Nick Ramsey, a Cleveland based comedian, United States Army Infantryman, National Guardsman, state qualified wrestler, graduate of Lakewood High School and Baldwin-Wallace University and friend to many, took his own life at the age of 25 last January.
Ramsey's passing hit close to home for many comedians in Cleveland, because, as show producer Jeff Davis tells Scene
, "I can't remember a year in the last decade where a comedian in Cleveland hasn't passed away from suicide."
Davis says that in the last 10 years, six people close to him have completed suicide and he's also personally struggled with suicide attempts. When Ramsey passed, Davis, a local comedy show producer, knew he wanted to put on a benefit to raise money for the family.
It was Davis' 10-year-old daughter who suggested doing a huge annual comedy event, instead of a series of smaller events throughout the year. Davis then contacted the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County with the idea to put on a massive event raising money and awareness for suicide prevention. Thus, Stand Up Together: An Evening of Comedy Honoring Nick Ramsey was born.
The event takes place Saturday at Lakewood Civic Auditorium, with headliner Bill Squire, co-host of The Alan Cox Show other well-known Cleveland comics like Mike Polk Jr., Mary Santora, John Bruton, Liz Blanc and Kris Wernowsky.
"There's a need for a better conversation about suicidal thoughts and mental health in general that our community could benefit from," Davis says. "The fact we're all working on one project that is geared towards awareness and starting these important conversations is great."
In 2016, the most recent year with full suicide statistics in Cuyahoga County, there were 174 documented suicides
. Of these suicides, 140 were working age men between 20-45.
Comedy is often used as a cathartic release for performers, and studies have revealed that many comedians use the medium
as a way to deal with mental health issues like depression. The death of Robin Williams shot this conversation into public consciousness, and the success of Hannah Gadsby's Netflix special Nanette
has recently sparked conversations on the structure of successful comedy, and what it requires of the comedian in order to entertain an audience.
"Headlining a show like this to honor someone is tough," comedian Squire tells Scene. "I know there are a lot of heavy hearts at a show like this and I want to relieve some of that sadness.
"I think the use of comedy to battle demons is a double edged sword, especially in the stand-up world because there’s so many temptations when you hang out at bars with dark-minded people," Squire continues. "Drugs, alcohol, sex, and other vices run rampant in a community full of fragile people. Mix that with the pressure of success and the inherent jealousy and envy that follows, makes comedy a place where demons can thrive."
Stand Up Together features more than 65 comedians from both Cleveland and around the country. It's important to note that all of the comedians are performing their absolute best work, not material specific to this show. This is a comedy show that just happens to raise money for suicide prevention, not a comedy show centered on joking about suicide.
For Bill Squire, "Comedians aren’t necessarily battling demons as they are just getting comfortable with them, which can be a therapeutic thing to finally accept certain truths about yourself and turn demons into allies."
Tickets are available for $35 each and include a raffle ticket. All proceeds go toward the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County.
Next year's show is already scheduled for July 27, at the 10,000-seat Mentor Ampitheatre.