales for a really long time, she did like corporate sales of coffee makes for a while, she did—and my dad was a CPA. She was, um—
Paul: Was that weird, for him to be the only Jew in accounting?
Jamie: [laughs] He was really—when we talk about isolation, oh, so fuckin’ hard! So many black people! Um... yeah so it was umm, I think that—and they were very unhappy, you know they umm... they separated when I was 10, or 11. Which felt like, I remember it not being remotely shocking. I mean, they were—
Paul: Were you upset, relieved? Didn’t care?
Jamie: [deep breath] I think—you know what I really remember, if I’m being completely honest? I was... happy about getting attention. For having parents that were getting divorced.
Paul: That’s awesome. That’s awesome that you can get in touch with that, and be honest about that.
Jamie: Yeah, I was really like, I remember being in school and not doing my homework one time. I specifically remember—it was sixth grade, so I must have been a little older—no, no no, I was 11. Um, and the teacher held me after class, and was like “what’s going on?” And I remember saying “my parent are getting divorced”, and either faking tears, or crying but there were no tears, I don’t remember what I did. But I remember feeling nothing, and her feeling all this sympathy towards me, and all this affection, and me just literally thinking ‘this is fucking awesome! I can get—this is awesome!’ And then, you know, it was shitty, I started seeing my dad date other people, my mom date other people, it was fucking weird. I did feel like it was an excuse to be a nasty little monster bitch to them, it was also the worst fucking possible age for that to happen. And then I went to summer camp, and I came back, and my mom was driving me back, and she said that my dad was coming back. And that was it. He came back.
Paul: What do you remember thinking when she said that? Were you worried that you weren’t going to get sympathy anymore? Were you happy that your dad—
Jamie: I was just mad. I just remember being very angry. I don’t remember having any complex emotions, just being fucking enraged. Enraged because I remember thinking like ‘I don’t get a fuckin’ opinion, in any of this?’ That I remember. I remember being like, feeling very powerless.
Paul: I would imagine too, that there was dread that you were going to see that sick dynamic of their marriage again, and you were gonna have to have a front-row seat for it.
Jamie: Yeah, but it wasn’t as much that, it wasn’t a fearful thing, and it wasn’t—it was more tiresome, you know. I remember—I mean I was never afraid of my parents, my parents were never physical with me, it was more just like—
Jamie: Yeah it was exhausting. And I think there was a part of me that was just like ‘fine, fuck.’ And I definitely felt like ‘well, I guess now I have to have like—’ you know what, I think what it was, and I don’t think I ever would have had the ability to verbalize it at the time. I think I remember thinking, ‘well now everyone’s gonna think my life is perfect, ‘cause my parents got back together.’ And I remember thinking ‘well that’s a fuckin’ bummer, ‘cause I still feel like shit.’
Jamie: And it was definitely like, the very first—there it goes again with the ‘like’—it was definitely the first feelings of what true depression I think is, is feeling like shit when your circumstances dictate something different, and being like ‘oh, wow, I’m an ingrate,’ starting to beat myself up for it, and then just becoming angry.
Paul: It’s a cycle. It’s a terrible cycle that feeds on itself, and I’m really glad that you brought that up, because a lot of people cannot have compassion towards themselves. And children don’t know because they don’t have anything to compare it to and they’re usually the first to blame themselves especially in cases of divorce.
Jamie: It was a perfect storm. It’s like, the age that I was, no siblings, and then a budding depression. It was a perfect storm. And I can see now, how... [deep breath] Here we go again. How, I mean I remember... This is so weird, I must have been a bit younger. But I mean, I used to watch The Brady Bunch in syndication every day. I probably watched—
Paul: Did you want to be, in the family?
Jamie: I didn’t necessarily want to be in that family, but I can still picture, anytime any of the kids were upset, anytime they were upset, the mom came up and had a conversation. ‘Tell me what’s bothering you. Are you okay?’ And I used to sit in my room, and look out the window, and wait. ‘Cause I thought ‘someone’s gonna ask me how I’m feeling. Someone’s gonna ask me or say, look me in the eye and say ‘What’s going on?’’
Paul: Oh, that breaks my heart!
Jamie: I know. It’s sad, but it is true. I mean, I... and my father, my father was—this, if he hears it, what are you gonna do? My father was physically abused as a child. I mean, he was beaten the shit out of. He thinks it’s funny, to say like ‘oh yeah, we were beaten the shit out of.’ He was definitely from the ‘children are seen and not heard generation.’ He was probably, he was aged out of the hippie generation. He was probably more in the Don Draper, caught between hippie and 70s... it’s a shitty time, I think. Um, so I don’t think that he ever would understand the need to connect on that level. And my mom, my mom was just dealing with her own struggling. I mean, she was a bit of a square peg in that community. She’ll talk about it.
Paul: Another dynamic that seems to be really prevalent in the Jewish community is caring very much about what other people think. And I know that’s not particular to that community, but it... friends of mine are often worried desperately about their parents think, or their parents—I should say the parents are very worried about what their children do, because of what their friends are going to think.
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely. There’s odd little things. My mom and my grandparents were obsessed, I mean fanatically obsessed with people knowing their real age. Obsessed.
Jamie: Talking about what people think, it’s like, my whole thing with my mom is ‘why don’t you just tell people how old you are, and then they’ll tell you how great you look for that age,’ like ‘what do you care?’ And my grandfather was so crazy with it that he wouldn’t have his birthdate put on his headstone.
Paul: [laughs] That’s so—
Jamie: It’s so weird! And I had a conversation with my mom the other day, ‘cause my daughter was asking my mother how old she was, and my mom wouldn’t give it up. And I was like “my daughter is four and a half! Just tell her how old you are! She doesn’t have a concept of what age looks like, just tell her!” But she was—I said “what is it?” She said “it’s just the way it is! It’s just the way it is! It’s nobody’s business! Nobody needs to know.” And I keep thinking like ‘so is it fear, that people are gonna know you’re so close to death? Like, what is that?’
Paul: Do you think—and this is a long shot, I’m sure—but do you think that some part of what happened in the Holocaust, where information about you could decided whether you lived or died—
Paul: —do you think that might play into it?
Jamie: Let’s put it this way. I don’t remember not knowing about the Holocaust. I don’t have a time in my childhood that I didn’t know, that 6,000,000 Jews were killed. I don’t remember a time that I did not have that information. I went to a Jewish day school. On Yom HaShoah, one of the remembrance days, we walked around the school wearing construction paper yellow stars that said ‘Juden,’ and even though, I don’t know exactly what it was meant to—I mean I think I understand the philosophy behind it, it was also a bit weird, because everyone in the school was wearing one. So it’s not that we were doing the blue-eye-brown-eye segregation experiment, we were all fucking walking around like we were headed to the gas chamber. Imagine being six, seven years old—because I went from kindergarten to sixth grade—having a consciousness like that, that we are gonna be... I can’t imagine looking at my daughter, and saying... It’s not that I don’t want her to have that information, of course I do, but there’s an age-appropriateness that was not part of child development.
