For comic, there’s life beyond depression

Brian Wetzel isn’t afraid to surrender. The creator of “Side by Side: A Journey With Depression” wears a necklace with the word on it as a reminder of the turning point in his life when he made the conscious decision to surrender to depression and start his life anew.

“To me, that doesn’t mean that I surrender to the world or that I’ve given up and been defeated — what it means is that I had to surrender to this depression and just stopmy life,” he says. “I literally had to say, ‘This is not going to work for the rest of my life and there’s no way I can continue to live like this.’”

Wetzel, 43, of Santa Rosa, has battled clinical depression for much of his adult life; his autobiographical one-man show, onstage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of the Marsh Rising Series, takes “a funny look at [his] serious survival.”

Wetzel’s demons surfaced early in his life, around age 19, but it wasn’t until he hit the road as a stand-up comic in the 1990s when things began to spiral out of control.

As depression overwhelmed the budding comedian, life on the road became unbearable and he returned home. In 2002, after another frightening episode, Wetzel found himself in a psychiatric clinic, asking himself how things had become so out of control.

While Wetzel’s nagging and haunting depression never went away, neither did his desire to be a performer.

Over the course of a year, he recounted his experience and infused his innate sense of humor and storytelling ability to create “Side By Side: A Journey With Depression.”

“It isn’t really about getting past depression — I don’t think I’m past it — the show is really about me trying to find things that are funny in this situation, which really wasn’t funny at the time, just to survive.”

Since its debut in 2004, Wetzel’s one-man act has played Stanford University, Napa State Mental Hospital and college campuses across the West Coast.

At the heart of the performance, Wetzel’s hope is to entertain, remove the stigma surrounding depression, and let those who are suffering know that life can and does go on.

“There are scenes in the show that are harder than others because I hope to God that I am never ever there again, but I don’t want to not do them; it reminds of where I’ve been and what I’ve fought through and how devastating it can be,” Wetzel says.

“I’m hoping that people who are truly suffering the depression that I am talking about will understand that there are ways to survive it, but you have to be willing to do the work.”

IF YOU GO

Side By Side: A Journey With Depression

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco

Tickets: $8 to $12

Contact: (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

The Bay Area is vying to be one of 16 communities,<ins> spread across the U.S., Canada and Mexico,</ins> to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer championships. Games would be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. (Courtesy Bay Area Host Committee, World Cup 2026)
Bay Area launches bid to host World Cup games in 2026

FIFA officials pay San Francisco a visit as they tour prospective venues

San Francisco City Administrator Carmen Chu, who took office in February, is in the process of restructuring the sprawling department. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
Report knocks city administrator for inefficiency, lack of transparency

‘A culture that allows corruption to take place’

Outside Lands boasts high-quality food and drink from dozens of purveyors, and many are local.<ins> (Courtesy Outside Lands)</ins>
Outside Lands is for food lovers

85 food vendors, 40 wineries, 30 breweries make the festival nourishing to gluttonous

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

Most Read