Today, Australia is still burning and WW3 may have just broken out. But today is also a very significant day in my life and I’m not going to let a little war rain on my parade. But we’ll come to that in a moment, because when everything around seems to be falling apart, it’s sometimes hard to stay positive, and I often find myself thinking “What’s the point of anything? The world is fucked!” When I was a late teenager I thought the same thing, on a daily basis, but not because of political or economic situations, a pending war, natural disasters or climate change. It was more complicated than that. So complicated that I didn’t know why I felt that way. It was so complicated that I couldn’t even talk to anyone about it. Not my parents, my brothers, my closest friends or teachers. After all, how can you talk about something, when you don’t know what that something is? I was anxious, I was lonely, I was scared, I hated myself and life itself. But why? It didn’t make sense. I had a good group of friends, my brothers and I got along alright besides the odd attempted murder on each other (I assume all boy households were the same?), I was raised well in a stable family life and although not an academic, I was a good student with good ethics and manners, I was a student leader in junior and senior school. On paper and to the untrained eye, my life seemed pretty normal and I had everything going for me. In my head however, things were much different. — But why is today important Marcus? Hold your horses! — A few weeks ago I was the guest speaker at my former high school for their graduation ceremony. I always thought a former student guest speaker would be someone who had a diploma on the wall, who had attended university and held degrees, wore a tie and was CEO of something. But not me? I was just a comedian. A guy who tells dick jokes in pubs for cash. I don’t own a home or even have a mobile phone contract. What could I teach students about? And what kind of role model am I? I was a kid who hated school and walked away from school with low grades and even lower self-esteem. I gave a speech, I presented some awards and was made an alumni of the college. Something I wasn’t expecting. It was a beautiful moment to be honoured in such a way. I invited my parents along because I knew I was going to talk about something I’ve never talked to them or anyone before. Depression. That’s right, the thing that tormented me in my teenage years and early 20’s that I didn’t have a clue about. I suffered from what I can now describe as depression, the “black dog.” Such a performer I am, I could never talk to my parents 1 on 1, I had to wait 20 years and it needed to be on a stage! Oh, and in front of a couple hundred other people too.
I spoke about it for the first time publicly, I didn’t dwell on it because ironically I didn’t want a high school graduation speech to be too depressing, but it was touched on enough so that hopefully anyone who might be going through what I went through can know that things can get better. I spoke about it not just for my parents to hear me talk about it, but more importantly for the sake of anyone who needed to hear it, because I wish there had been someone come to my school to talk about these things when I was a student. When I and others needed it. I lost 2 friends in road accidents in school and 2 more to suicide. I was affected by this but I held it in. I was going through puberty and changing and couldn’t bare it. My last years of school I chose artistic classes because I knew I wanted to do something entertainment wise or creative, but being from a small country town, that thing wasn’t overly encouraged. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity for that and I didn’t want to go to drama school because I thought actors were wankers. But mostly because I was also ridiculously shy, nervous and awkward. It was easier to hide than to try. When all my friends were going off to University or getting jobs or apprenticeships, I was lost and confused.
I was a bad student in that I always left things to the last minute, I crammed for exams and I’d stay up late the night before my assignments were due, but I worked well under pressure. And when it came to giving this talk - I’d known about 7 months ahead of time I’d be doing it - I really only threw the speech together in the hours before giving it. A former teacher who was still at the school told me backstage that when I was her student, she remembers asking me to re-write something for her and I clasper her face in my hands and said something like “Relax, it’s fine! I already know what I’m going to do. I’ll travel the world and make people laugh.” I’d forgotten I’d told her this, I knew deep down that was my desire but I never really knew how true that would become.
A couple of years went by after high school, I had been working at a radio station and in a pub pouring beers, still living at home. I was severely depressed. I had bad acne, braces and self-esteem issues with my body. From ages 17-22 I’d say. I was a late bloomer. Probably the worst years of my life. I felt claustrophobic in my hometown, in my own country, in my own body and mind. I wanted to explode. I thought many times about taking my own life. But you’re a comedian!? You’re always happy and cracking jokes, your life seems great!? Nobody could ever understand and so I continued to keep it bottled up. I look at how much mental health is talked about now and it makes me so happy to see it’s a normal thing to discuss. There’s a brilliant cartoon TV show called Big Mouth which I think all pubescent teens should watch. The sad thing about depression is it was shameful to talk about and I found out just how good an actor I was because I acted happy for so many years. What a wanker!
