Even though he tells jokes onstage for a living, it doesn’t mean Al Babcock is always smiling. Like many, he has had to deal with his mental health.
“I struggle with it myself, and people in my family have struggled with it,” Babcock said.
That’s why the Kingston comedian organized the first “It’s All in Your Head?” show a couple of years ago — to raise awareness about mental health and to get people talking about it.
“The whole event is to show that you don’t have to look very far to find someone who’s struggling,” Babcock, who describes his own brand of standup as “playfully dark,” explained.
“So the event aims to basically break the stigma around asking for help or reaching out to someone and talking.”
This year’s event, the third one, takes place over three days and features 40 local musicians — many of them familiar names to local music scene followers — whose half-hour performances will be streamed through Facebook. There will also be comedians, poets and artists speaking about how their art helps them cope.
Word about the event itself is spreading, Babcock feels. This year, he announced the first 20 performers and “then 20 other musicians from Kingston just messaged me instantly and wanted to be involved,” he said.
“As much as I reached out to people, people reached out to me.”
Viewers will also have the chance to donate to two important causes — the Kingston Youth Shelter and Martha’s Table, which was added to this year’s event — should they want to do so.
While last year’s three-day event raised $1,400 in donations, the emphasis is on raising awareness rather than money. Last year’s 30,000 collective Facebook views over the three days is proof that people are paying attention.
“The mental health awareness part is the main thing, and the collecting of the funds for Kingston Youth Shelter was an extra gesture that ended up exceeding expectations,” Babcock said.
While mental health is something with which many performers struggle, it has likely come to the fore after the pandemic paused in-person performances and the gig economy on which they depend.
“I think everybody is going through tough times right now,” Babcock suggested. “I think this is good for everyone to just reach out and talk to some more people, and I just think putting some positivity, especially onto the internet nowadays, will be good.”
In fact, that’s something that sticks in Babcock’s memory from last year’s show.
A musician would play a song and then “all of a sudden (they) would be talking about mental health and opening up to people and then the next person would see that and they would share something,” Babcock recalled.
“By the second day, everyone was just sharing deep things from themselves that I didn’t expect at all.”
As much as “It’s All in Your Head?” is about getting people together to talk about mental health, it’s also a balm for Babcock himself.
“Doing this really does make me feel like there’s people listening as well, makes me feel like there are people who want to be involved with this,” he said, “so it’s really rewarding for me as well to do something like this, and I just hope it helps people during COVID.”
What: It’s All in Your Head? A mental health awareness event. For a full schedule, go to Facebook and search “It’s All In Your Head?: 2021 Mental Health Fundraiser.”
When: Friday, April 23, to Sunday, April 25. Performances run from 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday; 2 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday (there will likely be guest speakers starting sometime in the morning, although a start time has yet to be finalized); and from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Where: Performances can be streamed on Facebook through the event page, through Al Babcock’s AB3 comedy page or through each artist’s page.
Cost: Free, yet donations to Kingston Youth Shelter and Martha’s Table will happily be accepted.