Paul: And a way that you share it with them, that—
Jamie: Uh, yeah. We watched Shoah, when I was like, eight. That’s that 12-hour fucking documentary on the Holocaust. I mean, and if that was the way it was for me, I can only imagine that for for my mom—whose father walked through Russia on foot—so, for my mother, how close that information is, and my father.
Paul: And I would imagine too, that that feeds those thoughts in your head that say ‘I’m exaggerating, I just need to keep this to myself, I’m feeling sorry—I didn’t walk barefoot through Russia, what the fuck do I have to complain about?’
Jamie: I mean, honestly, is there a fuckin’ Jew that you’ve had on this podcast who doesn’t have this problem? I mean, there can’t be. We all share that. We all share the—and we’re coming—I think we’re waking up. I think that this generation... I think that’s probably why there’s so much inter-marriage. I think it’s probably why there’s so much of turning away our conservative or semi-Orthodox upbringings, because it’s so... it was so oppressive, even just consciously—err, unconsciously. Did you see A Serious Man?
Paul: I didn’t.
Jamie: Oh. It’s a really... you know it’s about the Coen brothers, it’s sort of their most autobiographical work, and it’s about them being forced into these Hebrew schools, with these cement blocks, and these old stinky rabbis, and it felt very familiar to me. And so distant now. And I’m so grateful. I have my own new fuckin’ problems and they’re fabulous.
Jamie: They’re fabulously awful in their own way. I live in Hollywood, I need the Jewish shit to—it’s like, ‘enough!’ I think it’s interesting that Beverly is what hooked you in, because the truth is that Beverly operates from a complete place of fear.
Paul: Do you think too, why some people are turning away from that is because they’re seeing their parents age, and getting near death, and they’re still miserable, and they’re thinking to themselves ‘I don’t wanna go in those footsteps?’
Jamie: Oh yeah. We all want to change the story. We all wanna rewrite it. We desperately want to rewrite it.
Paul: ‘I don’t wanna be ruled by fear, like my parents were.’
Paul: Yeah. So, um... Your parents, your dad moved back in, and then what was your adolescence like? Give me some snapshots.
Jamie: Oh, just, loud and angry and... I was a very good kid. It’s so interesting, I think this probably comes up a lot too. I played by the book, I got good grades, I never really drank in high school. I was very, you know, I was a good kid, probably to um... just not have to feel like I’ve done anything that they could actually hold against me. But, I was, you know, bitterly angry, and depressed, there’s no question. Very depressed. My depression really exploded in college, I went to Boston University, my—oh by the way, we never talked about my parents’ separation, ever, my parents and I, until many years later. We just never—we didn’t have communication, or a comfortable place in my family to talk about that stuff, and honestly, we still don’t really get particularly deep.
Paul: What—this might sound kinda cheesy, but, imagine going back to when you were 11 years old, and picture a really comforting adult, somebody that you trust, and that was safe. And, if you could go back, and wrap your arms around that person, and have that person wrap their arms around you, what would you say to that person? And they said to you ‘tell me what’s going on.’
Jamie: If I were me, or if I were the person?
Paul: If you were that 11-year-old Jamie.
Jamie: [sigh] You know... I’ll tell you this. This is really, this is another fuckin’ sad Brady story. Rather than tell you that? Makes me think that... I had a piano teacher, when I was about that age. I was going through all of this weirdness with my parents. And, I was forced to take piano lessons, I didn’t wanna take piano lessons, but you know, like a lot of kids I went every week, never practiced... And I remember—she was young, she must have been about 28. She must have seemed like 55, but she was probably only 28. And I remember, I don’t know what happened, but I must have talked to her. I must have opened up to her. And told her about what was going on. And I remember leaving, and thinking ‘I found someone! I found someone to talk to. I found someone that feels like a camp counselor. Feels like someone I can communicate with. This is amazing. I found someone.’ And then I went back the next week, thinking ‘here we go, I get to talk again!’ And she was all business. All piano, all piano, all piano, and I hadn’t practiced. And it was all, fuckin’ piano. And I just remember, I don’t know what I had opened to her about specifically, all I know is I do remember feeling devastated. And feeling like ‘oh. I was wrong.’ And I also remember that childhood feels interminable. God, it feels like it’s never gonna fuckin’ end! There are days I still wake up and I’m just so relieved that I don’t have homework. You know what I mean?
Paul: [laughs] Yeah.
Jamie: I just remember thinking like ‘I’m gonna have homework for the rest of my fucking life!’ I don’t anymore. It’s awesome, that’s an awesome thing.
Paul: It is.
Jamie: Um... I went to... what would I say to that child, I-I—
Paul: You don’t have to, I don’t want to force anything.
Jamie: I mean I... I’m already having a breathing problem, I don’t want to start sobbing.
Paul: Sobbing’s okay, Jamie.
Jamie: [sigh] ...you have a gentle voice, Paul. Um... Let’s get to the comedy! And the breakdowns! There! No? No? Breakdowns during comedy? [sigh] I can tell you this. I, you know... I’m... I’m sure a lot of the comedy that I did, and the disappearing into characters that I wound up finding so much comfort in had everything to do with avoiding... avoiding presenting a person, myself. I’m sure. I mean that seems like pretty obvious, I guess. [deep breath]
Paul: When did you first feel like, ‘I need help, this isn’t manageable?’
Jamie: In college. And I... found a therapist who was fine, not particularly good, I didn’t like her but I thought—I didn’t understand the idea that you could sample therapists until you find the right one, and that’s become such a huge, enlightening, and eye-opening thing for me, that you must shop for the right therapist. That no two therapists are alike, and there’s no shame in that. And.... but she was good enough, I guess?
Paul: If anybody listening to this has not listened to the episode with Dr. Jessica Zucker, listen to it, because we spend about 20 minutes talking about questions that people have, about how to find a therapist, especially if you don’t have money, things to look for in a therapist, how to know... it’s certainly not hard and fast rules, but we answer a lot of questions that people have about therapy, and therapists.
Jamie: It’s so important. You know, the therapist that I have, that I have and I’ve had, for many years now... you know I knew she was the right therapist for me, was when I found her I was in a very bad way. I was in probably my darkest deepest depression. Months long, lost upwards of 30 pounds... And by the way, for your listeners, I’m not fuckin’ fat, so I didn’t have that much to lose.