So why is today important?
Well, on January 8th, 2000, I did something that changed my life forever. I got on stage for the very first time as a “comedian”. It didn’t change the world, but it changed mine. A day later I walked into my job and quit and told my dad I’m moving to Melbourne to become a comedian. I knew what I wanted to do and I started to make it happen. As my old mate Andy Dufresne used to tell me when we were banged up in Shawshank, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I thought therapy would be too expensive, so I tried comedy. Turns out comedy has been way more expensive! But it’s the thing that saved me and has ruined me at the same time! I’m obsessed with it. I’ve sacrificed many relationships, friendships, stability and sanity to pursue this crazy love of comedy. It’s by far the longest job and relationship I’ve been in in my life.
Today is my 20th year anniversary as a comedian. Happy anniversary to me!
I would’ve liked to celebrate by being on stage, instead I took the dog for a nice walk on the beach and have been writing. These things make me happy. I’m trying to learn to meditate, I smoke marijuana to help with anxiety. It’s not for everyone but it works for me. I swim laps to clear my head and I exercise to keep my brain, body and mind healthy. I’m sharing all this because I’m learning that keeping things bottled up is not the answer. Talking about it and listening to others is far more beneficial. ********* Let me be clear. This happened 20 years ago. I'm not looking for help. I'm fine. Life is good. I’m not wanting a pity party. Nor am I wanting a flood of messages or supportive comments or for you to feel like you need to mention it if we see each other in person. If this makes you awkward hearing it or reading it. I don't give a shit. Just think how awkward it makes me sharing it! So be cool ok? ********* I'm writing this for the people who need it. To maybe help those who are struggling to show that we can all be effected by these things, so if this can help you then I hope it has been helpful. If you think it can help someone else, then by all means, feel free to share it with them.
A friend once observed how successful he thinks I am because I can pick and choose when and where I work and I’m making a living doing what I knew I always wanted to do. That was sweet to hear. Success can be defined in many ways. I still want a TV show, to write books and dare I say it, to act, but at the age of 40 I can honestly say that the fact I’m still living at all is a success on its own. For every day that I survived beyond those early years I feel like it’s been a bonus because there was once a time I didn’t want to even be here, and that’s why I felt it was time to share my story. I adopted a motto I try to live by “something will happen”. And what better time than when Australia is on fire and World War 3 is upon us! to share my story? I mean what’s the worst that can happen!? “Something will happen”.
My teacher was right. Well, I was right. She just reminded me. I’ve travelled the world making people laugh. I have performed in 50 countries and seen the world.
Over the next few months I’m performing shows in Perth, Adelaide & Melbourne, if you have friends in these places I’d appreciate you send them my info. I have events on my page. I have all the social media and a website. Go on. Give it a share. In fact, support all of your friends in all their small businesses. Get behind each other. I’m also doing my first ever show in my hometown Wonthaggi in April. I spent many years running away from this place because of what I went through internally. I resented it and it left me angry. I now know that it was never the town, or the people. It was, as my dad would say “all in my mind”. The mind is a powerful thing. I’m glad it didn’t defeat me. Because I’m seeing now what good things community can do. Seeing the whole country and world come together to support those effected during the bushfires is heartwarming. And seeing my own community of friends and locals support my endeavour to do a show in a 400 seat venue in Wonthaggi has been overwhelming. Almost half of the tickets have sold in less than 3 weeks. I hope the show goes well and I hope my mates and their parents and their neighbours come out and support it. I'm filming it. It might go well, it might go tits up. Either way, at least I know I gave it a shot. Find what you love and give it your all. What have you got to lose? After all, “something will happen.”
—- Re the video: I debated whether or not I would share the graduation speech. As I said, I threw the speech together on the day. Because of the topic, I was nervous doing it. But it was a very important thing for me to do. The feedback I’ve had from teachers, students and parents on the night was that it was well received and that makes me happy. Some had requested to the school that the video be made public, and that for me was enough to realise that if it helps just one person, it can make a difference and that I can be proud of.