Frank King, Suicide Prevention and Postvention Public Speaker and Trainer was a writer for The Tonight Show for 20 years.
Depression and suicide run his family. He’s thought about killing himself more times than he can count. He’s fought a lifetime battle with Major Depressive Disorder and Chronic Suicidality, turning that long dark journey of the soul into five TEDx Talks and sharing his lifesaving insights on Mental Health Awareness with associations, corporations, and colleges.
A Motivational Public Speaker who uses his life lessons to start the conversation giving people permission to give voice to their feelings and experiences surrounding depression and suicide.
And doing it by coming out, as it were, and standing in his truth, and doing it with humor.
He believes that where there is humor there is hope, where there is laughter there is life, nobody dies laughing. The right person, at the right time, with the right information, can save a life.
Learn more about Frank King at www.TheMentalHealthComedian.com
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Transcript is below.
Hey everybody, thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Beyond the Bars Radio Podcast, part of the Mental Health News Radio Network. I get the privilege today to have some fun and laugh a lot with Frank King. I’m going to let him tell you about him and we’re going to dive into some cool things we were just talking about that I know you get a lot of value out of this conversation today. So you’re going to hear from the mental health comedian Frank King.
Interviewee: Frank King Yes, and you know what, Rob, let’s put the elephant in the room to bed right away because when people hear that mental health comedian and then wait a minute, you’re talking about depression and suicide and you’re a comedian. How exactly does that work? When I say is comedian a good choice and here’s why. A comedian’s job isn’t always has been since the time of the court gesture to speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless. I believe I speak truth to the power of mental illness on behalf of those often powerless in its grip, I believe where there’s humor there’s hope, where there’s laughter there is life, that nobody dies laughing.
Depression and suicide runs in my family, it’s called generational depression and suicide. My grandmother died by suicide and my great aunt, I came close enough in 2010; I can tell you what the barrel of my gun tastes like.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s quite visual right there.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah, I know it’s a, I got an itch in the roof of my mouth, I could only scratch on the front of my nickel plated 38. Thank you. Yeah I know, that was the old damage. People go, man, that is just too high, just. Oh God.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Get hold of that one. Yeah.
Interviewee: Frank King No, it’s um, so that’s why I began, you know, I didn’t know what. I’ve been a comedian Rob for 33 years, I started the day after Christmas, 1984. My lovely wife and I, she’s my girlfriend at the time, I’d won a contest, I booked 10 weeks on the road, which I thought was forever. I said to my girlfriend now, my wife Wendy, Hey, I’m going the road doing a standup comic fulltime do you want to come along? And inexplicably, she said yeah. So we put everything in storage we couldn’t fit into a little tiny dodge colt.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Wow, nice.
Interviewee: Frank King Yes it was basically a tuna can lined with vinyl and we took off and we were on the road. We hold the record for the longest nonstop comedy club road trip ever; 2629 nights on the road nonstop.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Oh my goodness. And how did that play a role in your marital relationship being on the road that long in a nice, a nice dodge traveling?
Interviewee: Frank King Well, we actually ended up with a four runner, which is a little larger, um, we came to the conclusion if you couldn’t put it into four runner you didn’t need it. I mean we had a microwave and back then the fax machine and when we pulled into a hotel, we set up camp. She, her goal in life, she never want to have an ordinary life and so coming along the road, we were mid-20’s to mid-30’s at the time.
Some of the other comedians a little while to get used to the fact that the opening act brought his wife, but then they fell in love with Windy and then it got to the point where if I showed up by myself, they’d be like, where’s Wendy? She cooked meals for the guys, if a guy doesn’t really got time and I’m ironing my pants, she’s like, I’ll iron the pants, you go eat. And she’s extremely funny.
I, um, I was on a ship, our cruise ships as well, 12 weeks a year roughly on Holland America and my favorite thing about that as part of my self-care plan is the downtime. I love to sit up in my bunk first thing in the morning, big pot of coffee, my iPhone and write jokes – that’s my creative time of day. So one morning I wrote a joke and I thought yes it’s great, but it just didn’t fit. My Act is more of a topical, political kind of a thing. I know somebody who I think will buy it. So I emailed it off, 5 minutes later, email come screaming back, that’s great, I’ll buy it, I’ll give you $100 for it.
So when we get to the port that day I had cell service, I called my lovely wife Wendy, and I said, the following; honey you’re not going to believe this, I made $100 lying flat on my back in bed. There’s this long pause, she goes, what a coincidence! So she’s extremely funny.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah, that’s a good woman right there sounds like.
