Comedian Brody Stevens was found hanged on February 22, 2019, dead at age 48, and the impact on the comedy community was immediate. Comedy clubs and festivals across the country felt more responsible for promoting mental health resources. The topic of depression has gone from onstage banter to serious backstage conversation. Other comedians gathered for an informal 818 ride in honor of Stevens in August, named after the San Fernando Valley area code from his childhood that he often referred to in his self-deprecating bits. In 2021, the second installment of 818 Day included the official dedication of an LA Parks Foundation memorial bench honoring Stevens, funded by Mauricio Alvarado of Rockin Pins from a design he created with Stevens before the comic’s death.
Since 2019, Stevens’ sister Stephanie Brody recalled, “I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve received from people saying my brother was the first – and sometimes the only – person who contacted and helped them when they started. … We always knew that my brother was a caring and kind person. But the stories we read took what we knew about him to a whole new level.
On Thursday, August 18 at 8 p.m., late comic book club The Comedy Store will host a special Brody Stevens 818 Day show, followed by Saturday, August 20, the now annual Brody Stevens Festival of Friendship 818 Walk in Reseda.
This year’s event partnered to benefit Comedy Gives Back, a 501(c)(3) charity that helps artists in need of mental health support and addiction treatment. After Stevens’ death, the organization shifted from gala fundraising to grassroots outreach, raising awareness of the darker side of the seemingly light occupation.
“Brody has always exposed all sides of himself to the public,” says Zoe Friedman, a longtime producer/booker who founded Comedy Gives Back with Jodi Lieberman and Amber J. Lawson in 2011. the impression of hearing what was going on. was happening inside his brain, and that he was articulating it in real time. It gave the audience a behind-the-curtain glimpse of its inner workings.
Friedman says his favorite part of the Friendship Festival is the love for comedians and fans who want to continue to remember Stevens and, in doing so, bring the issue of suicide to the fore. “If we don’t talk about it, we perpetuate the stigma around it,” Friedman says. “The more we can talk about Brody and why we lost him, the more I believe and hope we can help others.”
Saturday’s festivities begin with the 9:30 a.m. unveiling of a new “Brody Forever 818” mural at the Firehouse Taverna restaurant (18450 Victory Blvd.) featuring Los Angeles City Council Member Bob Blumenfield, Stephanie Brody and other members of the family. At 11 a.m., a 5K walk from Reseda Park (18411 Victory Blvd.) takes participants across the Los Angeles River and past Reseda High School, where Stevens was a star pitcher on the team. Regents baseball. Registration is $50 in advance or $60 on the day starting at 10 a.m. and includes a gift bag. Afterward, a 1-3 p.m. celebration at the Memorial Bench site will feature speakers, fellow comedians, a raffle, photo booth, food trucks and music from LA Clippers’ DJ Dense. Enamel likeness of Stevens pins will be available.
The Valley native was born Steven James Brody on May 22, 1970. He played Division I baseball at Arizona State University, although an arm injury ended a promising career as a professional. Stevens spent time thriving in the Seattle and New York comedy scenes before returning to LA Tall and fit throughout his life, he remained a strong believer in physical activity and a Healthy eating.
In LA, Stevens has become known as a go-to warm-up for series ranging from Fox Sports’ “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” to E! to Comedy Central‘s “The Jeselnik Offensive” and MTV’s “Ridiculousness.” As Stevens proudly noted on stage in the credits of his film, “’Hangover,’ in! “Hangover II”, inside! “Due date” in it! Cut out of ‘Funny People’…”
His biographical one-liners (“I’m intense! I’m getting BO in the shower!”) tended to sound more barked-up than let on. The confrontation with members of the public sporting stag stares in the headlights has become peers’ favorite part of any evening. Despite slogans like “Positive energy! or “Push and Believe!”, those close to her knew her wide smile could feel undeniably forced.
Stevens has described himself as a troubled child. “I was touched. But not by an angel,” began one of his most popular jokes. “The culprit was supposed to get three years, but the judge gave him six. Why? was mugged in a construction zone. It couldn’t all be entirely true, but as a talent known for his brutal honesty, right?
He struggled with depression from an early age, taking and stopping different medications from his twenties. Audiences and interviewers alike were often told that he had developed “adult autism”. In 2010, while filming his docuseries “Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!” along with executive producer Zach Galifianakis, he was hospitalized for 17 days in the psychiatric wing of UCLA Medical Center and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
His 2017 special, “Live From the Main Room,” filmed at the Comedy Store, divided comedy fans online. Despite his praise as “the prince of the periscope”, negative social media interactions have often leveled him. Stevens had resumed taking antipsychotic medication shortly before his death.
Stevens’ sister Stephanie, who sometimes came across as a foil in his jokes, says he’s brought much-needed awareness of mental illness and the challenges that come with it to the comedy industry.
“He put a face to the disease and put it in plain sight. He wanted people to see that there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of,” she says. “I see comedians talking more openly about their own struggles with mental illness and how they dealt with them. I see comedians supporting each other and being there for each other. I know he would be proud of the impact he has had…just as proud as our family is of him.
Even as the events of this year’s Festival of Friendship approached, reminders surfaced that the process of de-stigmatization is far from over. On Thursday, July 14, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline publicly announced that its 10-digit 800 number would change to the simpler 988. Later that evening, the body of popular stage fixture Jak Knight, a successful actor, producer, writer and stand-up, was discovered on an embankment in Boyle Heights with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Like Stevens, Knight was known for his upbeat mood and welcoming nature.
“Saying things about yourself to strangers is more like a therapy session than a job. But it’s the job they choose. It’s not for everyone,” says Friedman. She cites family dysfunction, trauma, depression, and general feelings of otherness as psychological reasons that may attract performers to the profession.
“Also, their way of life can be very difficult and isolating: being on the road, sleeping late, spending long periods of time alone during the day to settle down and worry about things. Comedians help the audience to feel better by allowing us to laugh. I hope telling their jokes will also help them feel better. Seems fair, right?”
Or, as Stephanie Brody puts it, “A comedian’s job is to make people laugh. People assume that if someone is funny, they must also be happy. This is not necessarily true… The struggles experienced by actors are often masked by the sound of laughter. The world of comedy is often overlooked when it comes to mental health awareness because of this. Opening up and talking about mental illness helps break down the stigma. I noticed a gradual change in this way of thinking. But our society needs to get to a place where mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. I think we are headed in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.