Trailblazers 2017: John Moe of ‘Hilarious World of Depression’

John Moe, the host of the Hilarious World of Depression Podcast // Photo courtesy of American Public Media

John Moe, the host of the Hilarious World of Depression Podcast // Photo courtesy of American Public Media

In 2015, when the live comedy program “Wits” got the axe from American Public Media after a five-year run, fans were curious where creator and host John Moe might pop up next.

He disappeared from the public eye for a while, before reemerging in December 2016 with a new podcast that aimed to tackle the oft-stigmatized topic of depression and mental illness.

“The Hilarious World of Depression” features Moe having personal, candid conversations with some of the funniest comedians and personalities about their own experiences and struggles with depression, anxiety, and attempted suicide, among other things.

The subject is one that hits close to home for Moe, who lost his brother to suicide several years ago due in part to untreated or improperly treated depression. While the motivation and the interest were immediately apparent, he knew that convincing guests to tell their stories could be a challenge.

“I was surprised that people we reached out to were really open to it,” he said in an interview with The Growler earlier this year. “We treated everyone really well during ‘Wits,’ which helped, but trying to explain, ‘Hey, come on this podcast that you haven’t heard and bare your soul and it’ll be great!’ wasn’t that easy.”

It may not have been easy, but it was successful. Moe was able to leverage that rolodex of famous friends and former “Wits” guests in order to connect with a who’s who of comedians, musicians, and other famous folks. These have included Andy Richter, Margaret Cho, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Aimee Mann, and Neal Brennan, who have all opened up for conversations with Moe, creating some of the most captivating and eye-opening podcast moments of the year.

Now with two seasons under its belt, the program shows no signs of slowing down, as it consistently lands at the top of the iTunes charts, and guests are continuing to connect with Moe about sharing their stories.

For a lot of people, the end of a hugely popular and wildly successful show packed full of famous folks cracking each other up and pop culture puns could drive them to a dark place mentally. For Moe, it drove him to shine a light on those places for himself and his listeners.

Trailblazers are the people, ideas, businesses, and organizations doing necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in the realms of food, drink, and culture. See the rest of The Growler’s 2017 Trailblazers here.