Interviewee: Frank King So I did comedy and I always wondered, I always felt like there was more to what I could do that just gives, give somebody 45 minutes of endorphins. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to be able to. Back in the day, I sold insurance right out of college so I saw all the great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar and those guys. And I thought, man, I could do that, I just have nothing to say. If I had something I could say, teach somebody, I could do that. So it wasn’t until they put a gun in my mouth that I realized and almost ended my life, I realized what I was supposed to be doing with my life, which was suicide prevention, which is what I speak on now.
And now Rob and I came to this conclusion not long ago, now I can’t kill myself because I; have you ever seen the movie “A wonderful life”?
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yes.
Interviewee: Frank King Okay. So the other night I’m at Billings, I’m at the University of Montana Billings, I just spoke to the kids about college suicide prevention. I’m standing outside on the sidewalk in the snow, it’s snowing, it’s night time, the guy had to go like a block to get the truck to come back and get me. So I’m standing there street lights a little ways away so it’s half-darkness and I’m thinking I can’t kill myself because let’s say I had killed myself before I went to the University of Montana billings.
And there were students there who didn’t get to hear me speak. Is it possible that I would have taken some of them with me because I wasn’t there to start the conversation, to give them permission to give voice to those feelings that I thought with the snow coming down. I’m like, Oh my God, I’m in, it’s a wonderful life and I’m Jimmy Stewart; it’s the Angel shows and what life would have been like without him. And I’m like, I can’t nah, I can’t kill myself because I would have taken who knows how many people with me. That’s how and so I finally figured out what it was I was supposed to be doing with my life and it’s made all the difference.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Well, I’m sure that, that statement right there, that story, even people listening right now and that moment of just taking themselves out of the game because of life has dealt them cards they feel like they can’t get out of. And here’s a guy right now that had a gun in his mouth still alive today you know, changing lives. So people need to hear that because if our listeners don’t know, can you kind of talk about like in our country what, uh, what is, what is suicide looking like with our teams are adults? Like would you give some, open people’s eyes to how serious this is.
Interviewee: Frank King Well, a 47,000 people a year in the US die by suicide. So on the morning of 9/11, that horrible morning, roughly 3000 people died on that morning. So 15 times that many and change die every year. You and I going to do 45 minute podcast; one person in this country dies of suicide every 15 minutes. By the time you and I get done, three people in my tribe would have ended their lives in that 45 minutes.
And of course, of course the rates are higher among teens and people over 55, a transgender youth, 40% of transgender youth have serious thoughts of suicide; that’s 10 times the number of just like an average heterosexual young person. Native Americans, Alaskan Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Latinas, all have a higher rate for a variety of cultural reasons. It’s epidemic, that didn’t include the 65,000 new dime opioid abuse and we don’t know how many of those are suicide or just a just or an accidental overdose, so yeah.
And the problem is, and the reason I started was hardly anybody’s talking about, it’s the last taboo. My job, the big and rich have a song called “Somebody’s got to be unafraid to lead the freak parade”. That big. Hi, I’m crazy and here’s what happens Rob. I was at a dental convention and I talked about my, I bet you there’s somebody going to hear this podcast this is going to resonate with.
I have something called major depressive disorder, relatively common brush, something rare which is called chronic suicidality, meaning for me, the option of suicide is always on the menu for a solution to problems large and small. And when I say largest small, here’s my example that I give; a couple of years ago, my car broke down, I had three thoughts on bit; 1. Get it fixed, 2. Buy new and 3. I could just kill myself. That’s always absent seed in my head no matter what the problem is.
So after the event, uh, there’s a, everybody’s out there, we’re going to milling around, this woman comes up and she looked me in the eye; she can’t speak, she’s crying so hard. Nobody can hear her, she’s crying quietly but she just, she can’t open her mouth. So I look in her eyes and I say, you’ve got chronic suicidality, don’t you? And she goes, yeah. She nodded yes; I said, you didn’t know how to name it did you? She nods, I said, you’re driving on the highway on occasion you see a bridge above and you think to yourself, if I just let go of the wheel right now, it’ll all be over. She’s nodding her head. I said, we’ll do this for me, tell all this to your therapist. Now I just have to ask one favor, don’t tell them the comedian told you so.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Alright.
Interviewee: Frank King So I got an email from her a week later, she had gone home, she set an appointment right away with a therapist and like third paragraph she said, Frank, look, you changed my life and I can’t say that about a lot of people. That the ROI, that’s the return on investment. That’s why I can’t kill myself because if I’d killed myself a week before the dental convention and not change her trajectory just enough to get her off that track, who knows? She might have ended her own life, so.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah, well you could give people that hope with things like, hey, you’re not crazy, you just need help you know.
