A new podcast by Canadian comedian Gavin Crawford tells the story of his mother’s diagnosis and life with Alzheimer’s disease, and how he came to terms with the situation. Let’s Not Be Kidding is a seven-part series that highlights the experiences of those with dementia, and the people who love them, told from the perspective of popular comedians.
Crawford is a well-known comedian who has worked on several projects, including The Gavin Crawford Show and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Now Toronto caught up with the comic to discuss the new podcast and the driving force behind it.
Growing up in Taber, Alberta, Crawford shared that he and his mother were always close. He says that his mother was not only his best friend, but the inspiration behind much of his work.
“She just had a kind of very dark and wry sense of humour. She liked to tease us a lot. She would do things like we’d be driving down a dark country road and she would tell us a ghost story, then stall the car and turn off all the lights, and be like ‘it was the ghost’,” the comedian laughed.
He says that she was a fun mother growing up. But after she was diagnosed with dementia, he found that he was starting to forget who his mother was before she became ill. This inspired him to create Let’s Not Be Kidding. At first, he was unsure what format to share the story in. He considered writing a book, or creating a stand-up routine, before settling on a podcast.
“I had written this thing down to get it out of my head, where my mom at a point one Christmas kept forgetting that Christmas trees exist, and she kept thinking that my husband, who is a very good designer, had invented [it],” he shared.
Crawford explained that his friend who produces podcasts for CBC asked him if he had any ideas for a show. He shared the story with his friend, who encouraged him to tell the story via podcast.
Using Comedy to Cope With His Mother’s Alzheimer’s
Being a comedian, making light of situations is his bag. Crawford shared that throughout the show, it was easier to make jokes about the situation than it was to be open and vulnerable about the more challenging aspects.
“My whole sort of existence and job is to take whatever pain the world throws at you in one form or another, and filter that out and put it back in the world in some sort of comedy form,” he explained, adding that it was challenging to tell the story without the guise of a character, something that he has often used throughout his career.
“To be like, nope this is me, this is my mom, and to have my dad on the podcast, and others. So that was a bit of a stretch for me.”
Crawford says the podcast covers a range of topics surrounding dementia. The podcast begins with stories of the beginning stages of his mother’s life with the disease and follows his family’s story until her death.
Throughout the creation of Let’s Not Be Kidding, Crawford discovered that many of his peers’ lives had also been touched by dementia. The podcast includes conversations with some of those peers, including Jann Arden, Aurora Brown, and Scott Thompson.
“We just sat down and traded stories about what was happening now, in this moment or that moment,” he explained, adding that they go over everything from the beginning of memory loss to having to hide their parents’ keys as they should no longer be driving due to their illness.
Crawford’s mother passed in late September 2022. He shares that he wants the world to remember her as a great mother, a feminist, and a talented teacher and artist. You can listen to the first two episodes of Let’s Not Be Kidding on CBC podcasts.