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Interview x Kate Koenig, Suicide Nights Founder

Interview x Kate Koenig, Suicide Nights Founder

Suicide Nights is an NYC-based music and comedy show—founded by Kate Koenig— that strives to normalize the topic of mental health through black comedy and introspective music. As mental health is a major issue in the music and artist community, and we have set aside time and space this month on High Street Disco and Left Bank Magazine for mental health awareness, this event hits very close to home. We sat down with Kate to get the history of the show, understand the somewhat controversial name, and hear some good stories.

What is Suicide Nights? How did you get the name?

Suicide Nights is a music and comedy show about mental health awareness. I choose comedians who are able to address more personal and vulnerable topics especially related to living with mental illness, but also can be related to just about any topic that make people feel different or not accepted — such as race issues, immigration, LGBTQ topics, etc.

The name gets a lot of reactions. Mostly positive! Basically, by calling out one of the darkest, most vulnerable things a person can feel — feeling suicidal — in the show’s title, it automatically opens the floor to discussions of all kinds. Kind of like when someone in a social circle breaks the ice by addressing the gorilla in the room. After that, everyone feels much more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

How many events have you hosted so far?

Saturday, June 29th at Under St. Mark’s Theatre will be our 10th show! The first was on April 13th, 2018 (Friday the 13th). I consider that to be the show’s birthday. It’s my baby!

What is the goal for this event series?

The goal for the series aims a bit high, so I like to think of it more as pushing for gradual progress. I want to help people feel more accepted in general–which really starts with accepting who they are and whatever makes them feel different. Obviously, we’re treating mental illness as the central issue to tackle, as despite the current hype and headlines left and right about mental health, depression, anxiety, etc., people still have such a hard time talking about it in public. It makes most people very uncomfortable.

What do you say to someone who shares that they’re suffering, when we don’t feel like we have the tools to help?

As a society, we still don’t know. Psychology is an incredibly young field and surprisingly hardly a universally respected one. A lot of people don’t even believe in mental illness. I once read we know as much about the mind as we did when DaVinci first cut into a cadaver to discover the human anatomy.

Why did you start this / find this endeavor important

Mental illness runs in my family. My whole life I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety (see David Foster Wallace’s speech “This Is Water”). Without going into detail about my family’s history, it’s filled with addiction and personality disorders. As of recently, I’ve even started taking medication for bipolar disorder (on topic, I don’t love the term “disorder”). I believe mental illness is not something to be fought with or rejected within yourself, it’s your mind’s way of reacting to trauma. Your subconscious is afraid and finding chaotic, at times self-destructive, ways to heal. You have to love that side of yourself as well, and the battle will become easier. Though I will add, mental health/illness is an incredibly personal experience for everyone.

What is your idea of success for Suicide Nights?

The best, simplest example is when conversations are sparked after the show. The show is also a brand — I have Instagram and Facebook pages where I share memes and articles around the topic. I’d love to develop both an in-person and online community where people can talk openly about their issues on an interpersonal level.

Anyone you would love to have perform?

Maria Bamford!!!! I absolutely love her show Lady Dynamite. It’s on Netflix. The first season is excellent.

Any fun (or funny stories) or moments?

At the last show, I had Maggie Lalley as the headliner. She killed it. She speaks openly about living with BPD, and at one point started asking the audience about what meds they’ve tried. It was hysterical and so cathartic.

Lastly, where should people go if they are interested in performing?

If you’re interested in performing, please feel free to contact me via our social media pages — @suicidenightsnyc or Please share a little about yourself if you can (I’ve learned people’s trauma/family histories in basic pitch introductions :)) and be sure to include some video example of yourself performing. I will do my best to check it out!

We have bounced around a few different venues for the past year, so if you’re interested in coming to a show, be sure to check our site, or social media sites for accurate info.

Shows are on the last Saturday of every month at 94 St. Mark’s Place, a below-street-level black box theater located in the East Village.

Photo credit Melissa Wu and 828 Media

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