Brad talks with a King of Comedy—Frank King, the Mental Health Comedian
Motivational speaking is such a generous profession. There are professional speakers out there from almost every walk of life, who have experienced fascinating and unique lives which they then share with audiences. Other motivational speakers mine their darker experiences and share those. These speakers are really the heroes of our profession. They take challenging circumstances, the dark times of their lives and use them to inspire and lift people up.
There is no one that this description fits better than my friend and fellow motivational speaker, Frank King. Frank King is the mental health comedian, a smart, funny dude who is also fearless and vulnerable in a way few of us can be. He shares some of his life challenges in order to educate, draw attention to, lessen guilt and stigma, and hopefully guide others through dark times. In particular Frank speaks on suicide prevention, as well as depression and other mood disorders. Frank broaches topics that have traditionally been considered taboo or shameful, and makes them accessible and sometimes even funny. It’s dark humor to be sure, but the humor relaxes people and enables them to really dig deep into these difficult subjects. He’s a hero like I said.
I met Frank maybe twenty-five years ago at a Speakers Bureau showcase event where we both were appearing. I heard him speak at a showcase, and man was I blown away. Talk about a really funny guy! Frank got his start in comedy in grade school when he noticed his friends (and the teacher) loved his jokes. As a senior in high school he won the school talent show with a stand-up routine. Frank enjoyed being funny, so he decided to make a career out of it. That’s fine, said his mom, but you have to go to college first. You can be a goat herder for all I care, but you’ll be one with a college degree. So he got that piece of paper, because you always honor your mama’s wishes, then he lit out for LA, the center of the comedy universe. He did open mic nights and worked his butt off. Frank wrote jokes for The Tonight Show for 20 years, was a standup comedian and traveled the comedy club circuit for years, and also did some radio emceeing before getting into corporate comedy and motivational speaking.
Frank is open about suffering from depression, and specifically chronic suicide ideation, which means he thinks about killing himself almost ALL THE TIME. (Can you imagine? This is much more common than I ever would have thought.) His programs focus on his disability and aim to help people recognize symptoms of suicide and thus prevent suicide. Like I said, a hero.
Frank and I spoke about the corporate speaking business and what makes it unique. Comedy in clubs has a certain flavor, a lot of it with f-bombs galore and scatalogical and prurient humor. (Aren’t you impressed that I know the word “prurient?”) But doing comedy for business and corporate events requires squeaky clean humor and jokes. It’s a challenge to make things funny and squeaky clean. Most comedians with HBO Specials are not known for this—think Dane Cook, Amy Schumer. Some speakers do it really well, and Frank is one of them. The Tonight Show demanded clean comedy so it fit with his background, and he was naturally able to make the jump from the comedy club circuit to the corporate speaking circuit.
Frank and I discussed how he manages to present about such heavy topics as suicide and depression without sinking into depths of misery. But like many people on this “show,” Frank believes firmly in his mission of spreading the gospel of suicide prevention. He knows (because clients have told him) that he’s saved lives, that he’s changed lives and that he’s helped more people than he can count. And for him that makes everything he does worthwhile.
I know for a fact the world is a better place because Frank King is in it. I am privileged to be his friend and colleague in the speaking community. Like I said up top, speaking professionals use their experiences to create their stories. Some stories resonate and some stories even change lives. Frank’s stories and advice SAVES lives. I am proud to know him.
Listen to more of the wisdom of Frank King in my Facebook Live recording. You won’t be sorry.