The Who Dis? Podcast is a show featuring performers from the disability, chronic illness, and mental health communities.
This week, we welcome Ditto Jones to the show. Ditto is an actor and solo performer in Chicago. We discuss their personal journey with drag performance, singing, and finding oneself through performance. Ditto also speaks about depression and anxiety, as well as how the artistic lifestyle affects their health and vice-versa.
You can follow Ditto on Instagram at @DittoJonesTV or on Facebook.
For more information on depression, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness at https://www.nami.org/
Who Dis? is hosted by Liz Komos and produced by Jack Mathews. You can find more information on the Who Dis? Podcast or the Who Dis? Live Show at www.whodisshow.com on the web, on Instagram or Facebook at @WhoDisShow, or on Twitter at @TheWhoDisShow. If you want to talk about the show, feel free to use the hashtag #WhoDis.
This episode was recorded at the iO Theatre. The iO Theatre is home to Chicago’s best improv comedy with shows 7 nights a week. They offer classes in improv, writing, and more! Visit ioimprov.com for a full schedule.
the Hoodie show podcast. I'm Liz Co Mohs. This show features conversations with performers from the mental health, chronic illness and disability. Communities were digging into who they are and how their health intersects with their art. Today's guest on the podcast is Dido Jones, a
gender fluid pan sexual human adult living and working in Chicago on stage and screen. Currently, she
has her sights set across the pond to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2020 Catch One of her previews before she leaves next August. Did
Oh, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the podcasts. Hello. That was a musical. I love it. I'm just gonna jump into it. What is your method of art? How are you an
artist? I got started in the Improv in Sketch World, and I have a degree in theater. I think ultimately I would just consider myself an actor slash solo performer. Most of it is comedy. I wouldn't say all of its comedy When I started performing, I was trying to do really serious theater, and people were laughing when I didn't think they were supposed todo. So I came to Chicago to pursue comedy, and now nobody laughs at the stuff I put on stage
anymore. So I just create theatrical experiences that really get the
audience involved. And if people laugh, then man, it just warms my heart, makes me feel great.
Is it? Well, isn't that what you say that I think that is funny sometimes when we get into comedy, and then we want to do a little bit more serious work. But we're performing that work inside comedy theatres. People are like I came to a comedy show. I thought I came to a comedy show. Why's the serious? I don't understand.
I hate to say that in my case it is a lot of stuff for my personal life that just ends up blending over into the performance. That's where a lot of the inspiration for my performances comes from is what's going on in my head and because I'm so visual and I like to add color and sparkle to things. There is a very heavy visual aspect, and, you know, the wigs and the costumes and the makeup and stuff. I like to joke that I would like to someday become the Elton John of comedy where I've got that jacket that's got my name and glitter on the back. So everyone knows where I am at all times.
Yeah, I think you say some day I feel like you could do that today. I mean, we could get you a jean jacket bedazzled with Ditto on the back, right? Yeah, it's totally doable. A fun little home project. Yeah, outside of comedy, because the Houthis pod gas sort of talks about the blend of art and health. How do you identify with the health community disability, mental health and or chronic illness? I think the thing
I struggle with the most is my depression. It's always holding me back at times when I really wish that I could just push forward with my career the way that I sort of plan Thio. I have a saying that I know my professional life is going well, if my personal life is in shambles
way make Jack laugh way. Got him. Okay, I hold on. I'm gonna keep a tally. Jack the tally. We've got 11 Jack, laugh. Okay. Ah, and so why Why is that something that
you say? Because, um, I have always had the clearest vision of how I want my career to go. If you ask me what my goals are three months from now, six months from now, one year, three year, five years, I've probably got some very solid, very plausible and execute herbal ideas because I never want to be stuck not knowing you know how to move forward. I'm always I'm very strong and visualize ing. So if I want Thio make a movie in the future, I'm imagining like, what's the meeting room gonna look like? Where I go and talk to producers, directors, people who can finance What's the temperature of the room gonna be? What's the color of the room where the chair is gonna look like? How many people are gonna be there? What are their jobs? I just think about all that stuff incessantly while I'm at home by myself, and that can create a lot of anxiety me building these scenarios that haven't actually happened yet or like, if I I am sort of smart enough and strong enough and savvy enough within the industry, I can absolutely make those visualizations become reality. But life is its own thing. It's going to get the way the way that it does. And those complications and challenges can really throw my mental state way off. Track it
it's just for like, a couple hours or a couple days or like a week Like
I threw out my back a couple weeks ago. I can't tell you the amount of depression
naps I've taken since then. Like I went from being completely active and running and stretching and, you know, wanting to choreographed dance pieces for solo shows. Thio completely, like not able to move thinking, Oh, what if this last forever? I don't have a job anymore. But over time, I guess I have sort of learned how Thio not exactly recover fully from it, but push through until things get better.
