Comedian Gary Gulman hopes new memoir will bring readers 'laughter and nostalgia'

"The Great Depresh" comedian sat down with ABC News to talk about his new book.

September 19, 2023, 12:56 PM

With decades of comedy already under his belt, comedian Gary Gulman first opened up about his struggles with his mental health in his 2019 HBO comedy special, "The Great Depresh."

"It was a long time since I shot my last special. I got very sick with the depresh," Gulman says in the special. "I grew up in the seventies, and the only antidepressants we had access to was 'Snap out of it,' and 'What have you got to be depressed about?' That was the second leading brand of antidepressants."

Now, Gulman is getting even more candid with a new memoir out Tuesday. In "Misfit: Growing Up Awkward in the '80s," Gulman is continuing the conversation about his depression and anxiety through a nostalgic nod to his upbringing, relying on his impeccable memory to take readers through every year of his childhood education.

Gulman spoke to ABC News Live about his impetus for writing the book and what he hopes readers will take away from it.

PHOTO: Gary Gulman speaks onstage at Music Will Benefit 2023 at The Novo by Microsoft at L.A. Live on May 02, 2023 in Los Angeles.
Gary Gulman speaks onstage at Music Will Benefit 2023 at The Novo by Microsoft at L.A. Live on May 02, 2023 in Los Angeles.
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

LINSEY DAVIS: Gary Gulman joins us now. Welcome to the show.

GARY GULMAN: Linsey, thanks for having me on. I'm excited. The studio looks fantastic. You picked up for me, and I appreciate it.

DAVIS: Oh thank you. We're excited to have you here. So let's start with your standup, because you really share a lot about your personal struggles, mental health and otherwise. So why did you decide to write a book?

GULMAN: Money.

DAVIS: Mm, got it.

GULMAN: They threw some money at me. No, I've always wanted to write a book, because I love to read ever since I was 5 years old and I learned how to read. I've been reading books nonstop. And so I thought that I had enough fans at this point, after "The Great Depresh" and some publishers came to me and they said, "Do you have any ideas for a book?" And I said, 'Well, I've spent the past 45 years reflecting on my childhood and telling stories from then, and I do a lot of those in my standup.' And I thought, I would like to do a memoir of kindergarten through 12th grade and kind of look at some of the origins of my worldview, but also tell some funny stories from my childhood that don't really translate that well to stand up. And that was sort of the impetus by which I came to write the book.

DAVIS: I imagine it was cathartic.

GULMAN: Yes, yes. I advise anybody who has memories of childhood or hasn't kept a journal over the years to maybe write down some of their favorite stories or some of their trauma or some of their comedic stories. And it's really --it's a creative outlet. And you can just put it into a desk drawer or you can show it to friends who are generous. And I found it so exciting. And there were revelations, and I had a great time with it.

DAVIS: How did you remember? I mean, because you chronicle each chapter based on each grade, starting with kindergarten, as you just said, K through 12. How did you remember? Like kindergarten, first grade, second. I do kind of remember my teachers' names, but not really much about my thoughts and feelings.

GULMAN: Yeah, I have an unusual memory, I've come to find out, because most people say, 'I don't even remember who I had for third grade.' And I can remember things that teachers wore and said and be able to quote them. So I think partially there were traumatic things that would happen, which will make you remember things if you're in the right frame of mind. And then there were there was a lot of joy that I would remember. And I would say as they were happening, I would say, 'Oh, I will remember this for the rest of my life.'"

PHOTO: Comedian Gary Gulman visits the Build Series to discuss the HBO special "The Great Depresh" at Build Studio on Oct. 01, 2019 in New York City.
Comedian Gary Gulman visits the Build Series to discuss the HBO special "The Great Depresh" at Build Studio on Oct. 01, 2019 in New York City.
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

DAVIS: You talk about how at an early age you enjoyed making people laugh. Can you remember some of those moments when you were like, I have a knack for this?

GULMAN: Oh, yes. I just remember being in first grade and I had seen "The Pink Panther" with Peter Sellers, where he speaks in this exaggerated French accent. And I remember going into class and doing an impression of the Pink Panther, the Detective Inspector Clouseau, and I would make the kids laugh in the class. And it was just, it was euphoric. And any time I could make a wisecrack during class and the kids would laugh. And I didn't consciously say, 'I'm going to devote the rest of my life to getting this feeling,' But I think subconsciously I thought, 'Oh, this is really the only way to go through life,' which is so up and down. This was sort of a, again, a therapeutic thing. And I remember getting this charge of probably dopamine or serotonin whenever I made people and strangers and classmates laugh.

DAVIS: Do you still feel that?

GULMAN: Yes. Yes. Every time I get on stage. I also was a a basketball player, and I'm very tall so I can dunk a basketball. And the best comparison I can make to dunking a basketball is making a roomful of strangers laugh. It is so euphoric and it's just, it's a high I have been chasing since I was a little kid.

DAVIS: What would you like people to get out of this book? And who would you say is your target reader?

GULMAN: I think my target reader is anyone who has been a child-- so everyone. Because one thing that I learned, and I should have learned this long ago. And I'm sure I will tell young people this for the rest of my life. There are so many things, as you look back along the way, that initially were overwhelming and you thought, 'How am I ever going to learn how to tie my shoes? How am I ever going to learn how to read? How am I ever going to get over my first breakup? How am I ever going to get through all these essays I have to write to get into college?' And without exception, we've done these things. And yet every time there's something new that seems challenging, we think, 'Oh, this is going to be the thing that proves that I'm a fraud, that I'm not going to overcome.'"

So, I think that's one thing people will get out of the book, but also a great deal of laughter and nostalgia, because I have this great specific memory for things that happened that were were funny and also the time period I grew up in, which was the seventies and eighties, which is a very unusual time period. Like I'm in that Gen-X. We're the last people who carry cash and and know what a busy signal sounds like, so we're a different group of people.

DAVIS: I'm right there with you. Gary Gulman, what a pleasure to have you here.

GULMAN: Thank you, it was so nice to talk with you.