A new breed of comedy show has been taking Reykjavík by storm and is set to cross the Atlantic next summer to conquer America. ‘My Voices Have Tourettes’ is a stand-up comedy show armed with the goal of raising awareness regarding different mental health issues while simultaneously entertaining audiences and engaging in a wider sense of community.
The show premiered at Reykjavík Fringe Festival this summer to packed audiences and has enjoyed such tremendous success that it is now a weekly feature at Iceland’s only comedy club, The Secret Cellar in downtown Reykjavík. Brought to you by comedy troupe HED Syndrome, ‘Voices’ is the collaborative creation of three comics, each of whom has mental disorders/syndromes.
This is not your average run of the mill comedy show; it’s a blend of stand-up and stories about the performer’s experiences of their disorders/syndromes, in which they educate the audience on what each condition involves. After about an hour and a half of comedy, the show concludes with a Q&A session in which the audience can ask any of the comics questions about their narratives. No topic is off limits, and the comics bravely share their personal relationships with often taboo subjects such as paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and depression.
Although dealing with difficult issues, it is essentially a comedy show and it is incredibly uplifting. Not only do the comedians educate the audience in a comical and relatable way, but it also carries evident catharsis for the performers. It is not every day that people get the chance to be so candid about such personal matters and the intrepid troupe have done remarkably well to create a space in which such problems are not only accepted but embraced. The Q&A sessions are honest and eye-opening and guarantee that no show is ever the same.
Reykjavík has undoubtedly embraced the show, and it has received such generous acclaim that the group now have their sights set on touring America in the summer of 2019.
HED Syndrome is a somewhat playful acronym of the founding comics’ first names; Hannah, Elva, and Dan.
Hannah Proppé-Bailey was diagnosed with schizophrenia 4-years ago and has tackled the many trials and tribulations accompany such a complex syndrome. After only performing stand-up comedy for a year, the confidence and hilarity that she brings to the stage are beyond impressive. Hannah’s frank and dead-pan delivery has the audience hypnotised as she tackles awkward topics with ease.
Both Elva Dögg and Dan Zerin have Tourette Syndrome, a disorder which is often depicted in the media as something comical which breeds insensitivity as well as a misunderstanding of what the syndrome entails. People with the syndrome deal with a variety of involuntary ‘tics’ which could be anything from rolling your eyes to jumping. There’s a general misconception that people with Tourette Syndrome are limited to yelling out obscenities, a fallacy that both Elva and Dan tackle head-on. Both comedians have experienced hardship trying to suppress their tics, but through ‘My Voices Have Tourettes’, they can open up, and it is not their tics that are the source of amusement but rather their sharp and disarming wit.
A further two comedians have joined the troupe: Þórhallur Þórhallson who deals with an anxiety disorder and Carmela Torrini who is autistic. The gang have collected footage from their best shows and are in the process of reaching out to comedy clubs across America ready to start planning their summer tour.
It’s not often that a comedy show is so noble in its pursuit and the future looks exciting not just for this troupe but for mental health awareness in Reykjavík and beyond. In Dan Zerin’s own words, “It’s one thing to tell someone that they are not alone. But, the moment you actually show them in person that they are not alone, that’s when the magic happens, and that’s why we’re all here. Welcome to My Voices Have Tourettes.”
You can catch My Voices Have Tourettes every Thursday at 21:00 at The Secret Cellar, Lækjargata 6a, 101 Reykjavík. Entry is free.
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