Jamie: Okay? Whatever you’re picturing, picture me thin.
Paul: And everybody always too, when you go through that horrible depression, where you’re just feeling suicidal, and you’re not even hungry, and everybody’s telling you you look great.
Jamie: Fuckin’ great. And let me tell you something, nothing works like the depression diet. Honestly. That’s the one upswing. But, anyway, this was too thin. And I was—but I remember being on her couch two days a week, and I remember sobbing and just saying “So this is it? This is my life now, I’m gonna fuckin’ be here forever? That’s how this works? I’m gonna be here two days a week for the rest of my life?” And she just said “No. No.” She said, “You’re gonna get through this, and then maybe you’ll call me in a year, because you realize six months have passed, and we haven’t talked, and maybe you wanna come in for a tune-up, or maybe not. Or maybe, a couple years, or maybe not. Or maybe you won’t. Or maybe you’ll just check in, or maybe you’ll come see me once a week for like a month and a half.” And I remember thinking ‘oh this could be finite. This could be... this could end, and then enter a new place.’ And, honestly that’s why she’s still my therapist. And why many years pass. Sometimes two at a time, when I do not talk to here. And then there are times where I see her once a week for two months. And to me, having somebody that didn’t believe in that sort of Woody Allen-esque psychoanalysis way, that you were destined, you had no choice but to be on that couch every week for the rest of your life, for me that was incredibly... it just recalibrated the entire idea of therapy in my mind. It gave me a goal. It gave me a place to go. It gave me something to work towards.
Paul: And it also changes how you think about yourself. And it takes away that unnecessary kind of reverse catch-22, where the anxiety and the hopeless feeds on itself.
Jamie: Oh, yeah.
Paul: That’s the thing about depression that is so insidious, is you feel hopeless, and so it tells yourself ‘there is no hope, this is reality.’ And that’s why therapy and support groups are so good, because you meet people that can describe to you what it’s like on the other side, so you can see that little pinhole of light, in that dark dark time.
Jamie: And how about the forgetting of it too? How about the idea that you have to relearn this? I mean I think that’s something else that’s so, um... and this kind of does relate to comedy. When I was teaching at the Upright Citizens Brigade I used to teach level one. I could have taught upper levels, I preferred to teach level one. Because I liked relearning the basics for myself, and I liked reteaching them to different people, it always affects people differently, people use improv for all different things, different places in their life, different work environments. I love improv. And I love teaching level one. To me, it’s so interesting that it was so in my face to have to relearn the rules of the job, and the life, and the career that I’d chosen, over and over again, but I would go into a depression and forget that it was real. And forget, and just think ‘I’m a fuckin’ piece of shit, life is hopeless, this is clearly a defect, I’m doing something wrong.’ And then I fortunately look over at my bedstand, and see The Noonday Demon, and remember that ‘oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Maybe I need to tweak my Lexapro. Maybe I need to go back into therapy for a few months. Maybe I need to—there’s a way out of this.’ But, talk about insidious. That it would actually cloud your brain so that you would forget that this is something that you will wrestle with, from time to time.
Paul: Yeah. I want to apologize, about my stomach. I don’t know, my stomach’s—
Jamie: Oh, is it yours? I thought maybe it was mine!
Paul: No, it’s mine.
Oh, no! Are you hungry?
Paul: I guess, I must be! But, uh—
Jamie: Well, eat something! [Jewish mother accent] Oh, why don’t you eat something? Why don’t you eat something? Ohh, Paul Gilmartin! So sad, Gilmartin, what’s that, Armenian? Sounds Armenian. I hope it’s not Armenian. Is it Armenian?
Paul: It’s Irish.
Jamie: [still in character] Eugh.
Paul: [laughs] So, um... do you want to do a, fear-off? I feel like there’re probably some more seminal moments in your life that I’d like to hear.
Jamie: Well, I can tell you one that might relate, specifically because you’re a stand-up, or have been a stand-up, and as a stand-up this might be interesting. I, myself, came up through the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York, back in the day when Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh and Matt Besser and Amy Poehler were actually teaching classes, I met my husband in Amy Poehler’s class—that’s why she was at my wedding.
Paul: Your husband is John Ross Bowie (boh-ee)?
Jamie: Correct. Bowie (bau-ee). But that’s alright. Him and Ronna (row-nuh). Ronna (row-nuh) and Bowie (boh-ee) get to hang out together.
Jamie: But yes, and so, um... You know, it’s an odd thing, improv. You know, what I always used to tell my—and this, it’s so funny, having been a teacher too, for as many years as I was, and seeing a lot of my ex-students really rise, it’s actually, it’s such a source of pride, you know when someone that was a student of yours is on Saturday Night Live, it’s nice.
Paul: Who was a student of yours, that’s—
Jamie: Oh Bobby Moynihan was a student of mine.
Paul: Oh that’s awesome!
Jamie: Yeah yeah yeah! And just seeing people all over the place, rise and do all this great work and... it’s cool. And I genuinely mean that, that’s not me trying to cover jealousy—a little bit—no, but not really. No, no, no I’m past that. I am past that. But, you know, it’s, I—you go through this—you know how do you mean a career of improv? I mean I think that, when I fell in love with improv in college, that was the one positive thing that really came out of my college experience, was the college improv group, I was like ‘oh, this is it.’
Paul: A spinning brain finally pays off.
Jamie: Kinda, yeah. But you know, like anything too, just like stand-up, I think the lows are so fucked-up, that you wonder why we are attracted to this... I mean, picking yourself up after a bad comedy show whether you’re a stand-up or an improviser is... It’s almost an excuse to beat the shit out of yourself. No wonder! Okay, now I just answered it. It’s awful.
Paul: Yeah. Because you have, an actual, physical experience that tells you you’re not good enough.
Jamie: God! You’re right.
Paul: You know, you bomb, and it’s like ‘oh my God, all of my fears are true, I am not good enough!’
Jamie: Oh my God! It’s um... I mean I guess that’s it. That’s why we’re all so attracted to this bizzare fuckin’ way of life.
Paul: Every night we’re gonna get feedback. The survey’s gonna come in, ‘are we good or bad, are we worthwhile or unworthwhile?’
Jamie: No, you’re right! And then we have proof. We have proof, we can keep the tape.
Paul: Yeah. And sometimes I think we get these periods in our life, where our confidence is up, and we can get through a bad show and say ‘you know what? They just really, I wasn’t their cup of tea but that doesn’t mean that I’m not funny.’
Jamie: I decided, after a certain amount of improv and dipping my fingers into acting, and comedic acting, I thought ‘well, clearly I have to do stand-up, I mean everybody—that seems to be how you make a name for—and I’m fun—I should be doing stand-up!’ Now, I thought—oh I heard your stomach. That’s okay. Oh! Very loud.
