After one of his recent stand-up shows, two audience members approached Collin Williams to tell him their stories. One had a son who was suicidal and being bullied at school; the other had been molested and wrestled with thoughts of suicide.
"These are usually very deep things you don't usually tell a stranger," Williams said.
They're unusual, unless the show in question is My Suicide Note. Suicide is at best an unorthodox subject for a comedy routine. At worst, it's downright dangerous. Williams' act, which rolls through Boise at Liquid Laughs on Tuesday, Nov. 20, starts with the comedian admitting that he has considered killing himself. The rest of the routine is a laugh-out-loud journey away from what he calls "suicide brain" and toward a successful career in comedy.
For much of Williams' comedy career, he actively contemplated suicide. My Suicide Note was born when, instead of killing himself, Williams checked himself into a psychiatric ward, where he wrote a 12-page suicide note baring his innermost feelings. It gave him the basis for his later routine, but the road hasn't been easy.
"My first joke is that my first venue committed suicide," he said. "Advertising and posters went up everywhere, and the promoter calls me up and says, 'We're shutting it down. The club lost its lease.'"
Williams instead previewed his new set in Europe, where he "refined what the show should have been."
Comedy is Williams' platform for telling his own story, aiding him in his struggle against suicidal thinking. His personal story has progressed along with his routine.
"The one thing that has changed the most has been hope," Williams said. "I have an incredibly wonderful girlfriend who I started dating about four months before the major premiere in Salt Lake City. It allowed me to introduce a little hope and do a little rewrite twist at the end."
If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, please reach out for help by calling or texting the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357. All calls are confidential and anonymous.