Interviewee: Frank King You’re not alone, you’re not the only one.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman As I was sharing with you and we talked a week and a half or so ago, I mean leading up to my attempted suicide before I got sober in 2001, I would have these thoughts and visions all the time of driving down the highway, you know, stone cold, sober, right? I’m not drinking, but I would see my car veer off and explode and I would be dead. And this happened time and time again, but I’m not gonna tell anybody that because then they’re going to think I’m nuts.
I want to throw this out there to give people permission that are listening right now because right now there’s this moment, right of like something just clicked for somebody right?
Interviewee: Frank King What, it’s got a name?
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah and I’m not, so how do I get help? So I want to throw out there real quick, how do people reach out for help to connect with you? They can always get in touch with me through the show, but how do they get in touch with you to talk about this?
Interviewee: Frank King Well, when I tell people is if you are at this moment in suicide crisis, you should call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or text “connect” to 741- 741; it’s text line because kids are more, young people are more forthcoming in text; it’s 741-741. If you’re just having a really bad day because of this mental illness, call a crazy person, you know. Call me because here’s the thing about crazy people is we are not judgmental generally. We’re not going to do what they say in the mental health business. We’re not going to should all over you; you should do this and you should do that, you should try fish oil.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah and you should bite my ass.
Interviewee: Frank King Say that on the podcast.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You totally can; you’re good, you’re good. Just kidding me, go ahead.
Interviewee: Frank King Now let’s, let’s say let’s take, take it upstream a little bit. You have a family member who has an issue, a schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and whatever, and you just don’t know how to deal with that family member. There’s a great organization called NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness N.A.M.I. There’s a chapter in every major city, there’s a chapter in every county practically, NAMI and their whole reason for being is to help the people, the family and loved ones of someone who has a mental illness.
I’ve got a friend who’s got a son with schizophrenia and you know, the family was coming apart at the seams. They had no idea how to talk to the child, what to do, resources; NAMI got a 12 week class on living with a child with schizophrenia. And here’s the best part Rob, everything they do is free.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Wow.
Interviewee: Frank King It’s NAMI and they have peer to peer counseling, family to family counseling.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman So you just took the excuse off the table for people that says I can’t afford it or whatever. There’s a safe organization you can tap into, so thank you.
Interviewee: Frank King Yes, absolutely. Yeah, NAMI, if it’s you that has the problem as you call NAMI, they have, like I said, they’ve got peer to peer counseling, you can meet with other people who have same issue, same age, same socioeconomic, whatever, so yeah, it’s a great clearing house for other resources in whatever county you have. Now there are counties even in Oregon; 8 counties in Oregon, no mental health facilities whatsoever; none. It’s, it’s a crying shame here in the US and they know the richest country in the world that we don’t have on demand mental health or physical health care, but that’s another podcast.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yes, yes, lots of opportunities in the seats. Now figures, we get to talk, there’s like there’s something for someone there and something for something here and move forward and I’ll just throw this out there too. I mean I’m in the Denver area; you live where?
Interviewee: Frank King I live in Eugene, Oregon.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Well, when you’re not out cruising the country performing and well, you’re performing, you’re changing lives through, you know, I mean what you do, it’s, it’s, it’s bringing a lightheartedness to a serious subject, but it’s giving permission to people to say get help, like it’s okay, like you’re not out there alone like this is a crowded boat.
Interviewee: Frank King Well, and I get hired off of at times because I’ve got lived experience as you do. I have suggestions on, I call it science symptoms, solutions for depression, thoughts of suicide. So I have things to teach them and then there’s a humor, is depression and suicide funny? No, no, they’re not funny, but there is organic funny. You know the story I told you about the car broke down, you got to get it fixed, buy a new one? That makes people catch their breath.
And I said early on, I had a gun in my mouth and I tell the audience a spoiler alert, didn’t pull the trigger that makes them laugh. And then a friend of mine was adding a keynote when I said I didn’t pull the trigger, he came up after and he goes, hey man, how come you didn’t pull the trigger? I go, hey man, could you try to sound a little less disappointed? Another laugh.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah.
Interviewee: Frank King So there is humor in the, and it gives people the release. It’s hard to talk for 45, 60 minutes about death and dying, morbidity and mortality and statistics without giving them a little some comic relief for lack of a better term.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah and I can imagine people listening that has a loved one you know, a son or a daughter, one of their children that are suffering from, you know, suicide and some of these mental illnesses that we talk about. What can you speak into them? Because I know I run into people and they blame themselves for mental health conditions, so what, speak something into those listeners right now.
Interviewee: Frank King It’s something we say, it’s just listen. And when I do my keynote, I talk about, let’s say its depression; I talked about what you don’t say, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, turn that frown upside down, everybody gets down now and then you know, um, you got to, what are you depressed about? You’ve got a great life. The way you do say is, look, I’m here for you and I’m, and you got to mean it.
