Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East


Over the past couple of months, I had the opportunity to be involved in a docu-series leading up to a comedy competition that culminated this past weekend. I had a camera crew film all of my shows and even follow me at my job and with my fiancé around our home. Though I don’t watch reality TV, I understand the concept. And now, I have firsthand experience in feeling so comfortable in front of a camera you might forget what you’re saying and possibly embarrass your entire bloodline permanently.


Luckily, I don’t think I said anything that would be too damaging to myself or my family but with editing, things can be taken out of context. Then again, I took part in a documentary and not reality TV. One’s purpose is to tell a story truthfully, the other is to highlight the drama and emotions of a situation, even if they have to be forced.


Though I haven’t seen the final product I had a very positive experience. The docu-series is called Cracking Up New Orleans, and it’s produced by the Mental Health Channel. The purpose of the show is to get comedians talking about the tough topic of mental health and to use their sense of humor to end the stigma often associated with mental illness.


I was very excited about this project because it’s something I believe in deeply. I hate the term “mental illness” because it sounds like this scary thing only a small percentage of people are diagnosed with. I honestly believe all people suffer from some sort of mental “illness” in their life. On a daily basis, people deal with stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and mania. How you deal with it is your mental health; it’s not something that just designated for “crazy” people.


The second I started to tell friends and family members about the project, I could feel how uncomfortable most of them were. Some were excited but reluctant; others were flat out judgmental and embarrassed. That, for me, was really disheartening. I was excited to use my position to impart some good in the world and use my own personal experiences to (hopefully) inspire others. Other people were only focused on what the negative outcomes could be.


Some of these naysayers are also ones who have encouraged me to apply to other types of reality shows or game shows in the past. Apparently, saying Yes to the Dress is fun and exciting, but allowing people to follow you around and see into your every day life is bizarre and dangerous.


Personally, I think doing a documentary with the hopes someone can learn something is much less odd than doing something contrived like allowing a camera crew to film your wedding because you bought a dress somewhere.


It’s much more interesting and rewarding to allow people to see into your life for a moment. It’s real and personal and touching. And hopefully, it will end up being funny too. And as they say, there’s truth in comedy. But, I’ve also found that some people are scared of the truth.


Recently, I just saw a clip online from a gameshow called The Moment of Truth. This show, which apparently has existed since 2008, hooks up people to a polygraph and then asks them difficult questions in front of their friends, family, and America watching.


This particular episode featured a woman who willingly admitted in front of her husband and parents that she was still in love with her ex-boyfriend and was on her wedding day. Oh, and also that she had sexual relations with someone else while she was married.


The ironic part was that she lost all the money because she “lied” by answering that yes, she indeed thought she was a good person. Apparently, she was fooling herself because that turned out to be a lie.


Of course, everyone’s first question is: “Why would she go on that show?” I, too, am confused. The next thought is: “Why would anyone go on that show?” And of course, the answer is money. But for most people, that’s not enough of an incentive. For me, it would be.


After I watched the clip of that woman I thought: “I would go on that show and win all the money.” It’s not because I’m a saint who hasn’t done embarrassing things; quite the contrary. I would win on that show because I don’t lie about my past and I have no shame.


Am I proud of everything I’ve done? Absolutely not. But I own up to it. My mistakes got me here, and hopefully I know not to make them again. Why should I be embarrassed about something I did in the past? I’m a different person now! I change every day.


There’s only one reason I would not go on that show: it would definitely embarrass my family. I know my fiancé could take it, but some things parents just don’t need to hear. And in this day in age where reality blurs into entertainment, it’s easy to forget your words and actions can hurt people off camera. Hopefully, my foray into the documentary/reality entertainment will not be one of those mistakes I own up to later.


Cracking up New Orleans will premiere in November on mentalhealthchannel.tv


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