Following the premiere, Gethard, Apatow and fellow comedians Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) and Pete Holmes (Crashing) participated in a panel discussion moderated by This American Life host Ira Glass. The panelists, all experts on mining their personal lives for material in their work, spoke candidly about the highs and lows of putting it all on the line.
Chris Gethard was everyone’s favorite improv teacher.
“Everyone I like in comedy I probably taught in improv class and then I just watched them skyrocket,” explained Gethard, who taught both Holmes and Jacobson at Upright Citizens Brigade. Jacobson praised Gethard’s impact: “I moved here just to do this. I found comedy and he was one of my first teachers and he totally changed my voice.” Holmes recounted Gethard’s stricter side: “You were the only teacher I had that was a little bit stern. You called me out on my bullshit.”
Judd Apatow kept Chris honest when developing the special.
Apatow advised Chris to “explore parts of the story that I hadn’t explored yet.” Gethard added, “I was just skipping over a lot of stuff and Judd called bullshit on that.” One of the moments Judd encouraged him to lean into was the story about his 2007 panic attack. “I was like, I don’t know it’s pretty raw,” Gethard recalled. He recalled Apatow “just kinda quietly reiterated, ‘Yeah, you are going to talk about it.’ There was no question mark there.”
Chris chose to tell his story after an anonymous Tumblr user reached out for help.
When a suicidal Tumblr user reached out to Chris, he knew it was time to break his silence. “All I could think was if this kid that just sent this has tried everything they can and for some reason they’re comfortable with me and they’re just clicking refresh hoping I answer, I don’t want to not answer because it’s a scary thing to do or you can get in trouble for saying the wrong thing,” Gethard explained. “I would just wonder forever if this person is okay. So I sat down at my computer in a true panic and just started typing.”
Although Gethard was hesitant to tell his story, he doesn’t regret it: “The really uplifting thing was that there were so many reactions to it; people were saying some version of, ‘F***ing finally someone is putting it all out there.’ I really felt like I was giving a piece of myself away. I was like I’m going to regret this, I don’t want the world to know this. Hours within realizing that thing was spreading beyond my ability to control it, I was like I don’t regret this at all. I don’t feel scared that this is out there and I am very glad that it has helped some people.”