I know you’re not crazy laser self-absorbed, I know that whatever you have depression, bipolar, schizophrenia is a mental illness. The good news is with time and treatment, things will get better. I’ll take the time mean it, help you get the treatment, mean it. And then if they have depression, here’s the one, Rob, that’s almost the most difficult to ask, but you have to ask it. Are you having thoughts of suicide? Now there’s a school of thought you should never mentioned the “S” word in front of somebody who’s depressed because I love this, because it might give them the idea of suicide. What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?
Trust me, it’s crossed their mind. Uh, and by the way, here’s some signs, do you think, I wonder if my kid is depressed? Um, that’s her personal hygiene goal. Has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, rallies in the afternoon, not taking the joy in social events and occasions that they used to take joy, eat too much candy, sleeps too much, can’t sleep, signs of thoughts of depression. Googling death and dying, talking about death and dying and it appears as a theme in their artwork or writing; they’re collecting the means to die by suicide.
Here’s a big one, giveaway prized possession because they want to make sure they go to the people they want them to go to when they’re gone. And here’s on top of that pyramid is if they give away a pet that’s terribly serious, sign. And here’s a counterintuitive one, had depressed, depressed, depressed, and then also all of a sudden happy for no reason; they probably have chosen time, place, method. Because a lot of people, they’ll say to me, I can’t believe so and so wanted to die. Trust me, chances are they don’t want to die. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to end the pain.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Right.
Interviewee: Frank King You’ve chosen time, place, method that means they know the pain is finite and that’s why they are, you know, they’re not depressed anymore. So what do you say to somebody who’s depressed? First of all, don’t do it, second of all, do you have a plan? If they have a plan, what is your plan? If they have a plan and it’s detailed, you need to get them on the phone with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or texting, and if they won’t pick up the phone, you pick up the phone with the volunteer on that lifeline will do their best to get the phone into the hands of the person who is suicidal.
Now question always comes up, when do you call the cops? If they’re in immediate danger to themselves or other people, you’ve got to call the cops; no choice. But he’ll be pissed, yeah, right, I’m alive and pissed than dead and okay with me. Anyway, that’s my premier on um, yeah, so I think it begins with listening and if you’re on, people, here’s another piece of advice that I’m amazed more people don’t know. There’s a DNA cheek swab test, you know, kinda like ancestry.com for psychotropic drugs.
Let’s say I have depression and you want to know which drug it is going to work best with your metabolism. It’s a couple hundred bucks, insurance covers it most of the time and they shrink down the list of possibilities for antidepressants to ones that will work best with your metabolism. So you get a lot of less of that lab rat, you know, go on, taper off, go on, taper off and that’s the suggestion and make us, you know, because people have been on these medications, didn’t work, you know, I got lucky, I got one. The doctor prescribed the first one who prescribed, you know, I’m not giddy, but it does take the edge off.
Interviewer; Yeah, I actually just went to a seminar a few weeks ago about that same thing about the bell swab, DNA testing, you know, making sure that the medications are working with the DNA because I can’t imagine the journey that therapists and psychiatrists and things go through to figure out what is the right thing to do for my client.
Interviewee: Frank King Oftentimes they’re going on based on what the drug salesmen told them, that’s why any time I get a new drug that I’m taking, I go before I take it I have a chat with the pharmacists because he has the list of things I’ve already taken and he knows what the side effects are and sometimes he goes, no, you’re not taking this, no, no, no; you go back and you tell them you need this and tell them the pharmacist said so.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman What do you say to the individual that is suicidal but they fear that if I tell someone I’m suicidal, I’m going to get locked up so therefore I’m not going to tell anyone and just sit and suffer in silence. What would you say to employers or people that can go to and say, hey, if someone comes to tell you this, what do you do? Or give people permission to speak out?
Interviewee: Frank King Well, you know, it’s very difficult to call because I just spoke at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and it is a drone base and they do a lot of very secure work; you can’t even take your cell phone into the building, the entire building is a skiff. And in the military you run the risk depending on who you tell, of losing a security clearance or you know, or, or, or your job. I mean it’s much better than it used to be, it used to be a career ender –boom! You’re done. And now the military is tumbled with the fact that people are healthier if they will come out and tell us and then if we can treat them, and you can keep your security clearance.
Yeah, I met a guy in San Diego at a comedy event. I told him I’m a dinner table, what I did and I was on the way to the bathroom and he, he, he hadn’t had his bathroom and he goes, Frank, I’m 67 years old, that chronic suicidality, I’ve got it because I’ve never told anybody in my entire life including my therapist because exactly what you said. He said, I figured if I told my therapist that they do a 51:50 or whatever they call it in California, they lock it down for three days involuntary.
