A schizophrenic, two bipolar women and a fellow with post-traumatic stress walk into a room.
That would be a straight line in David Granirers class on comedy, a course in which each of those descriptions fits most of his students.
Granirer? Hes a registered counselor, a comedian, and a man who has fought clinical depression since he was 16.
No, this isnt your typical adult education class.
Granirer, 52, got the idea for his Stand Up For Mental Health Foundation after doing comedy that dealt with his own mental illness. Along with laughs came a form of therapy. He has written a book, The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness, and was featured in a documentary, Cracking Up.
Kathleen Pantoja, with the Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities, saw that film, contacted Granirer and set up a 13-week class taught via Skype. The result was more than a dozen enrollments.
On the first night of class in July, a schizophrenic, two bipolar women and a fellow with post-traumatic stress walked into the room.
This week, Granirer and seven of his students will perform a course final of sorts doing 90 minutes of stand-up comedy at Tacoma Community College.
Laurel Lemke, one of the two bipolar women, will be among the performers.
I keep my jokes on cards that I take on stage with me. I just told the audience the truth Hey, Im ADD. I forget my act without the cards, Lemke said. Ive found the whole process, from writing to doing stand up, to be therapeutic in subtle ways.
She is 59, a Lakewood resident who has thrown herself at life despite being diagnosed along the way as depressed, bipolar and having attention deficit disorder. Shes a peer counselor and teacher at Western State Hospital.
She is part of a womans sailing group, a weekly ballroom dancing class and, now, a comic with one performance on her résumé.
I had a show in Portland last week with another group, and Laurel came down, Granirer said. We got a pre-show rehearsal for her, got her on stage with the microphone in the room where shed be working. She was terrified, like we all are our first time.
When she did the show live, she got some great laughs. Shes a therapist, and she talked about dating experiences, having ADD. She did a wonderful job.
Lemke has been writing jokes for three months.
The week of October 15-21 was Attention Deficit Disorder Week.
We didnt celebrate no one remembered it.
When we first came to class in July, we were asked to write five jokes a week. Some weeks Id write a lot, some weeks none, Lemke said. We have people in our class who are out of work, whove lost jobs. We bring our material to the class, and others in the group sometimes give us our best lines.
We didnt really know one another when it began. Now its like a support group for all of us.
Lemkes jokes, like the one above, center on her mental illness and experiences dating back to her college days.
I have an undergrad degree in psychology, a masters in psychology, she said. I came from a family with Harvard tradition but went to Wellesley College. My first month there, I had episodes and ended up at Harvard the Harvard Psychiatric Hospital.
True story. And yes, its in her act.
Granirer of Victoria, B.C., has been working in comedy nearly 20 years.
Ive been a counselor in Canada since 94, dealt with couples therapy, crisis hotlines, Granirer said. On the phone with people I had a captive audience, and I thought I was pretty funny. I went to a comedy club one night in the mid-90s and did five minutes on stage and heard nothing but dead silence.
I took a class on comedy, tried it again, got a better response and was hooked.
What Granirer got from his comedy was more than laughs, and it occurred to him that others with mental illnesses and their friends and family might benefit.
The audiences for these shows is a catch-all. We have friends, family and people whose lives have been touched by mental illness which is most of us, Granirer said.
Lemke and classmates had a run through last week working with Granirer on tightening their material; working out which jokes to keep in, which to leave out.
Mental health centers are getting new names: Comprehensive Mental Health became Comprehensive Life Services, Capital Club House is now Capital Recovery Center and Seattle Mental Health changed its name to Sound Mental Health.
Maybe that one should be Unsound Mental Health.
This a joke from Lemkes B list. You want to hear her best material, and those of her classmates and teacher, itll cost you $10 at the door.
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638
Stand Up for Mental Health
WHERE: Tacoma Community College auditorium, Building 2, 6500 S. 12th St.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
COST: $10 at the door.