Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 29, 1996

This Comic's Life Is Not Always A Laughing Matter

Carey-ing on: Despite past and present depressive 
episodes, comedian and TV star Drew Carey keeps a Hopkins
audience laughing.

Kevin Smokler
Special to The Gazette

     He's an ordinary guy with a television show and depression.
Sound too simple? That's exactly how comedian Drew Carey wants

     With quiet dignity and occasional goofiness, last Tuesday at
Hopkins' Turner Auditorium, the star of ABC's The Drew Carey Show
discussed his bouts with depression. 

     Labeled "A Patient's Perspective," the talk capped off the
10th Mood Disorders Research/Education Symposium, an
afternoon-long annual event sponsored by the Depression & Related
Affective Disorders Association (DRADA) in cooperation with the
Department of Psychiatry. 

     DRADA president J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., a Hopkins professor
of psychiatry, introduced Carey, 37, as having never been
clinically diagnosed with depression.

     "No, I never got treatment, took drugs or went to a
psychiatrist," said Carey, dressed in a conservative blue suit
and his trademark horn-rimmed glasses. "They didn't know this
when they booked me."

     What followed seemed akin to taking a patient history. Dr.
DePaulo asked Carey to explain his telltale signs of depression,
from lethargy to irregular sleeping and eating habits, then asked
about his strategies for handling them. Carey answered each with
the same straightforward everyman clip that characterizes his

     "I had sour, bad moods for no reason at all," said Carey,
who traces the beginning of his depression to his father's death
when Carey was 8. "Sometimes I'd be happy with friends then as
soon as I got alone, I was very depressed."

     He remembered his two years at Penn State University as an
aimless party, the beer and pizza feeding his unhappiness. 

     "I even managed to sleep through the drop day for classes,"
he said. "This is the biggest lecture hall I've ever seen." 

     This deadpan quip, and others like it, got big laughs. He
also got rapt attention, as when he recalled his two suicide
attempts, the first while at Penn State. 

     "I was outside this fraternity house and everyone was
partying and having a great time. The happier they got, the more
miserable I got. ... I hated everybody, I hated myself and I
thought, life had been wasted on someone like me. ... So I found
a jar of sleeping pills and woke up in the hospital."

     Some years later, Carey had hit the road as a comic, living
in cheap motels and gigging anyplace that would take him. 

     "I'd lie in the hotel room all day, eating pizza, watching
TV," he said. "My whole day was to prepare for those 45 minutes
on stage. "Sometimes I'd eat a meal and think, 'Oh the cheese
isn't exactly right. What else would you expect from this lousy
world.' After my act, I'd go to the hotel bar and cry."

     What kept him going, said Carey, was the chance to appear on
the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When it finally happened,
Carson was so impressed that he kept Carey on his famed couch for
the entire show, a rare honor for a comedian. The rest is

     Today, Carey said, he reads self-help books that aid him in
organizing his day and writes affirmations to himself on his
scripts for his stand-up routines. Although he occasionally feels
depressed for brief spats of a few days, he begins each morning
by flinging open the curtains and opening the front door because
"it lets me know there's a world out there."

     "I'm the kind of guy who likes to do things for himself and
if someone tries to help, I'll say, 'When I need your advice,
I'll ask for it.'" 

     Realizing this didn't sound like a ringing endorsement of
therapy, Dr. DePaulo nonetheless complimented Carey's success on
his battle with depression. 

     "You seem to have found a sense of purpose in your life.
That can be the best protection [from this illness]."

     DRADA is an educational and outreach nonprofit organization
of mental health professionals and concerned laypersons designed
to alleviate the suffering arising from depression and manic
depression. For information, call (410)955-4647.

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage