Yesterday, I woke up to a text from Jon telling me that comedian and fellow mentalist Mackenzie Taylor committed suicide on Thursday.
I didn’t know Mackenzie well. I met him when we were both involved in Warning: May Contain Nuts in Berkshire and Sussex, and we spoke very occasionally on Facebook, but this news was still a shock to me. The last time I saw him was only last month in Brighton, after the gig. He was withdrawn and quiet, and I knew he’d been dealing with a lot lately. But I wasn’t sure if that was just his way- he seemed shy and modest in general, and rather gentle. (Despite being so tall and strong looking that you could imagine him overturning houses using only his big toe, without flinching).
He had schizoaffective disorder (which he eloquently discusses here), and one of his shows, which he took to Edinburgh, was called, “No Straitjacket Required”. Most of the routine was about his suicide attempt that landed him in a coma. In great, stark, unrelenting detail. Which isn’t- you might think- comic fodder, but it was genuinely funny, arch and humane. When I saw him perform it, I remember laughing in recognition at his description of the brain-noise of bipolar being like having the worst ever experimental jazz band playing in your head, twenty four hours a day. I felt warm there, for a second, someone putting into words something I had often struggled to describe. I turned to Robert and said, “I told you!” I was glad- am glad- there are people out there with the balls to do that.
There’s another comedian who has manic depression called Kim Noble. One of his shows is named, “Kim Noble Will Die”. When I see that, my immediate response is, “No he won’t”. Because I agreed with Mackenzie when he said,
‘I think that laughter can be a coping mechanism. If you can laugh about something you kind of own it. So you have control over it if you can make a joke about it.’
If not quite a confrontation, it is at least peering through the letterbox and whispering, “I see you there”. It takes away some of its power. It is partly what I do here. To see it in its pathos and ridiculousness. To laugh back. The mundane details, the colour of your skin, the hours, the dull details of dull pills and dulled days. You know the reality- you have told everybody and now they know too. So how can you revisit it? In a way, the abstraction is protection. It can’t hurt you. Or so I had hoped.
It isn’t fair.
I think Mackenzie was brave as all hell. The huge outpouring of grief with this news shows how loved he was and how missed he will be by those close to him, and by those- like me- who admired him. Here is a very lovely tribute to him from his friend and colleague at Radio Berkshire, Henry Kelly. It’s 2 hours and 7 minutes in.
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