Yeah, so I hear that some of those road walks are our self self imposed almost right, Yeah, yeah. I mean, I do that the same thing because I just wrote down my goals and control, and for me, I have this experience of my body is so out of control, I can't I can't always predict what it's going to do on a day to day basis. and so having organization and control and vision and goals. And this is where I'm going is away from you to get security and a life that doesn't always feel secure.
Yeah, organization is key for me because the performer's life is it's full of instability and discomfort and not knowing where your rent is gonna come from. And sometimes all I want is a life where I can just feel comfortable for, like, a couple of days and no, you know, my rent's paid. My utilities are paid. I've got a pet or a friend somebody that I can hang out with and know that, like everything is okay. But having a life of performance and instability and not knowing where your money is gonna come from can throw my mental state at any point. Um, if I feel like things are a little bit down in the dumps, my brain has a way of taking that and multiplying it by like 1000. What people see from the outside is
Oh, that's so cool. You're performing. You're
developing your own material. You've got a nice place and especially people that have their like
you're working and you're creating in your living and you're performing. It looks like so much fun. Oh, I see. I don't know what's going on in my head. There's just a bunch of voices telling me that I sucked. Yeah, like I Or,
you know, my progress isn't fast enough. Or, um, if I hadn't taken, like an extra four years to figure out who I was, I would have been in a totally different place. You know, whether it be career wise or even like personal relationships. I look around like I see couples like, ah, 1000 people just got married because it's, you know, the
everyone's like, we got to get married right now. Um, and I just look around and I wish I had
that. I wish I had somebody who I could promise my life thio and feel, you know, comfortable knowing, like
were in this together. We are a team. We are partners in life, crime and comedy. If I have any questions, I'm gonna call you. If I'm in jail, I'm gonna call you. And if I want a cat, I'll get it myself. And then I'll tell you later. That's no one. That is not what you're gonna do that gets you into jail. But I think that you're like, just the cat just again. I'm going to do that. And then I'll tell you later about that. I
I have always wanted to be a performer. So when people say, Oh, that looks so cool or exciting, I I always try to brush it off because I don't want to believe that I want my job to feel as boring as being a plumber. Yeah, like you're just doing. I like this job. I like doing the work. I'm just here to do the work. I'm not here to, like, be like,
Hey, look what I did yesterday or like, isn't it cool? Look at all
this stuff I have. Like, I'm not I don't like to
be that kind of person. I
just like to do the work that I promised and hopefully call. Somebody calls me for a job in the future, but I really don't want to be in a place where, like, people are
following me down the street.
And, you know, I get recognized everywhere that would that would set me off like even when canvassers air like
and you talk for five minutes about the planet. I'm like, don't roll up on me like that. Society is. I get that. That gives me anxiety. So while you were sharing just now About what? What sort of is stressful about the life of a performer, But I also know that you love it. So I want to talk about what brings you joy and what? How does it benefit? How do you benefit from it? Uh, what brings me the most joyous a performer is giving people this feeling like the feeling
I get when I look at a performer and I think, wow, like, how crazy would it be to do something like that or Wow, I never knew someone could relate to me like that. I thought I was the only one who felt that way this way that performers are able to sort of reach out and grab audience members in a grab their interest in a way that they can't even really understand. They're like, I don't I don't know why, but I can't stop looking at this. And it might be because it makes me laugh or it reminds me of my mom or that's a song that I listened to growing up, and I thought it was funny, too.
