“So the show actually started out of frustration of me not getting gigs,” explains Dan Zerin, the man who conceptualised ‘My Voices Have Tourettes.’ The award-winning weekly event at the Secret Cellar showcases comedy by those who have tourettes, schizophrenia, and other disorders. His voice shifts and squeaks at the end of the sentence—a vocal tic, he relays. Living with Tourettes, Dan has many of them. “I wanted to create my own opportunity.”
The comedian has now turned the hit show into a podcast. “We’ve actually been talking about it for like a year and a half,” he says. “But because a bunch of us have ADD, we never got around to it.” COVID, he explains, was the big push to get the ball rolling.
‘My Voices Have Tourettes’ started as a standup comedy show created by Dan, Hannah Bryndís Proppé Bailey, who has schizophrenia, and Elva Dögg Hafberg Gunnarsdóttir, who also has Tourettes, for the 2018 Reykjavík Fringe Festival.
The idea was to break the stigma around mental illness in a comedic way. “The first time I saw Elva perform on stage, she made me realise that I wasn’t the only person with Tourettes…and that’s something that I want everyone to experience, is that feeling of knowing that you aren’t alone,” Dan says, smiling.
No holds barred
The ongoing gathering ban means the show hasn’t been able to reach the audiences it once did, a problem the new-Podcast fixes.The primary difference between the two formats is the general tone. “The live show is geared strictly toward the comedy aspect of things,” he says. “Whereas in the podcast, we try to keep that humour, but we also talk about the serious side of things.” In a way, the podcast can be more therapeutic, he emphasises, because it’s a way to get everything out, no holds barred.
The podcast will feature guests from all walks of life—not just comedians.“[It] could have people who are working in music or a company or something like that who want to spread awareness about what it’s like to work in those industries [with mental illnesses] as opposed to just comedy.”
Even after the tourism industry recovers and the Secret Cellar begins hosting the standup show again regularly, Dan says he still plans on making the podcast. It’s grown beyond a means to perform without an audience in a time of global pandemic. “We wanted to keep something going while we couldn’t perform on stage, but it’s been an absolute blast,” he says. “I definitely think we’re going to continue and see how far we can go with it.”
Dan’s ultimate goal in all of this has always been to make people feel better about themselves, especially those that have historically been disenfranchised or stigmatised due to their conditions. Others feel similarly; he mentions a group that is currently trying to change the way people think about mental illness by removing the word “suffering” from the lexicon of words used to describe it and instead, simply saying they are “living” with a disorder or disorders.
Dan recognises the goal here, but he doesn’t necessarily agree with it. “I think it’s important to recognise both,” he explains. In fact, that ethos is a big part of what he does with the show. He says he spent such a long time suffering from Tourettes, so much so that suffering began to feel normal. “I would call it [suffering] because I had so many years where my depression and suicidal thoughts were so powerful…I just thought that’s how I felt,” he says.
But since starting the show, he says that pushing others to overcome their own struggles and suffering has put him in a different place. “I would say I’m living with it now,” he smiles. With the show and the podcast, he aims to help others learn to live with whatever they have as well—squeaks and all.
Check out our interview with Dan Zerin here or below.
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