Now that the phrase “LOL” has gotten so overused, it’s hard to imagine that anything really makes people laugh out loud anymore. But the crudely drawn cartoons in Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, culled from her popular blog and reprinted alongside never-before-seen material, will make you laugh until you sob, even when Brosh describes her struggle with depression. It’s both funny and moving to see how finding a tiny shriveled corn kernel under the fridge pulls her out of facedown-on-the-kitchen-floor despair, making her giggle until she can’t breathe. “You want to be happy?” she imagines her brain telling her. “FINE! I’ll make you happy…to death!”
A self-described recluse whose author bio jokes that she “lives in her bedroom” in Bend, Ore., the 28-year-old artist wrote her first comic, “I Need to Be Famous by Thursday,” before graduating from college. “It was a last cry for help, like, If I can become famous, then maybe I’ll be rescued from being an adult!” she recalls. “I wanted to use brown ribbons to raise awareness for terminally adult people.” Now she posts what she calls “stand-up comedy in book form” to her blog, which draws up to 5 million readers a month, and fans create memes from their favorites, like the one where she tests her dog for retardation, or the one where a 4-year-old Allie eats too much cake and vomits rainbows.
Two years ago Brosh’s battle with depression led to an 18-month blog hiatus. She told NPR’s Terry Gross that she had even formed a suicide plan — she was going to drown herself in a river — but her husband and her mother, who was a suicide-hotline counselor, helped change her mind. When she finally shared that experience in her work, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “I got an email from a woman whose son was struggling with suicidal depression,” Brosh says. “She showed him my posts, and he laughed. He hadn’t laughed in months. That affected me deeply.”
If she started Hyperbole so she could be alone in her room, that connection to fans has forced her to go public. Her book readings have lasted as long as seven hours, since she takes time to talk with everyone who shows up. Someday this book tour will make for great material — but first she needs to decompress: “I’m going to take three weeks to just play Magic: The Gathering and reread The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I need my hermit time.”