Comedian with bipolar disorder yuks it up about mental health

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Tristan Miller is a stand-up comedian who jokes about mental health issues. Don't think that's funny? Miller does. But then, he also has a bipolar disorder. So who better to explore the comic aspects of mental illness than a person who has one?

"A lot of the jokes that I tell make me look foolish," Miller said. "It's a huge part of living."

The New York City comedian will perform his one-man comedy show, Manic Impressive, 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5 at the Rochester Art Center.

The performance will be a homecoming of sorts for the 26-year-old comedian. Miller went to John Marshall High School and Rochester Community and Technical College before heading out east to become an actor in New York. He became a comedian instead.

Here, he speaks on mental health and humor, being diagnosed, and the highs and lows of standup.


We live in an age when people can be quick to be offended. Has your comedy on mental health ever offended anybody?

I haven't received any negative feedback - yet. Give it time. I think what makes it a little more palatable is I'm speaking from experience. So, any of the jokes I make are about me and what I'm doing.

How can mental health be made to be funny?

At its heart, humor is a juxtaposition between two ideas. And the whole condition of bipolar disorder is going from "I love myself" and "I think I'm a genius" to "Who is that idiot?" There's the highs and lows. You get a lot of really great human behavior stuff because we all have our idiosyncrasies. We all have our weird things.

What was your life before you were diagnosed as bipolar?

I was looking for an explanation, and before I had an explanation, it was incredibly difficult to understand myself emotionally. I remember feeling absolute panic about not knowing how I was going to feel at any given moment, because with bipolar disorder, there's two major mood swings - like being really high-energy and being really low-energy.

When I got the diagnosis, it kind of crystallized everything for me. It has a name, and now I know what's going on, I can combat it.

What's the nicest thing anybody has ever said about you?


I've had a few people come up to me after shows. They will say, "I have anxiety issues or I have bipolar disorder. I don't really talk about it. Your act really helped me." I cherish those moments.

What's the worst thing anybody said about you?

It's not what people say. It's the lack of anything - like, silence. I would rather have someone boo me or yell, "Get off the stage!" Silence is worse than anyone saying, "You suck!"

At one point, you hosted five podcasts. You must like to talk a lot?

I did five. I'm now down three. I do talk a lot - not only talk but have a conversation. But I do talk a lot.

If you weren't a comedian, what would you be?

I thought about journalism. I've always loved interviews. I love getting people's stories. I also considered being a physicist for awhile, but I'm awful at math.


What: Manic Impressive

When: 6-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5.

Where: Rochester Art Center, 40 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester.

Cost: $5 general admission, free for RAC members

Miller will also perform at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3, 10 p.m. Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 9, and 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11.

Missed it? Miller also hosts a mental health podcast called "Positive and Negative."

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