The Secret Struggles Of Wayne Brady

Wayne Brady is best known for making people laugh, first on Whose Line is it Anyway? and then on Let's Make a Deal. He's the guy you'd love to invite over for dinner, and one of the few comedians you'd feel completely comfortable having at the same dinner as your grandparents. That's only a surface persona, though, and what's going on underneath is pretty different from the image he's cultivated.

He's struggled with depression…

"Some days, you don't want to move," Brady revealed to Entertainment Tonight in 2014. "You can't move in the darkness ... [You're thinking], 'This is what I deserve, because I am that horrible of a person.'"

For anyone who has struggled with depression, those feelings can seem all too real. When Brady drew a comparison between his persona in front of the camera and what happens to him once those cameras stopped, he admitted that he had found himself caught in a steady, downward spiral that finally came to a head on his 42nd birthday. "I was there by myself, in my bedroom and I had a complete breakdown..." he said. "Just go ahead and imagine for yourself a brother in his underwear, in his room, you got snot ... and that birthday was the beginning of, 'OK, I've got to make a change.'"

He also said the suicide of Robin Williams in 2014 deeply impacted him, telling Entertainment Tonight, "When he was on stage [in] full-on Robin mode—and I know this from being blessed enough to work with him—you could not touch that man. He made all these people feel great. And at the same time, knowing that he had this sense of ... what I make up in my mind, this low sense of self-worth, of belonging, of loneliness, of pain that all the money in the world can't cure, all the accolades and awards, and all the love from people all over the world ... all that love could still not stop that man from saying, 'I am in so much pain.'"

...and admitted how difficult it can be for men to open up on the subject

In 2015, Brady filmed a PSA for the Bring Change 2 Mind movement, which strives to help break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness. In the incredibly candid video, he spoke about the reasons that he hadn't come forward about his illness sooner, some of which had to do with his own gender. "It's difficult for men in general, I think, because of just the way that we're raised," he said. "We feel any of the negative emotions or that dark cloud settle on you, and you feel like you need to cry out or speak to someone about it, and, 'Nope, I'm not gonna do that, because I'm a man.'"

"What kind of man would I sound like if I told somebody, 'Hey, I am so sad. I'm cripplingly sad. I can't get out of bed. I just feel empty. Help me,'" he continued. "I'd be [seen as] some sissy. I'd be soft. That's what you're taught. That's how you were programmed. And that's what kills us."

Social anxiety gave him a stuttering problem

Being a comedian means a lot of the time you're expected to depend on a quick wit, and Brady took that to all new heights on the improv show Whose Line is it Anyway?. Known not just for delivering spur-of-the-moment lines, he was a show favorite for his seemingly effortless ability to come up with song lyrics about anything and everything, in any style imaginable. Factor in a live, studio audience and it would seem he's always been perfectly comfortable in front of others.

When he was younger, though, it was quite a different story. Speaking to NBC BLK, Brady revealed he went through a year-long phase when his social anxiety from being bullied became so bad that he developed a stutter. "I felt like I couldn't speak," he said, adding he got bullied over his skin color and heavy accent at the time. "It was that feeling of, 'Well, nothing I say will be met with open ears. Everyone's gonna laugh at every word that comes out of my mouth. I stuttered because...all of the words welled up and I didn't know which ones to use.'"

However, Brady added that his social anxiety wound up being a blessing: in time, he developed an interest in performing after he began to turn the words he couldn't use at school into radio plays, scripts and more at home.

He's not afraid to call someone out

Brady might be someone you'd image could play peacekeeper over the most hostile of family dinners, but he's absolutely not afraid to call someone out for an injustice. Take his feud with Bill Maher, for example. Over the years, Maher has repeatedly and negatively compared President Barack Obama to Wayne Brady, at one point quipping that Obama wasn't actually a "real black president." Brady finally responded to Maher's jokes on Aisha Tyler's podcast, Girl on Guy, in 2013, and his words were especially pointed. "If Bill Maher has his perception of what's black wrapped up, I would gladly slap the s*** out of Bill Maher in the middle of street, and I'd wanna see what Bill Maher would do," he said. Now, that's not something you'd see or hear on Let's Make a Deal.

The following year, when Maher made headlines for his controversial comments about Islam, Brady took him to task again, referring to him as "your uncle at the barbecue. Or your grandpa that shows up with no pants on or something." Yeah...ouch.

He's not a fan of his squeaky-clean image

Brady has something of a squeaky-clean reputation, keeping his work on his most well-known shows something that skirts the lines between PG and PG-13. But he's not a fan of that image at all, and don't suggest to him that he's really that in real life.

"You know how it is, people place things on you," he told Arsenio Hall (via Huffington Post) in 2013. The thing is, I never asked for anyone to give me a squeaky clean image... And I do a lot of stuff at night, and I tour, I do Vegas, and I do films that are adult. But people like to get things in their head like, 'Oh, that's the clean black guy,' and that pisses me off to no end." Because when you generalize it's just so easy sometimes for folks to go, 'Oh, that's what you are.'"

"You don't know me," he continued. "You know what you see in a compartmentalized version of me at this thing that you happened to watch at this time of day because that's when you work, so you like this dude. So don't judge me against being black, because being black is not a monolithic thing. We have many, many different ways of being black."

About that Chappelle's Show appearance...

In the spirit of debunking just how squeaky-clean he can be, Brady has made an appearance on Chappelle's Show in 2004 and headed up a pretty gritty sketch. (Warning: NSFW.) If there was any doubt that he had a wider range than the kid-friendly version so many people are familiar with, he got rid of all of that doubt in this single appearance. In a sketch that starts out with nothing more than two friends taking time out of their busy schedules to catch up, Brady takes Chappelle on a drive that starts with him behind the wheel of a drive-by shooting and only spirals out of control into the seediest parts of the city after that.

Honestly, he seems kind of awesome

Like Brady himself says, it's easy to condense someone into a compartmentalized version of themselves, and to assume that the persona you see them adopting on their television shows is who they are. That's doubly true when those shows are ones like Brady's, where he's typically not playing a character or assuming the identity of anyone but himself.

Listen to him outside of those shows, though, and you find a man who's not just every bit as intelligent and well-spoken as he is on television, but someone who is more than willing to step forward to call someone out when they deserve it, and to share his own pain and inner turmoil to help others that he might not even ever meet. He might not be the entirely squeaky-clean person that he's often labeled, but one thing that he definitely is? A straight-up guy with a multi-faceted personality that Hollywood needs to see more of.