I'm always trying to find
those moments to connect with people, So it's nice to start running a solo show where the material is all yours. And then afterwards people come up and they say, Oh, I used to do that to where I used to watch that show are you know, this was also my favorite song. Um, making people laugh, Entertaining them is really what brings me the most joy and doing it. And recently it's been developing these pieces with a lot of energy and a lot of fun and thinking like, I can't wait to show people this. And if I could get all of my pieces to be as fun and exciting and enticing and representative of me, that that would be a show that I would really love to take everywhere.
And then do you feel like you put pressure on yourself? For me performing, it's still It's what I want to do, and I don't have another side hobby that gives me passion, and I noticed that in putting that pressure on myself, I do lose a little bit of the joy of it of being like, I want to make this a career and I have to work at this. And now this is my job, and I think about it as my 9 to 5, and I invest in it that way. And I think we can lose a little bit of the fun when we start trying to make money, doing the thing that we love. I can definitely
say that I start to lose
confidence. Ah, interesting. In the stuff that I make when I
feel like it is more serious than it needs to do. Well, because, um, I just quit my restaurant job to start freelancing full time, and I
kind of lucky in that. The money that I make doing this is all film work. I I do background stuff pretty consistently, so that is where my checks come from. So all of the stage stuff is kind of my 9 to 5. When I'm not booking that work, looking for that work or actively doing that work. I am sitting at home thinking like right, 20 facts about yourself. How can you take those 20 fax and devised them into pieces. That would be fun for people to see. Yeah. Um, so it's a lot of these, like mental exercises and lists of 20. And the loss of confidence comes from me not feeling I can put
everything on the stage. What I put
on there has to have a lot of thought and a lot of reasoning. It has to have a strong point of view, and it doesn't have the same kind of fun that, like open pitch days and in the conservatory usedto have. Sure where it didn't matter if it had a point. If it was something that made you laugh, you threw it up. And if it made people laughed and great. But if it didn't have a point of view, then you just wouldn't do it again. Yeah, right. When it's you and your own material out there by yourself, it sometimes isn't as fun to come up with the material because I have put the pressure on myself like, What does this say about me? Is this going to send You know, the message that I wanted Thio? Or is it going to be entertaining at all? There is it to Nishi no. Is it to specific? Like I have obscure like British TV references from the seventies or like old birthday songs from, like the eighties and nineties and I want P. I want tohave those moments where an audience member could be like,
I know that song. I've watched that show. Holy crap. I thought I was the only one. And I'm like, No, that's kind of part of who I am, so I put it up. Uh, some, Yeah. So do you know you mentioned that your performance is very visual and colorful Talk a little bit about about that? Sure. Um, when I was in
college, I started becoming very interested in the art of drag. I think it stems back Teoh. The first time I saw Rocky Horror picture show when I was
18 that movie
changed me. Uh, and we saw it on Halloween night. So tons of people were in costumes, whether it be like drag outfits or Halloween costumes. And everyone was just looked like they were having so much fun, but also the the wigs in the makeup in the dresses and the idea that you could express yourself in whatever way you wanted in a way that was so free with something I had never experienced, let alone witnessed in the past. I grew up from maybe a more conservative place like Kentucky, and, um and
I love the shifty eyes Before you said Kentucky. Yeah, all of the people listening, wondering. Have I said something? Well, let me just say it's not a coincidence
that, like all the people I know up here from Kentucky, are also gay and work. None of us are there any more. Yeah, I wouldn't call that a coincidence anyway. I did start to experiment with drag. I wanted to buy wigs. I wanted to start doing more makeup. Drag has its own style. I am trying to create this Dido character that is like a performer, but she is a bit self obsessed, and she legs to be sparkly and doesn't
have the most charisma on a microphone right now. But we're working on it, and it's because I've always
