Comedian Tom Stade reveals he uses stand-up to keep suicidal thoughts at bay


Like most successful comics, he’s surrounded by the sound of laughter at work.

But life off-stage isn’t always so funny for Tom Stade.

His stand-up act has seen him appear on TV in a host of shows, from Live at the Apollo to Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.

Yet as he tours to packed houses up and down the country, the comedian admits there are times he feels so low he can’t even get out of bed.

And he fears his thoughts could quite easily turn to suicide.

“The perception is that comedians are funny, happy guys, but this business I’m in can bring you up and down and there are days I don’t want to wake up,” he says frankly.

“As long as everything is going good, I’m fine. But it’s not a normal job and all it takes is one bad show, or one bad review to knock me back.

“There are times where I can lie in bed for days. I don’t want to deal with anything.

“One minute I’m way up, the next way down. That happens a lot and I just can’t see any positives.”

Tom has been popular on the circuit in the UK for many years

Tom, 48, believes he may have inherited his depressive tendencies from his dad, who suffered from mental illness all his adult life.

He also blames the tendency of men to bottle up their feelings.

The Samaritans says middle-aged men are one of the most high-risk groups for suicide. And one study has suggested comedians have unusual psychological traits linked to psychosis.

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Stephen Fry has bipolar disorder and has contemplated suicide, Robin Williams killed himself in 2014 after severe depression and Tony Slattery revealed recently he has struggled with bipolar disorder his entire life.

Tom believes his career stops his thoughts roaming into dark places.

“Without comedy, I’d start thinking about suicide,” he says.

“It’s that big a help to me – the one thing that keeps me sane. I’ve been doing it for 30 years, so to take it away from me would kill me. I have no doubt.

“My shows are a form of therapy – my psychiatrist is a room full of 300 people. Instead of holding something in, saying it to strangers who relate to it is definitely a relief.

“A lot of comics see the darker side of life, but when you have a laugh at it, that relieves the pressure.”

It is a surprising admission for a man whose stage persona is laid-back charm.

The co-writer and co-star of Frankie Boyle’s Channel 4 series Tramadol Nights, he’s a regular at the Edinburgh Festival and his screen appearances include The John Bishop Show and Channel 4’s Comedy Gala.

His most recent UK tour – I Swear To… – saw him perform at more than 40 British theatres, but the erratic nature of his career only adds to his worries.

“If things are going well, I seem to be OK, but there are months when I worry – ‘why am I not getting this job?’” he says.

“Once I feel like that I don’t know how long it will last. Maybe a week, maybe three months.”

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Tom started performing on the Canadian comedy circuit at 18. He moved to Britain 13 years ago, and after spells in London and Wolverhampton, settled in Edinburgh.

He has never sought professional help and admits he uses alcohol to self-medicate.

“I think that’s how a lot of people think they can handle it,” he says. “I drink Jack Daniel’s. I know it’s a temporary solution.

Tom is not the only comedian to battle the darker side of his psyche

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“I also do guided meditation for 15 minutes a day, to remind myself I’m something more than this. It’s a big help.

“I’ve never been to the doctor about it, but if my wife Trudy ever said I needed to I would.”

Tom has been happily married for 24 years and has two grown-up
children, but says that the slightest domestic upheaval can send his anxiety levels spiralling.

“I worry one argument could break up my marriage, or that a fight with my kids will last forever,” he explains.

“Once I lose sight of the fact these things are only temporary, that’s when the real feelings of depression start to hit me and I think it’s a long-term thing.”

His dad, who died 10 years ago, was a similar age to Tom when his depression really began to take hold but it was rarely discussed.

“He felt he wasn’t succeeding in life. He never had a trade, he was divorced and the pressure of life started kicking in,” Tom says.

“His second wife was really worried about him and got him to the hospital. He was put on medication and there was a positive change in him.

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“But I think we only had one little chat about it. He wouldn’t want to show any weakness to me.

“It’s a common issue with men. I’m not sure I would let my son know what was going on. That’s something that has to change.

“Men should be able to feel they can ask for help.

“Luckily I can talk to my friends and my wife, but that’s the changing times. The more men are honest about their feelings, the easier it will get.

“I hope my speaking out can help other people.”





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