I didn’t start appreciating stand-up comedy until I got sober. Sure, I liked to laugh pre-sobriety, but I was usually too busy hiding in my closet drinking to actually go places or do things. Lately, though, I’ve been reminded that some of the funniest comics around are sober comedians. Here are five who are using their demons not just for laughs, but also to shed a little light on their very personal experiences of addiction and day-to-day recovery:
Moshe Kasher: When I first read the subtitle to Kasher’s 2012 book, Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16, I thought “Hey, me too!” I went to high school in the same North Oakland area where Kasher grew up and it sounds like we were both pretty nuts as teenagers (okay, my craziness may have extended slightly beyond my teenage years). I’m not alone in identifying with Kasher, apparently: In 2009, iTunes named him “Best New Comic” and in 2010 he was called “Comic to Watch” that year by Punchline Magazine. Hear Kasher talking about everything from brothels to black holes on Hound Tall Discussion Series, a podcast on the Nerdist podcast network. For more about Kasher, visit his website, http://moshekasher.com/, or see him this summer in Charlotte, North Carolina or Montreal, Quebec, or this fall in Arlington, Virginia.
Quote: “When someone tells you about their childhood trauma, it’s almost never a good idea to reply, ‘Easy for you to say.’”
Kristee Ono: Ono has been doing comedy for seven years; she’s been sober for two. The San Francisco-based comedian doesn’t mince words about anything (especially her love of burritos).Ono gets serious, though, when talking about her sobriety. “I do like experiencing life sober; I feel I am more present, and that gives me the opportunity to write from a perspective that is only my experience and not altered by substances.” This hilarious comic tackles both substance abuse and mental health issues in her must-see act; find out what she’s up to on her rapidpixie Tumblr.
Quote: “You do not know judgment until you walk down the street smoking a cigarette while carrying a yoga mat.”
Jason Stuart: If Stuart looks familiar, it’s almost certainly because you’ve seen him on TV shows like “Entourage,” “The Closer” and “Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” An openly gay comic, Jason is the chair of the Screen Actors Guild National LGBT Actors Committee. Jason has been in a 12-step program for over 25 years and is a featured comic on recoverycomedy.com. His latest endeavor is the web series Mentor, which has been nominated for three Indie Series awards. Find out more about Stuart, including upcoming gigs in the Los Angeles area and this fall in Las Vegas at jasonstuart.com.
Quote: “All the gay people are going to hell? If all the gay people are going to hell, where else would I want to go? I’ll wear a Speedo, because I hear it’s hot!”
May Wilkerson: Up and-coming comic Wilkerson was three years sober when she started doing stand-up. The native New Yorker doesn’t pull any punches in her act, talking openly about her sobriety as well as her disdain for the “war on drugs.” What she misses most about drinking? “How charming it made other people seem,” she says. Follow her on Twitter: @shutupmay.
Quote: “Dating tip: People who say they like ‘spontaneity’ & ‘adventure’ actually like ‘drinking.’”
Evan Williams: Sharing his name with a bourbon dating to 1783, Williams believes he was destined to be a drunk. But unlike the many comics who need booze to get up on stage, Williams didn’t have the courage to do stand-up until he was sober. Now clean for six years, he’s been a comic for five. “There’s a clarity that comes with being clean,” he says, “and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.” Follow him on Twitter: @itsevanwilliams.
Quote: “If my meal is supposed to be cooked in wine, then that’s how I’ll eat it. I wasn’t a wine-o. I was a snort-coke-off-the-floor-o.”
Photos courtesy of the comedians; Moshe Kasher’s photo from MosheKasher.com