Ruby Wax: A Beautiful Mind
Comedian Ruby Wax talks to Ting Dalton about mental health, her new tour and the future
When writer and comedian Ruby Wax suffered with depression 12 years ago, she decided that the best way to tackle it was discovering more about the functionality of the brain – and admits that she wanted to save time and money and not have to see shrinks. “I was always interested in how the brain works, especially mine,” she says.
After gaining a Master’s degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University, she has written three best-selling books about mental well-being with her latest How To Be Human reaching the top of the charts. Her new tour, which takes the same name, will see her travelling the length and breadth of the UK, including here in Surrey at Dorking Halls and Richmond Theatre later this year, sharing her witticisms and thoughts about all things human.
“In the first half it’s just comedy – it’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and I chat about all things including my mother. It has a story but it isn’t stand-up as that’s not what I do,” explains Ruby, who was awarded an OBE for her services to mental health. “In the second half I bring out the monk [Gelong Thubten] and the neuroscientist [Dr Ash Ranpura] and we talk, and they’re very funny. Then the audience can ask me questions. I love that. Interacting with the crowd, that’s my favourite. I get to meet wonderful people, and bond with them. They speak so openly with me that makes me think the world is getting better.”
So what is How To Be Human essentially about?
“Everyone wants to know why we are the way we are. Why do we think we’re not good enough, why do we think the way we think, why do we choose the people we choose. Are we at the mercy of our hormones?” says Ruby. “The book goes into evolution, explores who writes the scripts of our thoughts, and then it goes into emotions. It is a recipe book that makes us, us. I want to help people not get so mad at themselves. And if you can understand that it’s not our fault, our condition is the human condition, then we can be nicer to ourselves because part of the problem is that everybody has these critical voices.”
Ruby began her career at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has fronted many of her own TV shows including BBC’s Ruby Wax Meets… where the performer sat down with celebrities to interview them including Pamela Anderson, O.J. Simpson and Donald Trump. Famously, Ruby recalled how she was thrown off Trump’s private jet in the 1990s, after laughing at his aspirations to become the President of the United States…
With such political turmoil across the globe, is it a case of people just talking more in order to make a change? Does Ruby think we’re becoming better at communicating?
“The more chaos there is out there, the more we’re struggling to speak to one another. But if it gets so bad, we have to band together, somebody has to,” she says. “When we start working as a bonding tribe, which we have the capacity to do, that’s us at our best, but we don’t know how to switch that part of our brain on, to get out of our self-obsession.
“There’s no point blaming social media, either. We have to ask ourselves how we got to this point in the first place and try to work it out from here.”
Ruby dedicates much of her time helping spread the word and raise awareness on mental health issues. She is Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey, an ambassador for the charities Mind, Time to Change and Sane and sits on the board of the Anna Freud Centre. She is also the president of the UK’s leading relationship support charity Relate. With so much experience in the field, does she finally see a change in the way mental health is being viewed by the wider public?
“It definitely is getting better,” she says. “I can tell because people are freed up to talk and they are beginning to understand that’s what we are all about. The key thing to realise is that everybody is in trouble. If you think that everything is fine then that’s when something is wrong with you…”
When the tour ends does she have any plans to kick back? “I never rest,” she laughs. “In fact, I am working on another book about the future. I want it to be about ‘good’ news for a change.
Catch Ruby Wax: How To Be Human at Richmond Theatre, 20 October and Dorking Halls on 10 November. www.rubywax.net