Rob Tanchum's New Comedy Album Finds Humor In Mental Health

By Paul Gaita 12/07/18

Rob Tanchum drew from his own mental health issues to create his new rap/comedy album Disturbed, Depressed, Inadequate.

Rob Tanchum
Rob Tanchum photo credit: Shawheen Keyani

Finding ways to cope with mental health issues can take a myriad of forms, from traditional therapy and medication to meditation, massage and yoga. Writer and comedian Rob Tanchum has found a very unique means of contending with his depression and anxiety: He used them as the basis for his comedic hip-hop concept album, Disturbed, Depressed, Inadequate.

The New York-based Tanchum – who has written and directed work for Upright Citizens Brigade, among others – wrote and performed the album's 11 tracks, which, according to the album's storyline, are the inner workings of his mind after being extracted by aliens who have abducted him.

Community creator Dan Harmon voices one of the aliens and serves as the album's executive producer, and he is one of Tanchum's primary inspirations in seeing the project to completion, which he describes to The Fix as "a cathartic challenge."

Tanchum says that he'd tried to record concept albums before Disturbed but found himself unable to see them through. "I get to a point where I'm overcome by anxiety and self-doubt," he says. "And I want them to be perfect, and I have a pathological need for external validation."

As a self-described "hip-hop nerd," he also worried about using the music form for his own project. "I don't want to be an interloper, or defile or lessen it in any way. I constantly start and give up working on these albums because I don't want to be that person," notes Tanchum. 

Disturbed got a crucial boost from Dan Harmon, whom Tanchum met after sending him an original rap song that referenced one of Harmon's own freestyle inventions. Tanchum said that he brought pitches of song ideas as possible collaborations with Harmon but also voiced his concerns about recording a hip-hop album. "He convinced me to do it," says Tanchum. "I wasn't going to turn down that opportunity."

Once the project was set in motion, Tanchum began drawing on his own issues as the root of the material. "I'm a comedy writer, and just by virtue of who I am, my mental health always seeps in," he says. "You write about what you know, and that's the perspective I'm interested in. I try to uncover my neuroses and look at myself, my depression and my anxiety as character traits."

Despite his concerns and self-doubt, recording Disturbed proved to be a positive experience for Tanchum. "It's been nice to hear from people who have said that it's exactly how they feel," he says. "And I listened to the album months after making it, and it was really helpful for me to hear it because I was at a particularly low point."

Tanchum also cites the NBC series Parks and Recreation as having the sort of impact he'd like to have with listeners. "There are so many characters [on the show] that are dealing with depression and feelings of failure, and getting back up after those things," he explains. "That's what defines you, and that's the kind of thing I want to make – something funny but helpful."

Disturbed, Depressed, Inadequate is currently available via iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify and TIDAL. It's also available as a special edition cassette from Harmon's SBI Press, which features 35 minutes of bonus material and a 10-minute improv scene.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.