LA Comic Makes Groundbreaking Series About Her Struggle With Bulimia

By May Wilkerson 02/05/16

Comedians have long found the funny in addiction, so why not eating disorders? 

LA Comic Makes Groundbreaking Series About Her Struggle With Bulimia
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Comedian Jessie Kahnweiler is pioneering the movement by mining her 10-year struggle with bulimia for laughs in a new series, The Skinny, which debuted at Sundance this week. The autobiographical series, co-produced by Transparent creator Jill Solloway, details the story of an LA-based comedian who struggles with an eating disorder while trying to make it as a YouTube star.

Kahnweiler spoke with about battling an eating disorder in her real life, and how she would like to see society’s conversation around bulimia evolve. Though alcoholism and addiction feature prominently on film and TV, eating disorders, at least in a realistic sense, remain largely uncharted territory. “In my experience, there hasn't been anything that speaks to the truth of what it's like,” Kahnweiler says. “For me, it wasn't just about being skinny, it was about controlling my emotions.”

Now 30, Kahnweiler says she first “found” bulimia at 16. “I thought I had the secret key to life,” she says. “I can stuff down all my feelings. I can literally purge anything that I don't like about myself.” Despite everything seeming okay on the outside, she struggled with an “internal tornado.”

Kahnweiler links bulimia and other eating disorders to societal pressure on women “to be thin and take up less space.” But she does think it’s possible to “break the cycle,” saying: “I think the way to fix that is talking to people about it and having these conversations.” She hopes her show will help by opening up this dialogue.

Though currently in recovery, the comedian acknowledges that recovering from an eating disorder is not a finite process. “Bulimia is something I am going to have forever, so it's really important to have many tools,” she says. For her, those tools include therapy, meditation, support groups and “finding a community, because bulimia is so isolating.”

Ultimately, Kahnweiler says she has learned a lot, both from her recovery and from working it into the series: “I have learned that I am OK. I struggle, but I am OK. I think people meet me, and they're like, ‘Poor thing!’ And I am like, ‘No, I actually feel like talking about it and making art about it.’ But I'm sure I'll develop more issues. I'll have kids or something.”

Produced by Refinery29, the series premiered Jan. 27 and all six 10-minute episodes can currently be watched here.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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