Paul: Oh my God...
Jamie: No! I don’t care, I’m glad—no, listen, I’m just, I wish I had a cookie, I wish I had a cookie for you. [laughs] I decided that I should be a stand-up. And I had moved to LA, I was already in kind of a bad way. It was just—you know, I was 29 or 30, and Saturn returning, and all of that, just, a big mess, and moving my life out from New York, probably a little prematurely, moving to Los Angeles. And I was—I got really—probably doing stand-up for about 8 months. I got really luck. And I had an amazing set, on the night that they were auditioning for Montreal. Just for Laughs. And, as you probably know—
Paul: It’s a big comedy festival.
Jamie: It’s a big comedy festival, and the biggest show there is the new faces night, because that’s the one where all of the sitcom industry people come and decide that, based on your five minute act, you’re gonna get a pilot deal, like that was just the way it was.
Paul: Yeah, if you kill, you could possibly get $200,000 and a holding deal for the next couple of years.
Jamie: Correct. That’s right. And I had a great set. The year before I had been to the Aspen Comedy Festival, doing a one-woman show, which I was far more comfortable in that particular arena, but... So I go to Montreal and I realize right away, I am out of my league. It is, uh... God, I don’t remember any of their names now. I think Al Madrigal was one of them.
Paul: Very funny guy.
Jamie: Yeah, well—and they were career standups. Oh, uh... she was an Italian girl, who was on Last Comic Standing...
Paul: Tammy Pescatelli?
Jamie: Correct. That’s the one. And Kevin Pollak was hosting. Everybody was a touring comic, college comedian, they were so fuckin’ polished. They all had hours of material. I had exactly 10 minutes of material. I did not have extra jokes, I had 10 minutes. And, I went out, Kevin Pollak introduced me. Three of my minutes were taken up with a really stupid bit where I took out Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt, and compared Nikki Sixx’s life to mine.
Jamie: Right, sounds like it was funny, right? I bombed so badly—we had two shows, in the same night—I bombed so badly all I can really remember is I left, I sort of left my body. I could see—they were smoking in clubs it was Montreal it was the 90s. Or, sorry, it was like 2001. I could see a sliver of smoke going between myself and the audience. Like I was watching that, and I was saying things, but I was like ‘I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m looking at that plume of smoke.’ I come off, I bombed horribly, and I start crying hysterically. All the pressure, everything. Kevin Pollak comes up to me, and I’ll never forget him and I’m sure he’d never remember me in a million years, comes up to me and says “Hey. Fuck them.” He means the audience. “Fuck those guys. Fuck them. But lose the book.” And pats me on the back, and leaves. If I lose the book, by the way? I have 6 minutes. I have half a set. So I did! And it was just as shitty, but I left the festival early, had a total fuckin’ nervous breakdown, went home to my parents... Spent one night in McLean, which is the Girl, Interrupted mental hospital in Massachusetts. The greatest part about that—
Paul: Was meeting Winona Ryder?
Jamie: Was meeting Winona Ryder, and Angelina Jolie, crawling along the ducts, and trying to escape.
Paul: She was in for overacting, right?
Jamie: Yup. She was in for overacting, and being really really beautiful. Both of them were in there for that. You know what? I realized that night, when I was in the groups, that it was a good thing. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. Things were not that bad. I got out the next day. And I remember specifically being in a group, and a guy telling me—two things. First of all they gave me a Klonopin that night, and I slept the best night’s sleep I’d had in probably four or five months. Because I blacked out, and when I opened my eyes it was daylight, and that hadn’t happened in forever, I’ll never forget that. And also, I was in a group with a guy whose problem was that he said he kept forgetting to chew food. And I was like ‘I, am better than this! I’m mentally healthy! I’m gonna go home!’ And I did! And then I think it was a matter of just finding the right therapist, and getting the right meds, and managing it.
Paul: ‘Cause, you had not done meds before them?
Jamie: I had, I hadn’t done the right ones, I had been experimenting with too many different ones, I think I’d been on Zoloft at the time, but—
Paul: Were you seeing a psychiatrist consistently?
Paul: Yeah. That’s the other mistake that people make! Is they try to be their own psychiatrist.
Jamie: Oh, yeah. Oh, but then the problem is when you feel better, it’s not like... It’s a chronic illness. It’s not something that—it’s not the flu. You don’t treat it and then stop taking your course of whatever, Tamiflu, and then it’s over.
Paul: Yeah, look at it like diabetes. That’s the best way I can say it.
Paul: Our brain lacks a chemical that makes us feel normal.
Jamie: And now I remember better. But boy, it took a long time for me to remember better.
Jamie: Yeah. But I am better I’m definitely better. The last bout I had, I definitely—my memory loss about my problem was a lot shorter. And I went in, I just did the medication, I got back with my therapist, and I, unfortunately, gained back the ten pounds that I had lost. But, you know, it got better very quickly. And I feel like it’s much more at the ready to recover. I think that’s also just, if you maintain really well and you have a healthy outlook about it... you know I do, I feel much better now.
Paul: And do you feel like, you now have something to—I know you got better probably before you had kids, but when you look at your kids and you interact with them, do you ever consciously say to yourself ‘I’m not gonna repeat the cycle of my children not being felt, and heard?’
Jamie: Yeah. Um... God, yeah.
Paul: And what does that look like? Are there specific things that you do—
Paul: —or do you catch yourself tuning out, and feeling bad?
Jamie: No. You know what, I really don’t. And I think the good news is, the good news for me is that it hasn’t even had to have been that conscious. I think I’m recognizing and appreciating that because of the choices I’ve made in my life, and because of the different decisions I’ve made, and who I am, the different interaction exists all independently of itself. I mean, perhaps it’s therapy, perhaps it’s just that I live 3000 miles away and I’m bringing them up in a completely different city. I don’t know what it is specifically but I know that my interactions with them are very very different. I was just telling my therapist about this yesterday. Oh, I’m not kidding. I was saying how, you know, my mom had just come out, my parents had just come out for a visit, and how I used to feel—I was always being forced to take pictures. My parents were—everybody in my family. Like ‘get together get together, smile smile smile smile smile smile smile!’ Just a lot of that, and I remember, you know, you get into adolescence, and you just feel so so self-conscious, you don’t want pictures all the time. I remember going through that as a kid. It’s very common I think, for us kids who were children of the Kodak discs, you know, and all the Instamatic cameras. And, I can see my mom doing that to my children. And I also can recognize when my kid, who’s just four and a half,-I have a four and a half year-old and a two and a half year-old. But when my daughter, my four and a half year-old daughter is just ‘I don’t wanna take a picture, no, I don’t want to!’ I very instantaneously just say “Hey! You don’t have to! Don’t worry about it, no. Ma, turn off the camera, leave her alone.” And nobody did that for me. And nobody stepped in. And nobody... and it’s such a little thing to be able to protect a kid from, but I realized that I’m protecting her... her choice. Her decision.
