Depression is so prevalent among comedians that it’s practically a cliche – “Tears of a Clown” and all that. Various theories abound as to why that is – some say that stand-up is a form of therapy, used by comedians to release their inner anguish. Others say that making people laugh is a serious business and the strain of it can make comedians turn to drugs or alcohol to drown their sorrows. Whatever the reasoning, there certainly is a high correlation between the people that make millions laugh and various forms of mental illness. Comedians also seem plagued by broken marriages and unhappy family relationships. So, here are the Top 10 Comedians with a Less Than Funny Personal Life.
10. Stephen Fry
British comedian Stephen Fry made his name in the 1980s, with his comedy partner Hugh Laurie and is now regarded as a national treasure. He is highly intelligent, presents a quiz show that debunks popular beliefs and he suffers from bipolar disorder. He describes it as a “disease that will never go away” and said that he filmed whole episodes of his quiz show while being so depressed he wanted to die. In 1995, he had a nervous breakdown and walked out on a play he was in in the West End. Following that, he went missing for a few days before resurfacing in Belgium. He is now the President of mental health charity Mind.
9. Robin Williams
A comic whose quickfire wit hid a barrage of personal problems. His first marriage lasted just ten years, and his affair during it saw him being sued by a cocktail waitress for infecting her with herpes. He had a cocaine addiction throughout the 1970s and 80s, until the death of his friend John Belushi gave him what he describes as a “wake-up call” and he went into rehab. He later returned to rehab when he started drinking again in 2006. He later admitted on TV that he was lucky to be alive still and it would have been a tragic waste of talent if he had died because of his excesses. Fortunately, even when he started drinking again, he resisted the lure of cocaine because he said “I knew that would kill me”. He continues to get help for his addictions.
8. John Belushi
John Belushi, however, was not so lucky. After partying with Robin Williams for years, he died on March 5 1982 at Chateau Marmont, on the Sunset Strip. He had been out drinking and retired back to the hotel for more drinking and drugs. Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro came by at 3am and then left Belushi for the rest of the night. He finally went to sleep at 9:30am, after injecting himself with a heroin and cocaine speedball, but was found dead at lunchtime. Prior to his death, he was a hugely successful comedian, co-creating cult film “The Blues Brothers”, but his addictions overwhelmed him and the comedy world lost a rising star. It did, however, serve as stark warning to his celebrity friends that it could happen to them too.
7. Charlie Sheen
This was one star who failed to keep his private and professional lives separate. While other comedians sustained their careers while battling addictions, Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown caused him to be fired from his hit show “Two and a Half Men“. His character was killed off in a very undignified way, and the producers humiliated him further by shooting a funeral scene where his character’s reputation (also called Charlie) was ripped to shreds by various ex-girlfriends. If you annoy producers, they will exact their revenge.
The warning signs had all been there for a while – in 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancee in the arm and his 2005 divorce from Denise Richards cited drug and alcohol abuse and threats of violence. In 2008, his sons were taken away from him following the break up of his third marriage. Then in 2011, it all peaked with the public argument between Sheen and his producers after which he posted an hour-long rant on the internet, flanked by his “goddesses” and babbling about “tiger blood”. He may have made his name in comedy, but he destroyed it in a painful and very public way.
6. Whoopi Goldberg
Another much-loved comedian and actress who has struggled with addiction and depression. She has been married three times, although she claims not to have loved any of her husbands. She describes her former self as a “fully functioning addict” and worked throughout her addiction, knowing that she needed to keep making films in order to raise her profile. However, she was suffering from paranoia and eventually got help. She has now been clean for several years and has used her story to encourage other young actors to seek help.