So you run that risk depending on the state you’re in, if you tell someone you’re having active thoughts of suicide, you may end up in a three day hold, which is what I mean that’s keep people from. Although I got to tell you it, rob, I’ve had some times in my life where a three day hold where all I had to do was sleep and they brought my meals. Sounds like a paid vacation to me and it is good for a lot of people. There is debate in the mental health community.
Some people are foursquare against involuntary hospitalization, other people not so much because sometimes just that three days of rest, uninterrupted rest is very therapeutic. But yeah, you run the risk if you tell your employer, even if it’s not the military. I have a doctor, a friend who she just physicians on applications to be a physician it asks you, do you have a diagnosis and are you on medication? There aren’t many jobs where they ask you those two questions.
And she said in medicine you can lose your privileges at a hospital, you can lose your job as head of surgery if they find out you are depressed and medicated, even if you are under the advice of a professional, like a psychiatrist. So yeah, it’s, um, that’s another reason to come out and talk about it is I’d like to get to the point where are we talking about mental illness like we talk about the weather. It’s just very casual, yeah you know, I’ve got this, I’m on this, it’s working really well. How about you? But we’re not there yet.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah speaking into, because I do, you know, intervention, work, recovery, coaching, all that stuff in the addiction recovery world. How do you see addiction and mental illness coming together? And do you see as people will come and say, well, do I really have bipolar or am I just an addict who does a lot of cocaine and meth and oxycodone and I’m always on drugs. Like, what am I? I’m like, I don’t know, but if we can get the drugs out of the way, maybe we should. I mean, it’s, it’s a tough balance, but people wonder if they really have what they’re diagnosed that, but you’re coked up and knocked down all the time, so how do you really know what your stability is?
Interviewee: Frank King As a comic, um, years ago, but on stage after you got clean and goes, yay, not doing coke, you’re not doing Jack Daniels and coke or Jack Daniels, you know, what he’s trying to do is basically spending all this money just to stay level because the coke will crank him up and the Jack will bring him back, spending a couple hundred bucks a night, stay right here. Uh, that’s a good question.
Obviously, you know, that I think it’s upwards of 50% of people with a mental illness are self-medicating with something, beer, wine and spirits, you know, or other, uh, other recreational substances. And there are just people who are just, you know, junkies. I mean, they don’t have any particular mental illness, they just, you know, they’re just junkies. Although I think, uh, I met a guy who’s been in a hay a long time. He goes, Frank, do you know what the connection is between suicide and alcoholism drug addiction?
I said, well, I know there’s obvious a lot of people self-medicate. He goes, that’s what I’m talking about. He said, it’s all about killing the pain, you die by suicide to kill the pain, you oftentimes medicate yourself, beer, wine, alcohol, spirits, coke, crack, meth, whatever, to kill the pain at least temporarily. And sometimes with, with opioids and fentanyl and, you know, maybe just some of these things that are just strong beyond belief.
I spoke at an event in Iowa and the other guy on the bill was a guy who had been a, it was a former heroin addict, does a lot of recovery coaching now. And I told him he knew gene, the problem is we killed a couple of addicts recently because there was um, heroin laced with fentanyl I think and it just, it’s. And uh, he goes, Frank, here’s the thing, as a heroin addict in my head, I heard when you said that. Really? That’s the stuff that I’m looking for because, you know, that’s the, uh, yeah, well, you know, and they just approved Nar camp for all the cops and sheriffs and in Lane County.
They’ve learned the hard way about Nar camp because that brings you back, you know, like, oh yeah and the problem is.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman I’ve got some right here on my desk.
Interviewee: Frank King That’s it boy.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman And not because I’m afraid of my house, but I’ve got my card just in case, I mean, it’s just incredible stuff.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah he said, you know, the um, the EMT show’s up with it and the guy’s overdose and he’s coding and you hit him with it and if he hit him with a full dose, you know, next thing he’s like this and what are you doing to me? Well, you were done, I was not done because they’re sober like that. What they’ve started doing is, it’s given them a half dose and you know, bringing them around but not, not fully until they get into the hospital and then, you know, they stabilize them and then give him a hug because they spent a lot of money on that high. They’re pissed when he takes that drug, I’m sober you asshole.
You know, it’s, it’s the, uh, the whole opioid deaths have surpassed automobile accident as this year; it tells you how bad it is. What’s crazy about that Nar can is, I’ve heard stories about this too where you know, they’re coked up and then they OD on heroin and they come up from the heroin so fast, but they’re still on coke and speed or something and then there’s, just like this person with incredible strength and they’re trying to restrain. So we talking about those half thing, I just thought it was like, yeah, I haven’t heard many people talk about that, but I think there’s, there’s a lot of logic because you don’t know what the concoction is they’ve had during that day. You’ve got this five foot tall woman that’s throwing like cops off left and right. And so, you know, she’s crazy. I’m like, no, she’s just a, you know, drugs, alcohol, mental health, mental illness.
