If laughter really is the best medicine, improv performers Sam Dee and Lisa Perrin have just what the doctor ordered.
Since May 2017, Dee and Perrin have donned matching white turtlenecks and jeans to co-host Share-apy, the quirky lovechild of a support group and a variety show. They promote mental health in a decidedly nonclinical setting: the laid-back atmosphere of the Forest City Brewery. Held the last Wednesday of each month, Share-apy is equal parts Dr. Phil McGraw and Amy Schumer, with each “session” devoted to confronting a theme such as family, anger and shame.
“We’re all kind of lost babies, riddled with fears,” says Dee. “I’m a big proponent that therapy should be for everybody. This does a good job mixing comedic advice with real advice.”
Dee and Perrin invite guests ranging from improv groups to mental health professionals to interpret the theme and offer coping strategies or art inspired by the subject. The hosts conclude by answering audience questions with comedic but compassionate takes.
Beyond that, almost anything can happen. At one Share-apy show confronting phobias, comedian Dionne Atchison did a stand-up routine about the hang-ups that interfered with her dating life. “She doesn’t like people touching her ears,” laughs Dee. One audience member revealed a fear of riding the bus with older people, not knowing if they were sleeping or had died. “Everybody has fears that sound silly to someone else, but are very real to them,” Dee says.
For the event that tackled lying, Dee announced that Bette Midler would open the show. “I came out in a costume and blonde wig and lip-synched to ‘You Gotta Have Friends.’ ” Shortly thereafter, Perrin came onstage and ripped off Dee’s wig.
“I believe in un-hurtful white lying,” says Dee. “Why do we get so upset when people lie to us, when we are lying to other people for many different reasons?”
There’s an earnest purpose that underpins Dee and Perrin’s levity. “I want people to see that nothing happens in a bubble,” she says. “Not everyone has the perfect life that they showcase on Facebook. If you’re onstage talking about only good things, that’s a TED Talk. What we do is a little bizarre, but has a very solid premise.”
From the man who complained his mother wasn’t buying the right toilet paper to the person who asked how to deal with a racist cousin at family gatherings, Share-apy uses comedy as a cathartic tool to deal with mental health. “I’m very nosy,” says Dee. “I want to know everyone’s secrets.”