Laughter is nature’s lithium

Stand Up to Stigma uses comedy to raise awareness about mental illness

WTF is a low-budget late night talk show that makes Open Mike with Mike Bullard look like The Mike Bullard Show.


For its annual Stand Up to Stigma event, Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba is teaming up with Winnipeg comedians to raise awareness about mental illness. 

The ninth Stand Up to Stigma, Sat., March 22 at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, will continue to bring the funny, just with a different cast. 

“This year we were really looking to do things a bit differently. We used to do it all the time with Big Daddy Tazz, but we wanted to feature some other local talent too,” says Rachel Westman, director of communications and events.

This year’s entertainment will be provided by the local comedians who make up Shaw TV’s The Week Thus Far (WTF), a late night talk show which started in 2011 and tapes on Monday nights at the King’s Head Pub. 

Stand Up to Stigma will also include a silent auction alongside sets from veteran local comic Al Rae and Winnipeg’s answer to Mike Ness, Scott Nolan.

“I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for about five years and once you do it, you just start hanging around other people who do stand-up,” says Dan Huen, 26, host and executive producer of WTF, which just entered its seventh season.

“Eventually a few of us moved into a house and we ended up putting the show together.”

Westman says she went to a taping of the show at the King’s Head and asked the cast if they were interested in being involved with Stand Up to Stigma.

“They were really open to working with us and getting them on board was probably the easiest thing about organizing this whole event,” Westman says.

Because WTF includes such comedians as Ryan Ash, Tim Gray, Andy Noble and Chad Andersen, all members of Winnipeg’s burgeoning stand-up comedy scene, Westman hopes Stand Up to Stigma will appeal more to the university crowd than it has in the past.

“I know for myself that’s when my personal problems with depression started, during my first year of university,” Westman says. “I think it’s something that’s common for a lot of students and I think some students really do need the extra support. We want students to recognize the signs and be able to reach out for help instead of just sitting there in silence.

“We still wanted to keep it fun because some of the people this organization works with, this might be the only night they get out for the whole year. We really want to get them out for the night and get them laughing.”

Huen says comedy has the ability to make light out of the dark. 

“Comedy is an interesting thing, because laughing feels so good and making other people laugh feels so good. I think it definitely attracts some people who deal with mental health issues,” he says. 

“It can totally pull people out of darker times. They see it as something that makes them feel good and helps them feel better about themselves, too.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 19, 2014)

Related Reads