If you’re struggling and you’re listening, please call someone locally for, you know, reach out, reach out to Frank, you can call me at 970-331-4469. I always throw my number out there because it’s just something to get someone help, 911, whatever it is.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman And so I want to switch gears just a little bit because people that have great expertise and wisdom to share a, like a man like yourself has been you know, invited to and accepted to, to speak on Tedx shows. TEDX talks around the country you’ve done 4 or 5. You’re coming up on your fifth coming up on the fifth.
Interviewee: Frank King Yup. Yup. Coming up in your fifth.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You also coach people to do that too. So talk a little about what the, I guess, response you’ve had from doing Tedx talks and how it’s kind of open people’s eyes and what are you planning to do with that in the future?
Interviewee: Frank King But you know, people always ask me did Tedx talk make any money? And I can’t really draw a straight line back to the Tedx talk to a booking but my signature on my Gmail, there’s four of them across the bottom there. And you know that they still have a bit of cache those four, and I use it as a marketing piece. So LinkedIn, somebody connects with me, hey listen, thanks for connecting, you need help just holler; in the meantime, here’s my latest Tedx, So it’s kind of a credibility and they’re all mental health based. It’s all I did. I did the first one, which is basically me coming out as depressed because nobody knew, my wife, my friends and my family, nobody has any idea, but in fact when my wife’s getting ready to watch it on YouTube when it posted, I said, look, we need to talk before you watch this because no way.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman No way!
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah, there’s like half I had a gun in my mouth, she didn’t know how close I came to dying or why I didn’t pull the trigger. Yeah. So, uh, that was my decision of coming out; that was Frank King raw. And then, then I said, well what am I going to do for the next one? And then it, it hit me and then I thought, what about the next one? The third one is mental with benefits, the evolutionary advantages of mental illness.
When you’re doing a Tedx, when you’re pitching a Tedx, the title I think that it’s gonna attract attention. Sounds a little counterintuitive like, wait a minute, evolutionary advantages of mental illness? Because what I discovered was, and I talked to a parent oftentimes, first paragraph about a child was, well, he has bipolar. Second Paragraph was, but he’s tough, he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s creative, he’s athletic, and I thought, this can’t be an accident that all these people with mental illness and all these other super powers. I told my sister that who has depression and anxiety, she goes, super powers. We’re not x. men were Xanax men!
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Oh well.
Interviewee: Frank King That was the, that was the premise of the, of the, what if those with mental illness aren’t living with a genetic mutation, but an evolutionary adaptation? And here’s the deal, back in the time of the caveman, pretty much everybody was bipolar because you had 4 months in the summer together, 8 months’ worth of stuff to survive the winter. So they were just manic in the summer, you know, they were gathering and hunting and humping to keep the members of the tribe up and then 8 months they had to live on whatever they gathered and I said, you know what, and OCD.
I mean, who better to organize 8 months’ worth of food and whatever than somebody who’s compulsively organized. So the guy with OCD is organized like the quartermaster. And if you look at celebrities, politicians and entertainers, famous people, I’m not saying you have to have a mental illness, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. So I figured that there’s a mental illness is actually a combination mental illness with a label. The wiring is roughly the same for you know, it’s all tied together somehow. Maybe a mental otherness is what it is.
You have these, my imagination, my comic ability, the way I hear and see things because Rob, I got to tell you. I, I hear the same thing everybody else says see the same things but I process it differently. I’m going to fly through Atlanta, Delta fly into very southern. They’ve just changed the rules that you can now use your IPhone or iPad on takeoff if it’s in the airplane mode, but she didn’t have that written down anywhere.
So you’ve got an impromptu, whatever she’s going to say. So I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what she’s going to say about this. She goes, ladies, gentlemen, I do two new FIA regulation here thinking and then she gets inspired, she goes, due to an FIA regulation, if you have small equipment, you can continue playing with it. I’m bent over double my seatmate thinks I’ve lost my mind. He goes, what? I go lead for you. Before I can review she goes, well, if you have large equipment, you’ve got to shove that under the seat in front of you. So I’m down on my knees, everybody on the plane heard the same thing I did, everybody. Not one person process it that way except for me. That’s the mental ability that comes along with my depression and thoughts of suicide right there.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman It’s good to be in the same camp with you on that.
Interviewee: Frank King I’m telling you, man, it’s like a minor superpower and see, the premise was Rob, is if you can convince a child, look, yeah, you got this mental illness, but here’s the good news, you have this mental ableness, this is super power that your peers can’t even approach. I met a guy who’s son’s autistic, his name’s Mason and I said, just out of curiosity, Mason, you have any special abilities?
