There’s a stereotype about comedians that their act is just a way of working through their depression and trauma. But for Marina del Rey-based comedian and multi-hyphenate Leo Flowers, there’s more than a nugget of truth to it.
In addition to his stand-up, Flowers hosts the suicide prevention podcast “Before You Kill Yourself,” and he’s also a personal coach with an M.A. in Counseling/Psychology. Even as he works through his issues, the former college football player is more concerned about helping his listeners, fans and clients work through theirs.
Early on, his stand-up set veered toward the topical and political, but Flowers didn’t hit his stride until looking inward for material.
“I realized that there’s nothing edgier than talking about yourself. There’s nothing more vulnerable than sharing your own story on stage. And people love it,” he says.
Flowers builds his sets around well-worn topics — not because they’re easy targets, but because they resonate with everyone in the room.
“I talk a lot about relationships because that’s something that I have struggled with, and I realized that everybody struggles with that,” he says. “We’re all struggling with relationships, trust, love, health, and how to take care of ourselves. Those are topics that are classical and will transcend time.”
Flowers’ struggles have included cervical spine surgery, which raised his awareness of others’ grappling with chronic pain, and living out of his car for a spell — all the while trying to hide it from family, friends and potential girlfriends.
“Ironically, I was in the best shape of my life because I was showering every day at the gym. You can’t go to the gym and not work out,” he says.
He was inspired to start his “Before You Kill Yourself” podcast after searching for a way to reach more people than he could gather in a theater or a comedy club. His struggles with suicidal ideation drove his interest in the subject, and its bracing title was inspired by a woman he spoke to who had tried to kill herself.
“She was in the bathroom with a gun to her head, ready to take her life, and then she heard her baby crying in the other room,” he recounts. “And that is what made her put the gun down. So many people who take their lives are just a distraction away from living.”
Flowers’ podcast guests range from medical professional to comedians, and he finds much-needed humor in the dour subject while still giving it the gravity it deserves. His welcoming tone and infectious enthusiasm help connect his stories with listeners’ own struggles.
“For some reason we think we’re the only ones going through what we’re going through,” he says. “Then people listen to the podcast and it makes them feel less alone in the world.”
— Brian Marks