Is there anything funny about depression?

It’s had a go at my moods, my self-esteem and my energy, but one thing depression hasn’t been able to defeat is my sense of humour. Although I haven’t felt like laughing a lot of the time, there is still part of my brain that’s hot-wired to automatically generate puns at every opportunity.

Even in my darkest moments, I don’t know if I’d have been able to resist the obvious ‘tooth hurty’ gag if someone had said to me that they had an appointment with the dentist that afternoon. If you wanted a blog about double entendres I could definitely give you one. If you wanted pencil puns I could quickly get to the point. If you wanted puns about baking bread I could rise to the challenge. As for dairy puns I could milk that subject until the cows come home.

While I try to see the humour in most aspects of life, there are some things that just aren’t funny. Depression is one of those things. Confusingly, despite its extreme unfunniness, there is a link between this miserable illness and comedy. People experiencing terrible depression can still be very funny. Take Kenneth Williams, for example – a man who made millions laugh, but who suffered from depression throughout his life. He is one of many high-profile comedians or comic actors to have grappled with mental illness while making a name for themselves as someone who tickles ribs and splits sides.

Making other people laugh is a good – but often unintentional – diversion from what is going on in your head. On the outside, you appear bright and bubbly, like a glass of champagne. On the inside, you might feel more like flat cola or sour milk, but nobody would know, because you’re still cracking jokes. When there’s nobody else around to amuse or entertain, that’s when the forces of darkness are at their most powerful and dangerous. With just depression for company, there’s little chance for a chuckle or a chortle.

Humour, it would seem, comes in spite of depression, not because of it. For all those depressed people who carry on making others laugh, it’s not depression itself that’s funny. How many jokes do you know about it? I’ve just done a quick Google search for ‘jokes about depression’. It turns out there are some, but unless I’ve missed any hidden gems, most don’t actually seem to be about the depression I know and none made me laugh. This doesn’t surprise me. I’d already experimented with my own jokes about depression, substituting parts of some very old and well-known jokes with depression-related symptoms or scenarios, and found them about as funny as a cabbage. For instance:

Patient: Doctor, doctor, I have constant headaches, I’m frazzled, I hate myself and don’t look forward to anything any more.

Doctor: Maybe you have depression.

OK, let’s move on.

Why did the depressed person cross the road?

Because they hoped the other side would be better than this one.

Oh – again, not funny in the slightest.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Someone with depression.

Someone with depression who?

Let’s stop right there. That one doesn’t even make sense.

How many depressed people does it take to change a lightbulb?

Who cares about the lightbulb?

Enough! You get my point. If this blog was a stand-up routine I’d have been booed off.

Much as I love a pun challenge, I have to admit defeat. I just can’t think of anything funny – or even worth a small smirk – about depression. Can you?







23 Comments on “Is there anything funny about depression?”

  1. Stacey says:

    Me and a fellow sufferer almost got knocked over crossing the road and we joked that if we had been people would have thought it was a suicide pact!

  2. Harry Fenton says:

    I think there can be something funny to be found in almost anything … if you allow yourself to have a dark sense of humour. Indeed, as one who experiences depression just about all the time (I’m Bipolar over-laying Dysthymic Disorder), I think the last of your light bulb joke is funny, from THIS depressed person’s perspective. Okay, it may not be a rib-shaking hysterically funny joke but it raises a smile, even if only INSIDE me for a few seconds. And a few seconds is all we need sometimes to get us through another bad day. When you are surviving day by day, hour by hour, the seconds count! Living in depression is, as I once wrote in a song, like moving through a tunnel without light that gets smaller the further in you go. If you cannot see a light showing the end, it feels infinitely, hopeless torture. Every distraction helps us get further through the tunnel without the pain of realising where we are. So, every second matters, even if it’s a weak smile at a silly joke, like:
    I wish I was a birdie
    Cos happy, am I not.
    With luck I’d be a pigeon
    And then I might get shot.

  3. med bayjou says:

    Here is one for you. After years of therapy for depression my therapist finally spoke to me today and now everything makes sense. She said “no hable englese!”

    • Harry Fenton says:

      Brilliant! Very funny!

      Unfortunately, it has a ring of truth to it. A few years ago I mentioned to my family doctor about the fact that my appointments to see a psychiatrist had mysteriously stopped. He explained that the psychiatrist I used to see had moved on and been replaced by a new guy who could struggled to understand what was said to him and to be understood … My doc said, “If I were you, I’d not go to see him.” Fortunately, things have got much better since then, but that is – nevertheless – one problem we still have with our National Health Service – we cannot choose our psychiatrists – we get who we are allocated to see.

  4. hahaha, i like that you maintain humour with your depression, took me a while to start laughing at myself for being depressed too. another thing i found with depression, my creativity is springing back 🙂
    just happened to stumble across your blog today
    Noch Noch

  5. Hi Paul – I’m Jess, I wrote the article you commented on on Young Minds (

    Great blog post 🙂 I think humour is definitely underrated in terms of how much it can give people strength to overcome things. And I’m going to try and work the tooth hurty joke in somewhere as soon as possible!

  6. Shawn says:

    i made the mistake of titling one of my early posts “jokes about depression”
    it turns out to be the phrase that most often brings people to my blog
    which isn’t great cause it is neither a good post nor funny
    i keep meaning to do something about this…but…
    anyway, i googled the phrase myself to see and ended up here.
    so in response to your thrown gauntlet:

    there was a man digging a hole /
    every now and again he would stop and weep /
    after all he was in a depression.

    best i got so far… (i’ll keep trying)

  7. Shawn says:

    o.k. – i have done it
    thanks to your inspiration and challange
    i updated my blog with a “jokes about depression” part 2.
    i use most of what i wrote here but also add a few new jokes
    one of which is my favorite so far…
    (could there be a more obvious and pathetic plea
    for you to check out my blog?)

  8. Tim says:

    Hi. Actually I have a the same problem in that I was the clown… still am yet it leads to a hatred of myself as well. “Hey here’s Tim he’ll make us laugh” until verbal quips dribbled permenantly from my mouth while inside I felt as dark as sticky tar. I once spent a year attending monthly Depression meetings; we were in stitches the whole time even when One guy spoke about how he tried to commit suicide and throw himself off a motorway bridge, only to end up the other side of the country on the back of a hay lorry. However the joke that really tickled me is:
    How many Psychologists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    “What do you think”

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