He goes yeah, we joined the swim club. Um, Mason’s first day in the pool, loved it, within 10 days he taught himself the Australian crawl breathing on both sides, which is, is I’ve taught myself that it’s not that easy and we can’t get them out of the water. I said, how about a land? He goes, he’s lightning fast, he goes Frank you’ll love this. We’re Special Olympics, all the kids were lined up for the 100 yard dash or whatever. A gun goes off. Well, all the other kids take off but Mason has no idea what the gun means.
So he said it was like Forrest Gump, I’m yelling, run Mason, run. The kids had a 20 yard head start on Mason; Mason caught them and passed them and won the race. That’s how good an athlete he is. So I said, well, you need to embrace that, enhance and energize, and because it will change perspective and the kids around him. Yeah, Mason’s a little weird, but listen, when we’re picking up team for football, you need a good wide receiver, make him your first pick. That could change a kid’s life, he goes from last pick to first pick; I mean that’s, that’s life changing.
So the next one was a “Suicide the secret of my success” because I was, and again, that’s the title and I did a little video pitch and I got a call and as soon as I sent the video pitch, the woman goes, you’re on. Didn’t have to audition, “Suicide the secret of my success” dead man talking. The premise was that I was married to my first wife, lovely woman, but miserable, selling insurance, great business, miserable, and I wasn’t going to the comedy club, which is where I thought I belonged and I realized I’m suicidal and if I don’t do something different, I’m going to kill myself.
Then it occurred to me, hey, I could quit my job, divorce my wife, try comedy if it works, which I think it will, great. If it doesn’t, hell I can still kill myself. So you’ve got these people, entrepreneurs, entertainers, you know, whatever politicians I suppose, and they’re living a life that they realized that they don’t belong and that’s what I felt like I was walking around somebody else’s life and they think, look, if I stay here and don’t make a change, I’m going to kill myself so what the heck? Might as well just make the change and if it works, great, if it doesn’t, well guess what? Could still kill myself.
I had a friend of mine, a comedian, he would call me. We’d been working together off and on for years, she does corporate comedy. She goes, you want to know the real story about how I got started in comedy? I go, yeah. She goes, really dark, I go, I love dark. She goes, I’m working in Washington DC for some association or other, I hated it. My only joy is two open mics and two open mic nights a week at a comedy club. She goes, I came to the point I realized if I don’t pursue comedy, I’m going to kill myself. And then I go, don’t. I said, I can tell you what then was then you decided what the heck, I’ll just, I’ll just quit my job, try comedy if it doesn’t work out, I guess don’t kill myself.
She goes, how do you know that? Know it? I lived it! Which tells me that there are a lot of people out there; survey show that 33% of entrepreneurs are depressed and suicidal. Clinicians believe it’s lack of sleep, long hours, unmet expectations, and maybe that’s the case for a lot of people, but I believe that some of those people are depressed and suicidal, not because they are entrepreneurs, but they are in fact entrepreneurs pursuing a dream because they were depressed and suicidal. That was the premise. Do you want to hear that when I’m pitching now? I just pitched three Ted talks yesterday.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yes.
Interviewee: Frank King It’s called, um, mental health and the orgasm; Treating your depression single handedly.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You’re hired.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah, somebody I made second round, Duke, Tedx with that. I didn’t make it into the, I didn’t make it into the Tedx, but somebody somewhere because there are physiological reactions. It lowers cortisol, it raises endorphins, um, you know, so forth and so on. There are beneficial effects beyond the obvious. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s, there’s no deductible, no copay or you can do it anywhere that’s relatively private. Dear God, please. I’m on an airplane I know in the bathroom, I joined the Mile High Club. I was by myself, so I’ve got an individual membership but.
So yeah, that’s, that’s uh, so when I coach Ted talks, you know, you have to have a good title, subtitle, a description and then the reason why are you the person to do this talk. So that’s basically what I coached the first part of the program is title, subtitle, description, and why are you and what will, what will people learn, how will this change the world? That’s basically it.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Nice. So you’re doing, you’re doing Ted talk coaching. So therefore we’ll have to talk about this offline to see what that looks like because there’s entrepreneurs and those things. I mean it’s my brain, my wife will tell you my brain is just like big idea, guy, creative, all that kind of stuff and then trusting how it all just kind of come together and I’m just kind of a, that’s how I got this podcast with News Radio Network with Kristen, Kristen Walker is stuff. It was just kinda like big idea. Okay, what the heck, why not just try it?
