Laugh Factory Hires On-Site Therapist

The Laugh Factory, a famous comedy club in Hollywood, is starting an in-house therapy program for comedians. The club's new psychologist, Ildiko Tabori, and Saturday Night Live alum and regular Laugh Factory performer Kevin Nealon offer their insight.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

It's not uncommon for a stand-up comic to delve into personal matters on stage. Neurosis can be good material. At one famous comedy club, the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, comics can now get things off their chest without fear of a quiet room. That's because the only audience will be a clinical psychologist.

The Los Angeles Times reports that starting today, the club will offer free therapy sessions four nights a week to comedians. My co-host, Robert Siegel, recently spoke with the club's new psychologist, Ildiko Tabori, and "Saturday Night Live" alum and regular Laugh Factory performer Kevin Nealon.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And first, Dr. Tabori, how will this work? Can somebody do a set and then hit the couch upstairs, or just walk in off the street?

D: I believe that they will be - if performing at the Laugh Factory, and if they need some support, assistance, to vent, to talk about anything, that I will be upstairs in a private office at the Laugh Factory, available for them.

SIEGEL: A room that's soundproofed - or might that person hear, you know, the reaction to the next set?

BLOCK: It'll be miked. That whole room will be miked for the audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Would you and your patient be able to hear what's going on in the club during therapy?

D: No, we won't. It's a private office upstairs, separate from the performance. And it's quiet up there - in a very private, soundproof area.

BLOCK: This is all kind of a brainchild of Jamie Masada, who owns the Laugh Factory and knows comedians very well. And I think over his period of time in this business, he's come in contact with a lot of comedians that have taken their lives and comics that are, you know, are thinking about it, and then other comics that don't have as serious an issue but just maybe need some help.

So I think that's where Jamie's coming from on this, and I think it's a noble adventure.

D: Comedians, in general, are an underserved population. With comedians particularly, it's difficult to recognize symptoms that they experience because the symptoms that they experience are often very subtle.

And ultimately, it's hard for anyone to recognize symptoms, psychological symptoms like depression, and to a lesser extent bipolar disorder in themselves - but particularly with comedians, and ultimately with other performers because their lives have a lot of ups and downs in them.

BLOCK: That's true. I think I went through a phase once where I was really depressed, but I wouldn't acknowledge it, and I was just staying in bed, and I had broken up with some girl. I don't even remember her name now, but you know, I was very depressed and didn't shave - my legs looked horrible.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: But I was clinically depressed. I should have been, you know, seeing somebody or taking something. And I think for some comics, I know in my particular situation, getting on stage is an escape for me. If I - whatever problems are going on in my life, when I'm on stage, it's like going to Disneyland. I don't think about it. And then when I come off stage, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

So it's kind of being on stage is that - I think if every comic that has emotional problems could just be on stage all the time, they would be fine. But they have to step off the stage eventually, and deal with what's going on.

SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Tabori, given the kinds of problems you're describing that many comedians experience, are you prepared to see patients, you know, four nights a week at the Laugh Factory or...

D: I've been working with comedians and other people in the entertainment industry for quite some time. I've been in practice for several years. And being an L.A. therapist, of course you do have entertainment-industry people come into your office. And I have treated stand-up comedians, and I currently am treating.

BLOCK: I don't know if you're privy to tell us but who, and what were their problems?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

D: Uh, doctor-patient confidentiality.

BLOCK: OK, OK.

D: And there is still a stigma attached to therapy - maybe less so in Los Angeles because everybody has a therapist, but comedians as a group still adhere to the idea that you're only funny if you're in pain. So they're afraid to get treatment because if they do, then for some reason they're not going to be funny anymore.

And being funny is part of your personality, and personality is a core being. And I'm a psychologist; I'm not a magician. So if you're coming into my office funny, you're going to leave my office funny.

BLOCK: They should have a magician there on Saturday nights, though.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: So they could see you and then the magician.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Well, thanks to both of you for talking with us about this project, which sounds very interesting. Kevin Nealon in Denver, and Dr. Ildiko Tabori in Los Angeles, thank you both very much for talking with us.

BLOCK: My pleasure.

D: Thank you.

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