If you go
What: Stand Up For Mental Health Comedy Show
Featuring: Founder David Granirer and six local comics
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 10
Where: York College's Waldner Performing Arts Center, 441 Country Club Road, York
Co-sponsored by: National Alliance on Mental Illness of York County
Reserve your seat: Visit smhcomedyshow.eventbrite.com , call 717-848-3784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more info: Visit www.standupformentalhealth.com
"I was back (in the hospital) almost every six to eight weeks, but not because of my mental illness. I really just missed their chocolate pudding," a local woman joked on a recent Monday afternoon.
Madeline Svirskas, 53, of West Manchester Township, was practicing for a stand-up comedy routine that she'll perform on Friday at York College. But with frequent use of words like anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar and depression, it won't be your average comedy act.
Svirskas was diagnosed with a mental illness, consisting of depression, anxiety and mood disorder, in the 1990s, and her routine will focus on her struggles with having depression and being medication resistant.
"I'm not making fun of mental health or illnesses," Svirskas said. "That's one of the big things I tell everybody right away."
Instead, she and five other local comics diagnosed with mental illnesses will use their experiences to educate the public about mental health.
This Stand Up For Mental Health Comedy Show was organized by Stand Up For Mental Health founder David Granirer to help others, like himself, who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses.
"I want to help them develop their own voice and help them develop confidence and strength and a sense of empowerment," Granirer said. "I also want to help them feel as though, now that they've done stand-up, they can do that job interview or take that course. They can do anything."
Since 2004, Granirer has worked with 400 individuals in more than 30 cities across the country. But for the last six weeks, he focused his time on helping six York-area locals write a 5-minute comedy act.
When he's not working with them individually on their routines, Granirer holds weekly classes at York College, where he helps them practice their timing, delivery and performance via Skype.
Svirskas said when she first started attending classes, she was doubtful that she could put together a funny routine. But it came easier than she thought it would.
"I would write a few things and go over them with David and he would laugh and say, 'That's great. That's it,'" she said.
After the show, Svirskas plans to incorporate parts of her routine in the presentations she gives to support groups and local health organizations.
"Just thinking about my situation as funny does help," she said, adding that embracing humor in her presentations can only help others as well.
Sixty-three-year-old David Hamilton, of York, found the jokes more difficult to write.
"It's difficult, at least it has been for me, to make such a serious subject funny," Hamilton said. "Depression is not really funny."
But he stuck with it for the challenge. Hamilton's act will focus on mood disorders and attention deficit, he said.
By the end of the show, Granirer said, the audience will leave with a totally different perspective on mental illness. People often portray those with mental illnesses as either dangerous or pathetic, he said.
"In this show, you're going to see people who are intelligent, funny and friendly, all those things you don't expect to see in conjunction with mental illness."
Video: Meet the five comedians
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