Wayne Brady on Struggles with Major Depression

Wayne Brady - Major Depression

Anyone familiar with his work probably knows Wayne Brady as a shining, smiling star who constantly manages to stay upbeat and find a rich vein of humor in any situation. His career really began when he became a core part of the Whose Line Is It Anyway cast, where his impressive comedic talents earned him an Emmy. Since then, Brady has appeared on Broadway multiple times, acted in shows like How I Met Your Mother and Stargate SG-1, and even hosted game shows like Let’s Make a Deal. Brady even has a Grammy nomination under his belt.

Still, even this very talented comedian who has brought laughter and smiles to many was not immune to the mental health issues that plague so many of us. Then, it wasn’t until his 42nd birthday in 2014 that Brady first acknowledged his experiences with depression.

After having a major breakdown on his birthday, Brady reflected on his life, realizing that he always struggled with mental health problems and just never dealt with them. He describes having bad days that became bad weeks—eventually affecting his entire life. He developed a cycle of self-doubt and depression.

“I am just going to sit right here and I want to wallow in this. As much as it hurts, I am going to sit right here because this is what I deserve. This is what I deserve, so I am going to sit here because I am that horrible of a person.”

He went on to say, “It starts this cycle where you tell yourself these lies … and those lies become true to you. So, you stick to your own truth you’ve set up. ‘If I am this bad, then why should any of this matter?’ I feel at that point, you end up wanting to stop the pain.”

These are the same thoughts that millions of people experience every day. Having someone like Wayne Brady—a super-talented, hard-working comedian, actor, dancer, and singer—relate to feeling the same way so many individuals do helps alleviate the stigma of mental health problems. It makes everyone feel not quite so alone.

The Sad Clown Problem

A big part of Wayne Brady’s mental health struggles just so happens to be the reason so many people love him—he can make people smile.

A classic joke begins with a man visiting the doctor. The man tells his physician, “Doctor, I’m depressed. Life is cruel and there’s no point in it.” The doctor smiles, knowing the treatment is simple. “The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight,” he tells the man, “Seeing him should sort you out.” The man immediately breaks down. “But doctor,” he says, “I am Pagliacci.”

It’s a funny story, sure, and over the past few years, more and more memes riffing on it have popped up. But while there’s humor in the joke, to many artists and entertainers, it’s painfully relatable.

As much as Wayne Brady loves performing, audiences expect entertainers to always be “on.” If they can see you, you need to be entertaining them. Brady once said, “I think that is why we see a lot of comedians connected to the sad clown trope, but the reality is everybody’s dealing with something every day.”

“Just because someone makes you laugh doesn’t mean that they can’t have an ordinary feeling,” he continued, “They make you laugh because it’s their job. Because it’s their calling. It’s not a personality trait. So, when someone asks, ‘Well, you must be funny at home. Why are you sad?’ No, because that’s my job, and I show up for my job.”

He also spoke about Robin Williams, who took his own life after a long struggle with depression and other issues. Williams’ death hit Brady hard.

“He made all these people feel great.” Brady starts, “And at the same time, knowing that he had this sense of … what I make up in my mind, this low sense of self-worth, of belonging, of loneliness, of pain that all the money in the world can’t cure, all the accolades and awards, and all the love from people all over the world—all that love could still not stop that man from saying, ‘I am in so much pain.'”

It goes to show that depression doesn’t care about your talent or accomplishments. It can hit anyone at any time—even those who make us happiest. If you, like these magnificent comedians, feel the pressure to “be happy,” remember that depression doesn’t work like that. Trying to force yourself to feel better will often just make symptoms worse.

What Happened to Wayne Brady?

So, after his breakdown on his birthday, how did Wayne Brady move forward? How did he continue on despite hitting—as he described—rock bottom?

The answer is simple: he had help; from friends, from family, and from professionals.

Brady gives a lot of credit to his ex-wife, co-parent, and longtime friend, Mandie Taketa.

“She was the one who truly said, ‘Wayne, I love you, and our daughter loves you and our family loves you. And this is the path that you go down when you don’t want to live. And we are concerned, and I cannot stand by and watch you ignore this.'”

He mentions her pushing him to go to therapy, despite his hesitancy. He described growing up feeling that therapy was a “bad word” or “therapy’s for White people.”

Brady also describes how Robin Williams’ suicide opened his eyes. He knew that Williams felt that his problems were “too great” to speak about with others and Brady recognized those same feelings in himself. He realized that he didn’t want that for himself.

And, so, he began going to therapy.

“Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step.” He says, “To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.'”

As part of this, Wayne Brady has also recognized that while the pressure of an audience often harmed his mental health, that same audience also lifted him up and kept him going.

“It actually helps knowing that there’s an audience that you can perform for, knowing that there’s this great TV job that you have to show up for—that is enough to transform and pick you up.”

Currently, Brady manages his depression using a combination of medication and therapy. He also finds support in attending men’s support groups and performing specific daily habits that help him go on with his day, like making his bed.

“If I make my bed … then I don’t want to get back in that bed.”

Brady also mentions that he consciously chooses to be around people who make him feel better. He finds that spending time with people who love him for him has been extremely beneficial for his mental health.

The Importance of Speaking Out

Wayne Brady has also made conscious efforts to be open about his struggles with depression. He feels that the only way some people can find help is to look at someone else experiencing the same issues. Because Brady has a large audience and a platform that allows him to reach millions of people, his actions and words have weight.

By choosing to pursue treatment and recognizing that he is still “a work in progress,” Brady hopes that someone else will make the same choices.

Beyond this, though, Wayne Brady knows that destigmatizing mental health takes more than sharing his personal experiences. He hopes that those who have mental health issues will take an empowering approach. While some individuals may doubt the impact of conditions like depression or consider them a moral failing, he says to consider those ideas their problem, not yours. Nobody should feel shame for having mental health struggles.

“That’s something that I had to learn—to not be ashamed. Shame will stop you from getting help and tending to your mental health.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or another mental health challenge, you’re not alone. Our professionals at Restore Mental Health are available 24/7, so you can find help when you need it.