Anthony Devito shares how comedy has helped his mental health

Antony Devito by Mindy Tucker

We all know the idea of the stand up comedian as the “sad clown.” But I see us differently. Imagine if you could test pilot your thoughts and stories on a group of people. Then, for years, you kept refining them on other groups of people. Finally, you spring all of those meticulously honed bits on an unsuspecting group who’s never seen you before. They might look at you like a genius. And, for a moment, you might believe them. That’s the feeling I’ve been lucky enough to have as a stand up comic: seeing the best version of myself. Of course, then I go home and drop my phone in the toilet, realize I’m 5’6” and I have the savings account of an 8 year old. But, for that brief moment on stage, I’ve lived up to my potential. And, for once, I feel good about myself. Now, imagine that feeling being taken away. For almost 2 years.

Antony Devito by Mindy Tucker

Since doing comedy for about 12 years in New York City, the longest I’ve gone without doing a set was at best a week. After a few days of not getting up, I’d start to feel the tendrils of depression creep like growing ivy. So I didn’t know what to expect as the pandemic wore on. I tried to distract myself with sci-fi movies, video games and rollerblading. I did shows over Zoom (nightmare). I upped my podcast to four times a week (nightmare). I turned to journaling (surprisingly pleasant). But none of these could fill the void of self actualization that I’d found from performing. I became rudderless. Little did I know, my throbbing depression was turning into teaming anxiety.

Nine months into the pandemic, I sat on a bench in a nearby park and felt the thump of my heart with a unique rhythm. Felt like the organ wanted out. A few hours later, I was on the phone with a 911 operator convinced I was having a heart attack. All the signs were in place: my left arm was tingly, my vision blurred and my chest felt like I was inhabiting an EDM concert. I didn’t know how to start the conversation and a few minutes later, two gruff EMT workers were inside my kitchen taking my blood pressure. I was nervous, my kitchen lights felt extra hot and bright. My fiance paced in our bedroom. After taking a reading, I asked with concern in my voice “how high?” The EMT worker let out a sprawling “broooooo.” I quivered. He composed himself, remembering he was wearing a medical uniform and not at a Yankees game. Then he said “I thought it was going to be higher because…

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