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Comedy 'Work in Progress' Highlights Character's Struggle With Suicidal Thoughts

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you’ve ever felt hopeless and given yourself an ultimatum to feel better, you may relate to Showtime’s latest comedy series, “Work in Progress.”

“Work In Progress” follows Abby (Abby McEnany) as she tries to sort out her life, from her boring office job to finding love. In the meantime, she struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), queer identity and suicidal thoughts. A trailer for the series features Abby contemplating suicide and counting almonds — one for each of the next 180 days she decides she will allow for things to get better — quickly followed by the death of her therapist in the middle of a session.

The series also takes a deep dive into queer identity and the juxtaposition between sexual orientation and gender identity. Abby identifies as a “queer dyke,” and many aspects of the show focus on the impact of being mistaken for a man most of her life and what it means to be queer as a middle-aged person. At the same time, she falls for Chris (played by Theo Germaine), a trans man, who seems to have things sorted out a little better than Abby at series start.

While it’s difficult to determine how “Work in Progress” will handle the mental health topics it tackles, McEnany comes to the series with personal experience, including living with OCD and experiencing depression.

“All this stuff that we tackle is stuff that really happened or is happening to me,” McEnany told Variety, adding:

It’s real-life experience and part of my survival is this humor. I can look at really horrible parts of my life, like the death of my mother — my mother was ill for three-and-a-half years with cancer, and some of the funniest things happened during her illness and after her death. Humor is what made me survive and helped our family out a lot.

Other comedians, like Maria Bamford and Gary Gulman, have similarly turned their experiences with mental illness into hilarious yet deeply relatable comedy. Gulman’s recent stand-up special on HBO, “The Great Depresh,” chronicled his journey out of a serious major depressive episode. Like McEnany, he said there were plenty of laughs to find along the way.

“While it was painful and agonizing in the midst of it, it’s actually a pretty interesting story,” Gulman previously told The Mighty. “And it can be funny because there were funny or ironic things that happened along the way.”

McEnany, known as an improv comedian, created the show along with Tim Mason before it premiered at Sundance and was picked up by Showtime. McEnany said she created the series primarily based on her perspective, but hopes others can see parts of themselves represented in “Work in Progress” as well.

“I’m obviously only speaking from my perspective and I make no claims; I’m sure we missed the mark somewhere and I’m looking forward to learning from that, but our intentions were certainly in the right place,” McEnany told Variety. “I hope that we show that there’s hope and that there are ways to find a life that is devoid of shame, and that we can all work toward that.”

Catch new episodes of “Work in Progress” Sundays on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET.

Header image via Showtime

Originally published: December 10, 2019
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