Sara Benincasa managed to turn her agoraphobia into a successful career in stand-up. Now, the comedienne and podcast host is putting her skill on page with the publishing of her new book, “Agorafabulous.” Benincasa recently stopped by to talk about her fear of being in public.
Q - You currently do stand-up comedy and host a podcast but you also dabble in writing quite a bit. This February 2012 your new book, “Agorafabulous,” will come out and it’s basically about your life overcoming agoraphobia, the fear of being in public. First of all, this book is not a joke; it’s autobiographical?
A - No, it's definitely not a joke, although it is very funny. It's a memoir about my struggle with panic attacks, depression, and agoraphobia. It also has recipes for food you can make when you're really fucking depressed and/or anxious. And there are some awkward sex bits.
Q - Secondly, how did you go from being afraid to leave your bedroom to becoming a stand-up comedian? They seem like they’re opposite ends of the spectrum.
A - Medication, therapy, family support, repeat. Eventually I decided that since I'd spent so many years treading water, afraid to make big decisions or live outside the box (almost literally), that I'd better grab every opportunity that came by. I was in graduate school for teaching when a classmate who had just quit her job at Comedy Central suggested I try stand-up. And it went from there.
Q - Describe what it’s like to be agoraphobic. What exactly is the feeling like knowing you can’t leave your bedroom?
A - It's terrifying and humiliating. You feel as if all your power has been taken away. You also feel as if it's never going to get better. Many mental illnesses carry with them a crippling loss of perspective. You forget that you have ever felt any way other than shitty.
Q - Going from something that severe, how do you manage to avoid anxiety while on stage?
A - Anxiety and various ailments on the anxiety disorder spectrum are often based on a fear of loss of control. When I'm onstage, I have a certain degree of control. Comedians are master manipulators. I can usually get at least one person to smile, if not laugh. I mean, usually they're LOSING THEIR FUCKING MINDS WITH LAUGHTER at my extreme, unadulterated hilarity, obviously.
Q - “Agorafabulous” actually comes out on Valentine’s Day. Is this a book for everybody or will people suffering from anxiety relate to it more?
A - It's a book for everybody. If you're an anxious type, you'll relate to it. If you know any folks with anxiety, you'll learn something about how their minds work. And if you simply enjoy reading about wacky people having nutty adventures and misadventures, you'll have a hell of a good time.
Q - You are also involved in many other projects, both writing and hosting. Which medium do you enjoy the most and why?
A - I love hosting my podcast, "Sex and Other Human Activities." Before I did that, I had a radio show on Sirius XM called "Get in Bed." Both, unsurprisingly, have been about making sexy time. I love radio/podcasting because it's such an intimate medium.
Q - Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything you wanted to add?
A - Yes! Book me! Check out http://www.sarabenincasa.com/ for more information.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.