Paul: It almost seems like if you were a kid, that was raised and your needs weren’t met, the easiest thing in the world is to become an adult and try to have your needs met through your children.
Jamie: If you’ve had very—yes. Yes. Absolutely.
Paul: And, without help, it almost seems like it’s water running downhill and that’s what’s going to happen. Because you can disguise it and lie to yourself, and say that ‘I’m doing this for my child,’ but you’re really...
Jamie: I just feel really lucky. I think I’ve had the right mix in the past ten years of a really healthy relationship and marriage and support, and being with somebody who understands depression, even though of course it’s not a perfect marriage, we’ve been through our things, but, to have been with someone who understood that, to have never felt luckier in terms of the therapist that I have—and by the way she’s not perfect, nobody’s perfect. I think that’s the other thing to remember, is like don’t completely cut somebody loose just because they don’t...
Paul: They’re human.
Jamie: They’re human. I’ve been very lucky, and so I feel like I’m in control of changing the story between me and my kids, but I also think that I feel really grateful when it happens just unconsciously.
Jamie: It really—and it can. And I think by telling yourself over and over again, and I’ve done this, and I’ve done this with my husband too, who has his own issues about—now we have a son. I remember when I was pregnant with a girl, I was terrified. I was like ‘please let it be a boy, please let it be a boy,’ because then the blueprint will—I won’t have a blueprint. It’ll be completely different. I found out I was having a girl and I freaked out. And then, when I was pregnant with the boy, my husband freaked out. For the exact same reason.
Jamie: He was like “Aw, fuck! No, this was so good with a girl! Because it was completely different, I know I can’t fuck her up,” and blahblahblah. But what I told him, is that I had learned, just from being with my daughter, that we’ve already changed so much of our story. Our relationship is so different than what my parents’ relationship was. We’ve physically chosen to raise them in such a drastically different environment, everything is different. Everything! So give that credit. Give that credit. Don’t tell yourself ‘well I can’t possibly change just because I’m still the same person, it doesn’t matter how many things around me—’ actually a lot of those things make a huge difference.
Paul: It’s amazing, when you get help and start peeling away the layers that have just kind of, subconsciously or unconsciously been laid on you from childhood, you cannot believe the things about yourself that you discover that are positive. You cannot believe it.
Jamie: I used to be resentful. I used to be resentful... It was so funny. I was listening to your interview with the Sklars, and my initial thing was like ‘these fuckin’ guys had a fuckin’ happy childhood! Fuck those guys!’
Jamie: And I love them, I know Randy, I know Jason—I was just like ‘you fuckin’ ass—what do you mean you’re scared of scorpions, everybody’s fucking scared of scorpions. Dick... brains...’ But then, I realized, actually, I... there was a part of me that used, would have felt that way before, like ‘why couldn’t I just have had that Brady Bunch mom, who would have sat on my bed,’ but now I sort of feel truly, truly grateful to have gone through what I’ve been through. I know that the depth of my comedy and my work and... ‘my art’—kill me, ‘cause I said that.
Paul: What you do is art.
Jamie: [sigh] Sometimes. I definitely feel that I wear it like a badge of honor. I’ve been through what I’ve been through because it has brought me to here, and I can say that because I’m not in a depression right now. [deep breath] Breathing problem.
Paul: Let’s do a fear-off!
Jamie: Yeah, let’s fuckin’ fear this sh—let’s do a fuckin’ fear-off.
Paul: Let’s fear this shit out.
Jamie: I’ll fear it out.
Paul: Umm... I’ll go first, ‘cause I know you’re firin’ up your laptop.
Jamie: Yeah, I got a laptop. I don’t wanna brag, but I do have a laptop.
Paul: Uh, I’m afraid my mother will die, and never see who she really was.
Paul: I don’t fuck around, I get right into it.
Jamie: Yeah, no shit! Um, I’m afraid my children will be embarrassed of me.
Paul: I’m afraid of being seen as a whiny show-off.
Paul: Really waiting for you to say “too late!”
Jamie: Well, I mean, I feel like that’s... I mean, you must run into that all the time with all the people that you talk to.
Paul: Yeah I think that’s one—
Jamie: I think I have that worded the exact same way. I’m—
Paul: That’s one of the voices of depression too, by the way. Telling you that you’re a whiny...
Jamie: Of course it is. It’s, that’s the most insidious part of the entire thing.
Paul: And if you don’t get help, you actually wind up becoming that.
Jamie: [sigh] Oy.
Paul: Because you’re not doing anything to help yourself.
Jamie: I’m afraid that I will never ever stop dreaming about being in my childhood home.
Paul: I’m afraid that the garage will never be cleaned.
Paul: For the last three years, that has come true.
Jamie: I’m afraid my daughter will talk to me the way that I talk to my mother.
Paul: I’m afraid that my office will never be organized.
Jamie: I’m afraid that I’ll have to do my own taxes someday.
Paul: I’m afraid that the future success I dream of is a mirage.
Jamie: [laughs] That the—well, yeah. Aw fuck, all of yours are the same—I feel that way! Those are all mine!
Paul: That’s good! You can have the same ones!
Jamie: I’m afraid I’ll get arthritis.
Paul: Uh... I have that one. I’m afraid my brother will resent me for how I’m dealing with my mom.
Jamie: I’m afraid I’ll send my children into the world totally unprepared because I am totally unprepared.
Paul: I’m afraid my mom will live with deep hurt from my new boundaries, and never realizing that it’s actually her doing.
Jamie: I’m afraid technology will make me feel more and more stupid as the years go on, and I’ll never catch up.
Paul: I’m afraid that revealing my secrets is turning me, or the podcast into a freak show.
Jamie: [laughs] ‘I’m afraid I’m a freak show.’ Fuck! No I didn’t write that. I’m afraid I am the nag my husband thinks I am. [laughs]
Paul: Um... this one is hard to read. I’m afraid I haven’t had a breakthrough about being sexually abused, I’m just an exaggerating attention whore.
Jamie: Oh, God. I wanna address these things with you. Um—
Paul: You can. We stop sometimes, during the fear-off. Especially if it’s about me.