just had this vision of, like, this ideal beauty, and it's just with its got blonde hair and big shoulders and big boobs and a tiny waist and really long legs and high shoes, sparkly dresses. And, um, I just wanted to take, you know, these aspects of my physical self and sort of hyper feminized them because I when I was probably 19 or so, I started watching RuPaul's drag race, and I had never seen anything like that. And for that to be its own competition, I was like, I have to watch this all the time. Ah, and now I try to put my focus towards, um, Queens around the world on Instagram who really are, um, true individuals. So you sort of look at that performer and you think, Well, no one can do this like this person. That's who they are. And that's like Juno Birch. Yeah, um, she was just here. She's from Manchester, but her drag style is that she is an alien from outer space. And if you look at her and her dragged, you're like, Wow, this person really looks like an alien, and this is It's like it's consistent. It's polished across the board. You're like, Yeah, that's Juna Birch. I get it. Whereas nowadays I feel like the makeup trends and the everything that people are seeing is influencing people so much that it's all starting to look kind of the same S o. I am always trying Thio find ways to reinvent whether it be digging into, like, art history or, um, even, you know, aspects of, like design and architecture and visual art to influence, like the things I'm wearing in the makeup I'm doing because I'm always trying to set myself apart. But, um, I think that sort of plays into the gender fluidity because I
would consider myself sort of gender neutral on a daily basis,
but that those performances are an opportunity for me to feel really feminine and really powerful in that femininity in a way that is so far away from what I'm normally doing. Sure, Yeah. It is definitely a form of escapism, but it is looking in the mirror and being like, I am
so gorgeous, like, What are you going to do? I have to go outside right now
because I want to show people like this is how I'm expressing my individual creativity. And also like this is based
on Valentino are I watched the spring summer of runways, and this looks like something I saw on
Chanel, and it makes me very happy. Ah, my dream is to wear designer stuff. So drag is just the best visual medium to combine. Makeup, hair fashion. Uh, and you know what
could be comedy performances? Yeah. Are you still doing ensemble work and has any of your health impacted your desire to be a part of ensemble? Um, I love ensemble work.
Ensemble work is my favorite type of work. Okay, Um, I feel most comfortable on a team. Ah, whether it be a team of writers or a team of performers or a team of us doing both, um, that would be my ideal job is to be part of a team of people who write and perform a show every week. I've done it a couple of times, and I still just think it is. It's the most fun knowing that every week you have that turn over. Every Sunday, you get to open pitch. His open fridge is always my favorite part. I have so much fun. I'm like,
What? What if this
works and when it does and you're able to devise it into something, you're just like
your jeans on its Yeah,
I just got very used to the schedule. It's like you pitch and then they pick which ones they like and they ask you to make revisions. You turn in the revisions, you do a rehearsal or two and then you run the show, you get a day off, and then you bring your open pitches to the next day. Um, yeah, as
your health impacted, that experience it all Or has that been primarily something you've been ableto is separate for you. My Depression has
kind of kept me from leaving the house, Okay, For a certain amount of time. I also got really caught up in work, and my restaurant schedule was preventing me from doing a lot of performances and picking up a lot of work, which was a bummer. So I felt like things were going a little bit down and down to the point where I, like, wasn't reaching out to other people for performance stuff, cause I was like,
no one's seen me
in a while, you know, like no one's interested. I don't think I have the practice at this point, or, um, I
mean, I do stuff when
people ask me, but with the fringe prep, I'm trying todo schedule wise, it could be tough figuring out where my priorities are between getting my shows up and working with a team to do a show of theirs. Because whatever I do, I try toe put my best foot forward with and I don't like the half ass stuff, so I don't liketo have more than, like, two or three big projects at the same time. Because I don't like toe stretch myself too thin and sort of it
makes me feel like I'm
sort of disrespecting people's time when I've got 1000 other things going on. But I've still said yes to your gig. Yeah, you know, I I want to care more than that. Sure, I like that. I
have two more questions. The first question is, what knowledge would you share with someone who also struggles with depression and is in the arts? Or baby is lacking confidence in their performance? I'm thinking and reflecting on some of the things that you share that you're doing well, what would you have to share with someone like yourself? Maybe 5 10 years ago?
Ah, I would say, um, talk to someone, uh, whether it is a professional or a friend that you can trust. The most successful people I know are in therapy. You asked for therapy.
Everybody, please go there.
I find you there. I I talked to somebody.
I talked to the same person between the ages of 13 and 23. Um, rest in peace or not here with us in order. Uh, and after that, I sort of didn't trust. I didn't think I would be able to trust anybody else with the amount of information that I had already given to her. Sure. But then it got to a point where I needed to talk to somebody and I didn't have the resource. Is, of course, yeah. And things started to go really downhill where I hadn't talked to somebody in, like, a number of years. And then all of this personal baggage that I normally would send their way was just sort of getting dropped off on my friends and, um, that I don't think that's the way to do it. So I would recommend, you know, find somebody to talk to. It's not It can be difficult, but, you know, always keep working at it.