Interviewee: Frank King Well, and I think everybody pretty much has a, what happened Rob is I talked to him and I’d tell him I sent out a form or a questionnaire that I send out a kind of another sort of questionnaire, which is roughly the questions that are on the average Tedx application. They fill all that out, you know, do you have any ideas? What are your passions? And usually what it turns out to be whatever they’re passion is, you know. A friend of mine just did the TEDX audition, she didn’t get it, but she made the second round and what had happened was her son stopped breathing at age two. And so the title of the talk was something about a “Life is a ticking time bomb, don’t waste a second”.
Because he didn’t die but he, the doctor said, look, the kid’s a ticking time bomb, he’s got this neurological thing and we don’t know, we can’t 100% prevent it from happening again. So it changed their whole perspective about you know, the time they spent together and, and, and, and the rest of our lives. It changed the course of their lives because, you know, it was second by second. So that’s usually my question, what’s your passion? And, and, and the interesting thing is when people started talking about their passion, their energy level comes up and you could tell they could just talk about it for 45 minutes with us. Say the. I’m guessing you have at least one of those.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah, I’d say I’d say once a couple of those things that kind of pop up here and there for sure. So one of the things I’m passionate about that’s why I do what I do, that’s why I’m a recovery advocate and helping people get on the right track. I’ve been through the crap and seeing the gates of hell too many times and it’s a, I don’t want people to have to experience that themselves.
Interviewee: Frank King Well, you not talk about it. I, in my mind when I, when we were talking about you and Tedx. I saw in my mind, you know, all prisons don’t have bars because it ties back to what you do. And then it could be the prison of prison of drug addiction, it could be alcohol, it could be the prison of hatred or prejudice. I mean, not born prejudice, you’re not born alcoholic. I mean you could be, have a tendency because your family trends that way, but you know, these are learned responses. So, um, I bet you there’s a Tedx and Rob somewhere.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman But we’ll definitely talk about that too. So any kinda last words? Anything else you want to share with people on what’s coming up or you or whatever and. Yeah.
Interviewee: Frank King I got nothing.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You got nothing?
Interviewee: Frank King No, I was going to share my, my, my, uh, because I go on stage and I say, look, I’m, I’m somehow bring up prison. I go, look, that’s one of my big fears, going into prison. I mean, look at me, I appointed myself in my little penny loafers button down shirt. How long do you think Frank would last in jail? Come on, I’d be somebody’s’ bride before the sun went down. I’d be picking out my China pattern for the number was dry on my shirt.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Ouch.
Interviewee: Frank King My dance card would be full before you could say can’t you go visit. I’ve taken some martial arts and every time I take a martial arts class the, uh, Sensei always ask, why do you want to take martial arts? You know, people go balance, confidence, whatever. And I go, look, here’s a deal. I just want to be able to take down the two biggest guys on the cellblock, that’s all I’m saying. What? Are you going to jail? No, I’m just saying what if I look like the drawing, you know, the guy and before they can sort the whole thing out, I spent a weekend in jail? I just want to make sure, you know, I just, yeah.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman So I’m sure that it gets a good response from what they’re supposed to be teaching you, discipline and self-confidence.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah and take the two biggest guys, this. You can’t, you got to go in there with confidence otherwise yeah, you’re just everybody’s date.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Oh wow.
Interviewee: Frank King So I’m not, I’m not, I’m not indicted, I’m just saying I couldn’t you know.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman It could happen.
Interviewee: Frank King Mistaken identity. Stranger things have happened, you know, so, uh.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Just the being prepared. So if you guys want to catch more when we say we want to go to the www.mentalhealthcomedian.com , is that the best place to send people?
Interviewee: Frank King Yes, my phone number’s there, my email is there and now I’m all over social media. Type in Facebook, the mental health comedian, uh, LinkedIn, uh, that’s my brand, it’ll have comedian because there aren’t that many.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman And you are the best. So I appreciate your time.
Interviewee: Frank King I’m the only one Rob.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman I’m just trying to, I’m just trying to pump you up so you help me with TedEx stuff so hopefully that’s working.
Interviewee: Frank King Hey listen, uh, I’d like to come back when; we’re working on a book called a “Guts Grit and Grind, a Man’s Mental Fitness Manual.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Done, just tell them when you want to come on.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah. My co-author looked at Barnes and Noble and there were no books for men on mental health. So we created an anthology 42 stories, guys, all sorts of problems and, and how they’re coping.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s beautiful.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah man.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Thanks for all you do to change lives, give people the ability to say step out and get help and let’s tell them the, a texting thing again for the suicide line that people need some help.
Interviewee: Frank King Yeah 741-741. You text the word “connect” to 741-741.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Well have a great day. Thanks for bringing the laughter into my life and, uh, you guys check out www.thementalhealthcomedian.com and we’ll sign off for now.
Interviewee: Frank King Thanks Rob.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You got it my friend.