Jamie: [sigh] I just think... you know, the worst possible thing that can happen to a child is to take—there’s enough in this world that robs you of your innocence, early enough. But, any sort of sexual boundary crossing, it’s... If it doesn’t happen to you, then when you have children, you become extra-acutely aware of how... there’s nothing more wrong in the universe. Honestly. There really isn’t. Than just taking it away from a child, the safety of the world. That’s what you do, when you cross those.
Paul: You do. And you know, the weird thing about my mom is, she thought everybody else was going to do something to me. She thought my dad was going to, she thought if somebody was over at the house they were going to, and this was the woman who would trick me, into not having—you know, trick me into being in situations where she could see me naked.
Jamie: Oh, God. Ugh. Uh... I’m afraid that I’ll never stop feeling like I forgot something somewhere or forgot to do something or complete something.
Paul: [laughs] I totally know that one.
Paul: I’m afraid I’m not becoming more intimate with female friends, I’m becoming more creepy and needy.
Jamie: But that’s good thing.
Paul: How is that good?
Jamie: Because, I mean... I don’t know.
Paul: Being intimate with them is good, but—
Jamie: Isn’t it enough, like can’t we just all admit that—can’t we all just fuckin’ talk about the real shit? I mean I wish I was having this conversation every day, on the air or off the air. Honestly.
Jamie: I really do. I’d like nothing more than to talk about what’s really fucking going on. How is that creepy or needy?
Paul: Well, I’m afraid that the way I’m going about it, is being perceived differently than I—
Jamie: How does your wife feel?
Paul: About me? Oh I’ll tell her, you know ‘I need to go hang out with Janet and Grey, and just, you know, feel taken care of.’ And you know, I’m asking her for these same things too, these things that I never got, you know for more physical affection, and she’s givin’ them to me. You know, we’ve been together 20 years, plus, so it’s—I’m not expecting something to change overnight, but she doesn’t feel jealous that I’ll go hang out with female friends, because I find it comforting, and um—
Jamie: Good, fuck it!
Paul: I’m loving it.
Paul: Yeah. But, that little voice in your head, that says if you’re feeling something good there must be something wrong with it.
Jamie: Well sure, yeah. That sounds about right. Why would you enjoy something to its fullest?
Jamie: That sounds fucking terrifying, I can’t—
Paul: What would Beverly say about me feeling the need to be comforted by female friends?
Jamie: [in character] ‘Get a hooker! Why don’t you get a whore? You could pay for that, get a blowjob or something, I know men do that, that’s how you keep a happy marriage. She doesn’t want to do it with you, who cares, go do it with someone else. You know what she should be happy. She can watch Grey’s Anatomy, and doesn’t have to do the work!’ That’s what would happen.
Jamie: Um... I’m afraid that I’m actually very racist.
Paul: I think that one too sometimes.
Paul: I think everybody does. But I think that’s the sign that you’re not racist, is that you try to be aware of it, because if you grew up in a racist neighborhood like I did, there’s like a chip that’s programmed in you that you have to—a voice, that will say things that you have to say ‘no, shut up, those are the voices of people that didn’t know what they were talking about.’
Jamie: Yeah. There’s also a part of me that’s like ‘who fuckin’ cares?’ You know what I mean? I don’t know, it’s so ridiculous.
Paul: I’m afraid I’m gonna be drained by a close friend who refuses to go to a support group.
Jamie: Mm. That’s interesting. I’m afraid I will indulge in that fantasy of driving off the road.
Paul: A lot of people on the Shame and Secrets survey that we have on the website, a lot of people—
Jamie: Think about driving off the road.
Paul: Yeah think about driving off the road, driving into a viaduct and...
Jamie: Yeah it’s weird. It’s weird, it happens—
Paul: It’s the fastest drug in the world, there would be nothing, no quicker relief than that. It would be quicker than, I suppose, on par with smoking crack, or something like that.
Jamie: It’s so weird, it’s like, sometimes it doesn’t even happen when I’m depressed, I just think like I can see it. And you just have to just go, ‘fuck!’
Paul: I think that’s totally normal. Totally normal.
Jamie: I think you’re right.
Paul: Um. I fear that as I change my wife and I will become incompatible.
Jamie: Oh, yeah... I’m afraid I am old and that everyone is talking about how old I am.
Paul: I’m afraid I’ve lost my edge as a performer.
Jamie: I’m afraid I missed my window.
Paul: I’m afraid I will never feel known enough, understood enough, and loved enough, because I’ve made mistakes that should have been obvious.
Jamie: Ugh. Yes. Yes yes. Hear hear!
Paul: That one felt really good to get on paper.
Jamie: Oh fuck, that’s so good!
Paul: Yeah, and if you’re listening to this, and you’ve never written your fears down, do it. Because they take on a different detail when you start writing them.
Jamie: The other thing that I found very helpful, many years ago during one of my like, pre-diagnosed-as-depressive states, and I was doing The Artist’s Way, which some of you folks in your 30s—
Paul: Great book, great book.
Jamie: —will remember was the big fad, in the late 90s. And it’s still a great tool... you are supposed to write a letter to yourself as if you were your own son or daughter. And for some reason that context, of thinking of myself as my own daughter—odd now, that I have a daughter, I don’t know if I would have been able—oh maybe no, it’d be even better, I don’t know. But I wrote a letter to myself as if I were my own daughter, now, as if I were much older. And it was so, soothing.
Jamie: Yes. It really was.
Paul: There’s a book out, about that, called um... Letters to Me, I think? And people write—they have a bunch of people, some well-known, write letters to the 16-year-old them.
Jamie: Mm! Yeah, that right—it is so—it’s lovely.
Paul: Uh, whose turn?
Paul: Um... I’m afraid I will never feel passion about playing guitar again.
Jamie: I’m afraid I will never be an adult around my parents.
Paul: I’m afraid I will never stop caring about what people think of me.
Jamie: I’m afraid I will never be able to go to an amusement park without getting depressed.
Paul: I’m afraid I will accidentally fart in my favorite support group, and from then on be subtly avoided.
Jamie: [laughs] I’m afraid I will have drugs planted on me in a foreign country.
Paul: Um, that’s it for my fear list!
Jamie: Oh... I wish mine wasn’t so fucking long!
Paul: That’s okay!
Jamie: No no no no.
Paul: Gimme some highlights.
