September 18, 2023 at 11:10 a.m.
From Pastor to Comedian: Award-Winning Mickey Bell Makes Hope Debut Friday
(Courtesy photo of Kim Brantley)
The 55th Annual Hope Heritage Days begins Friday evening and area residents are invited out for an evening of making lasting memories steeped in joy, faith and laughter as comedian Mickey Bell makes his Hope debut taking the stage at 6 p.m. as a featured act during the free WYGS Gospel Sing at the Hauser High School Gym, located at 9273 N. State Rd. 9 in Hope.
The self-proclaimed “southern boy who deals with depression” while “hyped up on medication” proves that vulgarity is not a necessity when it comes to making others laugh. After all, life provides plenty of opportunities to experience pure joy, he says.
Bell’s passion for making others laugh is deeply rooted in experiences that weren’t so light and joyous but serve as his testimony of second chances and redemption.
At the age of 13 years old, Bell discovered he had been adopted at birth. His biological father -- who left before Bell was born -- was lost to the anonymity of time as he would forever remain unknown.
“No one ever thought in that moment that Mickey may need to go talk to somebody,” Bell recalls. “That load was just put in my wagon for me to carry from there on out and no one ever considered therapy or thought that maybe this is too heavy for him to handle.”
Should Bell have been told? Absolutely, he says.
Unfortunately, Bell’s upbringing in a family built upon strict Christian faith wouldn’t allow for such talk. It’s just the way it was, he says. Times were different in the 1980s and mental illness, its stigma and all that goes along with it were not topics for discussion where its prevalence – especially among young people – wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today, he says.
The whole issue, he says, is he came to this reckoning late in life. Just a few years shy of a decade ago Bell found himself in a dark place. A place detrimental to his overall health.
Years of managing his struggles on his own began eating away at his ability to function and meet the obligations of his day-to-day life. Poor decisions with even worse decisions being made atop those brought Bell to a place where he was on the verge of losing everything – his job, his home, his marriage.
When Bell hit rock bottom, he had an epiphany.
He named the beast.
The source of the struggles that had become the parameters within which he’d lived his life up to that moment.
A pervasive depression that had initially grown from the seed of desertion.
“I was living with that whole abandonment mindset – that everyone who comes into my life is going to leave me,” he says. “It made life very difficult. I made decisions like no one is going to stick around.”
While pastoring a church, Bell lost his job. The cascading effect of that loss plunged Bell into darkness unlike anything he’d ever experienced.
“That was the moment I fell into that deepest depression that I could ever fall into,” Bell says. “I didn’t want to go out of the house. I built up anxiety. I didn’t want to be around people.”
It was then his family stepped in and encouraged him to seek help. It was a step he embraced without looking back.
Part of Bell’s approach is to help dissolve the misconception often associated with the dichotomy of having faith, yet seeking therapy to help cope with mental health struggles that seem insurmountable when one tries to tackle them solo.
“We have to understand it is just part of everything we go through in life,” Bell says. “I say a lot of times when it comes to taking medication, if a diabetic can take a shot so they can eat coconut cake, then I should be able to take a little white pill so I can think clearly. We are OK with people who take medication and get help when it comes to their blood pressure, but all of a sudden when it moves from your heart to your mind, that is when a lot of people get on their bandwagon that you are not trusting God or believing for your healing.”
In an effort to sidestep the seeming hypocrisy of picking and choosing those things that suit individual situations and narratives, Bell says he hopes to encourage people with examples from his own walk with God.
“He doesn’t talk to me like other Christians talk to me,” Bell says. “He never looked at me and said, ‘Mickey, you are just going to have to get over it.' He took me by the hand, led me down a road and said, ‘If you will hold onto My hand, I will walk with you every step of the way.’ So, all I am doing is testifying to the fact of what God did for me and letting people know that what He did for me, He will do for them, as well.”
When Bell reflects on his life and his own struggles with mental health, it beckons him to action, he says.
“It calls me to take up the mantle and say, ‘Alright, I am going to help as many people as I can,’” the 55-year-old comedian says. “Ya’ll [sic] may not know what to say, I may not know what to say in every situation, but I can at least bring it to the forefront and make it cool to go get therapy.”
Since embarking on this journey, it is an absolute breath of fresh air for Bell. The freedom, space and joy he feels is something he is compelled to share with others with every fiber of his being.
“This is not something I started early in life, and I think that is why it is necessary to sound that alarm for everyone else,” he says. “Whether they are young, middle aged or in their senior years – I know the freedom I am living in now and I want everyone else to experience that as well.”
And he does so with grace, ease and laughter.
Bell has made regular appearances as an opener on The Huckabee Show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, as well as opening for many Gospel acts, including Jason Crabb, Rhett Walker and Colton Dixon.
He has also penned books relating his struggles, journey and advice for others who likewise experience issues with mental health, including "Reverse the Course of Depression" and "I Am David: A Pastor's Fall Into Grace" -- both of which are available on Amazon.
He was also named the 2021 Best Comedian of the Year during the Inspirational Country Music Awards in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
High atop Bell's list of must-haves is a delivery that is welcoming to people of all ages and backgrounds.
“I wanted to do a show that the entire family can attend where mom and dad can bring the teenagers and grandma without being on edge wondering if something is going to be said or done that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed because of it being vulgar or crossing a line,” Bell says.
He points out that even attending movies these days divide us by age. It’s time to bridge the gap.
And Friday’s performance is one that Bell hopes brings everyone out for an evening of light and laughter.
“I want to encourage families to come out and enjoy a night together,” he says.
For those who are dealing with any type of mental illness, Bell says he especially wants those individuals to feel welcome and come enjoy an evening out.
“I know and understand fully that it is very difficult to get the urge to get out of the house or trust an event – to trust someone enough to say, ‘I’m vulnerable, but I am going to go.’ I encourage them to come on out,” he says. “Not only am I going to encourage you – and you will laugh ‘til you pee your pants – but we are going to encourage you.”
Sharing his story with a comedic delivery rooted firmly in faith, joy and love in a time where it seems the world has gone mad is a much-needed antidote.
“It will be a night where you are going to laugh and leave like all the thousands upon thousands of people who have left our concerts saying, ‘My goodness, I am so glad I came to this because I feel better about myself,’” Bell says.
For more information about Mickey Bell, visit his website HERE or catch up with him via Facebook HERE.