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Why 2016 was the year stand-up comedians dared to laugh at depression

Seeing the funny side: Sophie Willan (left), Sofie Hagen and Richard Gadd confronted mental health in their shows
Seeing the funny side: Sophie Willan (left), Sofie Hagen and Richard Gadd confronted mental health in their shows

If I hear one more joke about Brexit, I’m going to scream. That’s not to say there haven’t been some good ones. My favourite came from Shazia Mirza: “Brexit is like Boris Johnson’s hair – very messy, but acceptable anywhere outside of London.”

And admittedly, the referendum on June 23 provoked a handful of exceptional, often very angry shows, the best of which was Bridget Christie’s Because You Demanded it. But the overall response to such a seismic political event was one-note and disappointing, and the hastily written gags became tedious.

In fact, the best shows came from comedians who dared to look inwards. Depression was a subject returned to time and again. There will be those who argue that mental health is no laughing matter, but laughing at something is not the same as trivialising it. South African-born comedian Pierre Novellie struck the right chord when he said: “If it’s cool to...

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