Jamie: I’m afraid of being broke, I’m afraid I will never wake up fully rested... let me see, oh no I did read a lot of these... I’m afraid I’m a jealous bitch—although that fades. That does fade. Here’s something I wrote. “I’m afraid I’m still jealous of the same women I want to support. Though honestly that fades with maturity, no bullshit.” Well that’s comforting. It’s true though, it’s true. I mean especially... women in comedy, you know—it’s such a fucked-up boring discussion, but—you know, unfortunately there are just fewer platforms. You know, if... that’s a whole other podcast. But the truth is, is that there are fewer places. You know, my class of comedy are all men that you’ve heard of and most women you haven’t. And that’s just math. And I think what happens is when women—also people like the idea of women fighting with each other, and we’re pitted against each other, for slimmer pickings. And I think ultimately it’s a survival game, so you start playing it, just to get ahead. Or to feel like you’re getting ahead. And it’s bitter, and horrible. And the beautiful part is that once you get through that, and you realize that everybody’s in the same, same, same pit, you stop fighting. And you just feel a lot of camaraderie. And that’s never been so true as in the past few years, and I don’t know, sometimes that happens I think when a lot of these same ladies become moms, I think we have different concerns in our lives, different battles we’re picking, different realities. But, it is so comforting. And, also to not realize that that will just happen naturally, that’s another thing about being frozen in a depressive place, or being frozen in a bad time in your career, is you don’t really see that that will ever end, and I gotta tell you it does. I mean, some of the women I think that I viewed as my stiffest competition when I was fighting different battles, are people I consider some of my closest and loveliest friends. You know I hope when they hear this they’re not like ‘fuck, she fuckin’ hated me!’ No, I didn’t. But we were all fighting for the same bullshit.
Paul: Yeah. And you have this lie that there’s a limited number of slices of the pie.
Jamie: That’s right.
Paul: And that there’s not gonna be enough opportunity.
Jamie: And unfortunately, unfortunately in this business, there are a limited number. I mean, that’s the truth. But not in these—
Paul: Not in the way you picture it.
Jamie: No. Not in the abundance of life. I mean, in the abundance of the bullshit entertainment industry? That’s just math. There are fewer slices. But who cares.
Paul: But there are slices of life that are out there, that will bring you more meaning than any entertainment job, if you’re open to it, and you get help. And you keep moving.
Jamie: Oh, no question. No question.
Paul: Any other fears?
Jamie: No, I think I covered a whole lot of them.
Paul: Okay. Let’s take it out with the love-off.
Jamie: Oh sure.
Paul: I love the smell of a good coffee shop.
Jamie: I love being Beverly.
Paul: I love opening my e-mail, and there’s no spam, and everybody I’m waiting to hear from has responded, and it’s in the way that I’d hoped they would.
Jamie: I love improvising, still.
Paul: I love when a woman hugs me or holds me, and I feel true feminine compassion.
Jamie: I love wrestling with my son.
Paul: I love seeing a parent love their child without it turning into smothering.
Jamie: I love being retweeted.
Paul: I love being at dinner where everyone at the table is open and honest, and the conversation flows, and no one hogs it.
Jamie: I love snorkeling.
Paul: I love buttermilk pancakes where they’re thin and wet, not dry and fluffy.
Jamie: I love Locked Up Abroad, even though I’m terrified of it happening to me, and even though it’s the same story over and over and over again.
Paul: Have you listened to the episode of the show with Lia McCord?
Paul: She was on one of the Locked Up Abroad—she was the one that smuggled heroin into Pakistan.
Jamie: [gasp] That’s every single one of them! That’s every story! They’re always smuggling heroin—I’m gonna go home and listen to it right away.
Paul: Yes. And, at the end, she talks honestly about sexual abuse, in a way that greatly, greatly aided my recovery.
Jamie: Oh I can’t wait.
Paul: Took me months, you know, for it to kind of sink in, and I never realized at the time, that she might have been—that it might have applied to me.
Paul: I love... [laughs] I love taking a shit so big, your stomach almost immediately starts to growl.
Jamie: [laughs] Is that what happened right before this podcast?
Paul: No! No it didn’t, but uh...
Jamie: I love that there are some celebrities who know who I am and like what I do.
Paul: I love hearing someone else shares your sexual fantasy.
Jamie: I love five minute check-in conversations with my best friend from childhood, and also now that she’s a clinical psychologist, I love that she totally validates how I’m feeling about the family she has known almost as long as I have.
Paul: That’s a wonderful one. I love when they’re... so specific.
Jamie: Oh yeah.
Paul: I love hearing a woman admit to sexual impulses that I thought only a man had.
Jamie: [laughs] I love making up a language with my daughter.
Paul: I love when an African-American person feels comfortable enough me to use the N-word.
Jamie: [laughs] By the way—
Paul: In a one-on-one conversation.
Jamie: By the way Beverly loves the N-word. That’s Beverly’s huge thing. Beverly thinks it would be a great word for a pet if it didn’t mean what it meant.
Paul: Oh my God!
Jamie: Yeah, and I can only say it as Beverly, I don’t say it myself.
Paul: Right right.
Jamie: I love planning a day like a state fair for myself and the kids and my husband and getting high in the parking lot and not running into anyone I know and eating crazy food and watching the kids’ minds explode over how awesome the state fair is, and laughing with my husband the whole day and coming home filthy and exhausted.
Paul: Oh, that’s awesome.
Paul: I love it when a woman uses the word ‘cunt.’
Jamie: [laughs] You should go to England, everyone uses the word ‘cunt.’
Jamie: I love a clean kitchen after a large dinner.
Paul: Uh—oh this is like yours! I love it when people retweet or like my joke.
Jamie: I love rereading a completed script and realizing ‘fuck! That’s pretty good!’
Paul: I love when I uh... I love when someone I admire follows me or friends me.
Jamie: I love the new peanut butter Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that’s called ‘the big cup,’ and they’re all fresh, because they haven’t been on the shelf that long, ‘cause they’ve just been made, and the chocolate is the right thickness.
Paul: Mmm. I love when Beverly says something dark, creepy, or revealing.
Jamie: Awww. Thank you! [in character] Beverly has a very, very sadistic vagina.
Jamie: [still in character] Very.
Paul: Have we gotten into, what you might be channelling in that darkness with Beverly, when she’s inappropriately sexual?
Jamie: Bev—yes. Well, I can tell you, what I think it comes from, and I think it comes very much from... you know there’s a really great moment in the movie Sixteen Candles, when the grandmother, you know—”Oh! She’s gotten her boobies, and they’re so perky!” And she, you know, grabs Molly Ringwald’s breasts. And I remember that moment resonating with me because I felt like everyone was always talking about me sexually. Again, it wasn’t physical. But you know, I’m a big busty Jew girl, and we develop early, and it’s not fun for us, and we get talked about, whether it’s snickers in 6th grade classes, or whether it’s by your own grandmother, who’s making motions behind my back to my mother, like “Oh!” Like, putting her hands out in front of her chest. And it’s very uncomfortable. And I remember my mom had a friend who would always tell me “Oh! You’re so curvy! You have a gorgeous figure.” I mean I must have been twelve, thirteen fourteen years old. It’s awful at any age, honestly. To have a middle-aged woman, talk about you sexually. It’s just gross! It’s gross. And so I just took it to a much bigger extreme, I heightened that with Beverly. To me, it’s so uncomfortable.
