Joaquin Phoenix, Mental Illness and David Letterman!

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Years ago, Letterman poked fun at Andy Kaufman as he slowly declined into mental illness. It was funny to some; the banter between them offered entertainment. Last night David Letterman had his snarky response to Joaquin Phoenix and his bizarre appearance on The Letterman show. While Letterman is funny, what Phoenix may be dealing with is not. Why is it OK to make fun of mental illness? Would we laugh at cancer? People look funny when they are bald, so why not laugh at cancer? Could Letterman heckle Patrick Swayze and his appearance?

            Joaquin Phoenix was just 19 when his brother died of an overdose. Here we have trauma and family history of addictive disease perhaps depression.  Those two factors play a crucial role in producing addicts.  His parents, not conventional people, seem genuinely concerned and loving but they raised their five children on the road and had them perform on streets and at talent contests in order to buy food and provide the basic necessities.  They were also members of a religious cult in the 60’s but eventually quit the cult and moved to Los Angeles.   Phoenix was treated for his own alcoholism just four years ago. All of these factors and his recent behavior add up to something. He has the look of a schizophrenic and seems largely detached from what is happening around him. None of this is funny….. Its grief, loss, fear, and an inability to handle fame, an emotional construct that cannot handle his talent. He has twice disappeared from the public eye when his fame got too intense.  Not hard to imagine he would derail. And yet, we snicker; laugh at the smarty pants comments of David Letterman. Mental illness is just that, illness and left untreated it won’t self correct.  It’s also not an oddity to be laughed at. Often times, humor can help tense situations but this was not one of those times. Being a big movie star, one would guess Phoenix has handlers. Where are they now?

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7 Responses to “Joaquin Phoenix, Mental Illness and David Letterman!”

  1. I understand what you are writing. I have sympathy and compassion for Joaquin Phoenix, as he is one of my favorite actors along with his late brother, River.

    Phoenix, and his manager are hold more responsibility for this performance, than you are giving them credit for.

    If you book an appearance on the Dave Letterman Show, The Colbert Report, Conan Obrien……you better be prepared.

    You can’t fault Dave Letterman for doing his job. And although, at times i cringed at watching Joaquin…..he should NOT have made an appearance in his current state of being.

    If Joaquin can’t look out for his best interest, his manager or friends and family need to intervene.

    Dave Letterman was doing his job, Joaquin flaked out on his. I hope he gets some help before it turns tragic.

  2. poor Joaquin Phoenix, he seemed to trying really hard to re-invent his image and was coming across as just awkward

  3. John Headrick Says:

    Not a bit of sympathy will be coming from me..! Let all addicts, whatever the medium, die in their own self caused misery.

  4. Lina Kano Says:

    There is no evidence that Andy Kauffman suffered from mental illness. It has been rumoured, but it mostly seems to be a matter of people confusing his character on Taxi with the performer.
    As for Jaaquin Phoenix, the jury’s out. Casey Affleck, his brother-in-law was on hand shoooting the entire event for a documentary.
    You may remember Crispen Glover’s appearance on the show where he nearly kicked Letterman. That appearance, apparently, was an act, in conjunction with a movie he was acting in called Reuben and Ed, which didn’t come out for another three years.
    It also seems entirely possible that Phoenix was under the influence of some substance,as Farah Fawcett was when she appeared on Letterman in a confused state in 1997. The nervous ticks he displayed seem consistent with someone on heroin and he reportedly showed up at a Paul Newman tribute in L.A. slurring his words and stumbling.
    The reality is, we just don’t know.
    In the case of Billy Bob Thornton’s recent bad behaviour on a Canadian radio show, mental illness may well be a factor. Thorton has discussed having had more than one mental breakdown in the past. As for Phoenix,l there’s no known history.

  5. Joe Schrank Says:

    You are wrong about Phoenix. It is known that he was treated for chemical dependancy. What do you consider chemical use disorders if not mental illness?

  6. My father was diagnosed w/ Schizophrenia when i was 6 years old, and i grew up witnessing alot of the odd behavior and speech that Joaquin seems to be exhibiting. I know his publicist made a statement and said the thought of him being mentally ill was “innapropriate”, but yet she didn’t deny it. I can understand why his fans think it’s probably just an “act”, because Hollywood is full of eccentric people, but it just seems suspicious w/ Joaquin. Plus i think it would be hard for people to accept that he is mentally ill because there’s such a stigma attached to it, like you’re a serial killer or a babbling idiot or you’ve done something wrong in your life to cause it. At any rate, time will tell w/ this because the “act” can’t last forever.

  7. Uncertain if I’m Still Here is a mockumentary, hoax. I certainly hope it is. If not I am hoping Joaquin Phoenix gets the help he desperately needs.

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