Finding Humor and Healing in Recovery

As a stand-up comic, Mean Dave gets a lot of his material from his own life. For him, that means talking (and joking) about his recovery from addiction. By bringing a subject like sobriety into the spotlight with him, he finds honesty, resilience, and joy in his journey — and he can offer the same to his audience.

“If things go bad on a day — and I mean really bad — and I’m about to go to sleep, and I realize I didn’t drink or get high, I’m grateful. That’s a great day.”

Video Transcript

Meet Dave: sober + comedian

San Francisco

Mean Dave: Thursday, September 26, 2013 — ran a show, had a good night, had two beers during the course of a couple hours. In my car, and the key’s in the ignition. And I’m ready to go. And I’m like, “I don’t feel like going home. I feel like I still want to hang out.” And so I go to a bar, a nearby bar I know, and I just started drinking beers and Jaeger bombs until 2:00 in the morning. And I got on the freeway and then when I hit Dublin, lights go on behind me, and I knew I was screwed. When they pulled me over, I said, “You don’t even have to put me through the test. You got me.” And I surrendered; not just surrendered to them, I was surrendering the fact that this is done. Like, I can’t believe I’m here right now.

(At comedy show performance)

Host: Are you ready for your headliner? This man is brilliant. He performs regularly at the San Francisco Punch Line and Cobb’s. Please make it very loud for Mean Dave. (audience claps and cheers)

Mean Dave: When he said that your headliner was here, you turned around and looked like, “Oh, who is it?” You might recognize me from shit like… absolutely nothing at all. Three years ago, moved out of my parents’ house, and now I pay money to live in a room in someone else’s parents’ house. So that’s just kind of how it works. I live with my landlord and his wife in this house too. So they’re always there, makes them easy to find.

Because my jokes revolve around my life and what sticks in my head, recovery is the biggest part of my life right now. And the fact is, I was even telling a joke about my disease before I got into recovery — saying how with me, it’s a vicious cycle and how each drug leads me to another one. And I would tell a joke about that. And I feel like that joke helped lead me to recovery in many ways because it was a joke that still works. I still use it today. It’s one of my oldest jokes, but it’s to illustrate a point of how my brain is and how my disease works.

(More footage of Mean Dave performing at comedy shows)

I had the kinds of friends that would be like, “Dave, we’re going to go to a party tonight. I’m going to get you loaded tonight. All right? You’re going to have a great time.” And then later, that same friend used to be like, “Dave, I think you have a problem.” I’m like, “Yeah, I need new friends.”

Yeah. My name’s Mean Dave. For those of you who don’t know me, which is all of this area, it’s just a nickname. Let’s not get it twisted, folks. It is short for “Meaningful Dave.” Aw, isn’t that sweet?

And I’ve been getting sober for three-and-a-half years. (Audience claps) Thank you. I really appreciate that because it’s been a boring three-and-a-half years.

I was doing a show where really, nobody was there for the comedy. They were just there for free food. And I get off, and there was a lady who loved everything I was saying, who had just celebrated 34 years being sober. And it gave me that feeling of, I am where I’m supposed to be. If things go bad on a day — and I mean really bad, like I got some depressing news or things aren’t going my way — just whatever, some things that get me all obsessive in my head, and I still lay down and I’m about to go to sleep, and I realize I didn’t drink or get high, I thank my higher power in a quick little prayer in my head, and I’m grateful. That’s a great day.

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