Paul: It’s so uncomfortable.
Jamie: You just—you don’t wanna hear—
Paul: You don’t wanna hear an adult talking about you in that way.
Jamie: No! Even if it’s supposed to be a compliment, it’s like, ‘fuck off! Just pretend I don’t have a body, I have a head, that’s it!’ No one wants to talk about anything else. And the Jews are loud and opinionated. [Jewish mother voice] ‘Oh, you know what, that would look better on you if it was a little lower-cut. You could show your beautiful breasts.’ Like, stop saying those fucking words! Anyway... Beverly is a terrible parent.
Paul: That’s obvious. That is obvious, yeah.
Paul: Um... I love when... was it my turn or your turn?
Jamie: It’s your turn, because I’m out.
Paul: Oh, okay. I’ve got only like four more, but if you can think of—if you wanted to—
Jamie: Oh no, I’ll think of them.
Paul: I love when Ronna keeps saying “excuse me” and Beverly keeps going on a crazy, dark riff.
Jamie: [laughs] I love when I can make my husband cackle.
Paul: I love having someone who was sexually abused tell me I’m not exaggerating, calling it that, what happened to me.
Jamie: I love meeting other depressives.
Paul: I love feeling safe from the neediness, rage, and manipulation of my mother.
Jamie: I love when I answer the phone and it’s my husband and the first thing he says to me is “What do you want, Jew?”
Paul: [laughs] I love realizing it’s okay if I never see my mother again if I don’t want to, and it doesn’t make me bad.
Jamie: I love knowing that. I love that I got to do this podcast. And I love that you asked me to do it, and that I didn’t have to ask you!
Paul: Thanks Jamie. Thank you so much.
Jamie: Thanks Paul.
Paul: You know, one of the awesome things about doing this show is I get to make new friends, and Jamie is becoming one of those people. We’ve met for coffee a couple of times since we recorded, and she’s somebody I’m really comfortable confiding in, and I think she feels the same way towards me. We were—it’s funny ‘cause we got together because I was feeling kinda sad and fucked-up, and I got that feeling that she understood what I was going through, and she was a comforting shoulder to lean on... And then we started talking about what she was going through, and I think so many moms experience this, it’s—she has a really hard time carving time out for herself, because she feels like it’s overly-indulgent and selfish. And I was trying to make her see that it’s good, it helps you recharge your battery, but... For any women out there that are listening, recharge your battery. Take that time-out. Go have lunch with a friend. Even if you have to get a babysitter, or drop your kids off at somebody else’s place, you’re gonna be a better mom when you come back from that. So I hope my words sank into her fat fuckin’ skull. That’s what I’m trying to say.
What did I want to mention... oh a couple of different ways for you to support this show, before we take it out with a listener survey. A couple of different ways you can support this show. You can support it financially by going to the website, and making a donation. You can do a one-time Paypal donation, or you do a recurring monthly donation, which we just put up last month, and I would like to thank the several people that did do that, it warms my heart. And it’s especially nice, being that I haven’t worked since September. So, take that little passive-aggressive shot at you that haven’t stepped forward. Go fuck yourselves. [laughs] Seriously. There’s a lot of people out there that are unemployed, and I don’t expect you guys. But any of you that are making a penny or more, let’s go. Start kickin’ in. Carry your weight.
You can also buy stuff—another way to financially support the show, when you’re gonna buy something at Amazon, do it through our website and our Amazon search link. Right there on the front page. ‘Cause then we get a couple nickels from Amazon, doesn’t cost you a thing. You can support us by buying a t-shirt at our website. A little Mental Illness Happy Hour t-shirt. And you can support us non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. Boosts our ranking, and brings more people to the show.
I’m gonna take it out with an e-mail that I got from... a fella named Mike. “Fella?” What am I, fuckin’ 80? A fella! A young upstart named Mike, sent me this by carrier pigeon! Mike writes “Hey Paul, a thought. You should have a transgendered person on your podcast to talk about transgendered issues. I’ve observed in the podcastsphere various instances and reference to trans-individuals in a negative or ambivalent light.” I think that is a point that is long overdue. And I am, I think, as guilty as anybody of being dismissive or using transgendered people as a punchline. And I’m actually kind of ashamed of that, that it’s just now kind of dawning on me.
I’m gonna read a survey response from a transgendered person who calls herself Cindy. She is a male-to-female transgender. She’s in her 50s, raised in a totally chaotic environment, been through therapy but can’t afford it anymore ‘cause she’s unemployed, and state and federal budget cuts make it too difficult. She tried sharing her feelings on a regular basis with people, but has stopped because she feels like she’s reached compassion fatigue with her friends. And that makes me sad when I hear that, ‘cause God, we need our friends, so much to feel like we’re understood and heard and felt. ‘Cause so many of us are not, do not feel that with our parents.
‘Most common negative thoughts,’ Cindy has is “suicidal ideation.” She’s frustrated because she’s looking for employment, but as a 50-something Caucasian trans-woman, she finds it horribly frustrating, but she keeps on trying. She is basically tired of—well to the question ‘do you believe some person place or thing is keeping you from being happy’ she writes “Xenophobia.” As opposed to homophobia, which doesn’t really apply to trans folk. That, coupled with a not-so-subtle ageism—she’s over 50—she feels that has her “checkmated.”
Her predominant feelings are “lonely, sick and tired, and fed up, and hopeless.”
Her most common thoughts are “Life has passed me by and I don’t matter.” I would imagine it is very easy for a trans-person in our culture to feel that they don’t matter, ‘cause, you know, like, that’s... that’s... It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a joke about somebody that you don’t know personally. And that’s kind of why I felt compelled to read this too. She writes, another feeling she has is that she “used to be somebody.” Not that she was rich, but she was just wealthy enough to live a first-class citizen life, with enough of of what her deceased dad used to refer to as “fuck you money. Which essentially means not having to eat a regular diet of other people’s crap in order to survive.”
‘Does anything make you angry?’ She writes “Being summarily dismissed out of hand based solely on my not-so-horrible physical appearance, which is extremely common among male-to-female trans folks.” Well Cindy, I just wanna send a little bit of love your way, and apologize for um... how dismissive I’ve been, towards transgendered people in the past, and thanks for opening my eyes, to the fact that you are people who have feelings, and are just like us. And I hope you don’t feel stuck. I hope you feel some hope. I hope you know that you’re loved! And know that you’re not alone. Thanks for listening.