Mary Walsh coping with laughter

Mary Walsh

Mary Walsh

-- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

When it comes to sound psychological health, comic warrior Mary Walsh prefers Reader's Digest to Freud as the final word.

"Laughter is the best medicine," she says from her home in St. John's, N.L. "There was a page of jokes in every issue of Reader's Digest with the caption 'laughter is the best medicine' which I remember reading at the doctor's office. It works for me.

"I feel better after I've laughed and laughed and laughed, though it didn't help me with my macular degeneration, (a disease that eventually leaves sufferers like Walsh blind). Then I found that crying helped. But any kind of funny distraction from going blind was a big relief. It's hard enough being a female comedian, imagine being a blind female comedian."

If indeed laughter leads to good mental health, then there will be no shortage of jokes when the Gemini-Award-winning comedian and Mike MacDonald host eight local standup talents -- Sonja Cronkhite, Simon Perkins, Heather Bruce, Julie Gagnon, Mark Parsons, Donald Shultz, Sandra Withers and Nancy Kelley -- at the Stand Up For Mental Health comedy fundraiser tonight at the Bronson Centre.

The brainchild of David Granirer, a Vancouver counsellor, comedian and author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success, Stand Up For Mental Health is a series of comedy nights to raise money to build his national mental health advocacy group in Vancouver, Delta, Courtney, Chilliwack and Toronto and establish a local Ottawa chapter.

Both Walsh and MacDonald have successfully dealt with their own mental health issues, she with addiction and MacDonald with bipolar disease, which was one of the primary reasons the two renowned comic talents were asked to host the event.

Walsh was a member of CODCO from 1987 to 1992, when she and co-stars Rick Mercer, Cathy Jones and Greg Thomey launched the mock news satire This Hour Has 22 Minutes. On the show, Walsh played Marg Delahunty and Marg, Princess Warrior.

"Having Mary and Mike at this event is an inspiration for all of our comics," says Granirer. "It's great to have people of their stature willing to give people with mental illness a chance to prove that we can achieve incredible things."

In the meantime, Walsh is writing three new episodes of her hit television series, Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, even though the CBC chose not to renew the series about life in a Newfoundland outport despite the show's momentum with viewers.

Walsh and Ed MacDonald won the 2006 Gemini for best writing, and in 2005, she won best performance Gemini for playing the family matriarch Mamie Lou Furey. Incredibly, that win was the first of her 30 Gemini awards Walsh won on her own.

"I'm really, really proud of that," she says, cooing.

Laughter, it seems, is indeed the best medicine. That, or a hit television series.

Tickets for the benefit are $20 and available at Collected Works or by calling 613-722-1265. There are also low-income tickets for $5 by calling PSO at 613-567-4379 or go to the event website at www.standupformentalhealth.com.


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