I'm on my fourth group Um, hopefully, Yeah, get into it. If not, I'm on
a couple waiting lists. But, man, yeah, don't try to keep all your thoughts, emotions and feelings to yourself, like to a certain extent. It could be good as a performer and performance in visual arts are a good outlet for that. But if you've got thoughts that you need to share, if you feel like you need to talk to somebody, then go talk to somebody because sitting at home and wrestling with those feelings by yourself is it's not gonna make things better. And I can say that
well, when there's so many different resource is now that are online, that can be the gap in transition between actually finding a therapist that you see in person that you like that you feel like you have a good report with. And I know I have a lot of friends that use those Service is where they're texting, you know, it's like text a therapist on. They have different options, and those, I think are really great for the interim affair. Like I know I need help, but I'm trying to find somebody, and my recommendation is always too if you don't like that there, you don't quit going to therapy. Try somebody else like Justus. We meet people and we don't like them in real life. Or maybe we just don't get along with certain people. We don't just go. Well, I'm not. I'm never gonna speak to another person ever again. We find the people that we connect with, and I think the same thing goes for therapy. It's a dating relationship. You have every right to say that you don't like your therapist or they're not a good fit for you. And then finding someone that is. I just know a lot of people that have given up on the process because that one person that they tried didn't work out for them.
I just happen to be really lucky.
Me too. I've had play therapists in my life. I had, like, one from the time I was 15 to 22 then I went to college, and then I had one in Colorado, and now I have a new one here, and it's been thes three amazing female identifying individuals who were just strong and supportive and just lovely. And, uh, yeah, I have gotten very lucky.
Yeah, that would be my advice, though. Don't try to keep your emotions all bottled up. It's not helpful as an artist or a performer to sort of keep that inside because there's only so much art and perform you can you can do before you realize that you're just really miserable and wood like to stop being alone.
Well, I think you also just is kind of a sidebar to backtrack a little bit. I think it's more fun to watch somebody be vulnerable on stage, but with material that they've processed like emotions, that they've processed emotions, that they've come to terms with it, it can be uncomfortable and hard tow. Watch somebody and you know that they're sharing something that they haven't really worked through. And as an audience, you want to take care of that person right? When you see someone who seems to be clearly having an emotional an intensely emotional experience that they may be weren't ready for and I think there be helps us have, I think, a larger toolkit and a larger treasure chest of processed emotions and experiences that we can draw from. Yeah, yeah, Oh, yeah. Okay, And then the last question that I ask everybody as if you could take. And I'm thinking it's gonna be Elton John. But I don't know if you dig one performer out for dinner. Uh, or artists, Who would that person be? And where would you go? What would you eat and why? Why are they someone that you admire and respect? Oh, um, I know Elton
John seems like an obvious answer. We'll do while you're thinking we've have three Jack laughs only
04 Like that last one that was coerced. If there's one thing if it's the thing that brings me joy, it's when I can catch people by surprise. They don't think they're gonna laugh.
But, you know, it's that misdirection,
right? Well retired. Yeah. Who is it? Who are you going? Right. Okay, um,
this at this point, I am going to say, um
English stand up comedian Joe Leis. It's okay for people who know me
really well, this is probably an obvious answer, but after I discovered him and his work and like who he is, is a performer. That is what gave me the inspiration to go
to the fringe. Cool
and I guess the reason for that is because he is another pan sexual performer in the UK and it is a big subject of his comedy. But it's not the joke. And he's charming and endearing and adorable, and people really love him. Yeah, and I would love to have dinner with him and
if anything, just like, say thank you because I didn't really have a career before
that day that I date that I remember. Um, it was like my life went from, like, black and white to color. The I only have memories from before that day and after that day because since then, I have been working on, you know, TV, which is something I could only dream about before I went through this sort of physical and mental transformation where I was like, Listen, I'm gonna start expressing and exploring my own personal style, and I'm gonna start practicing makeup and I'm gonna start doing drag, and I'm going to strive to be the most authentic version of myself because that is what Joe has inspired me to be.
I just have I literally have chills right now. I think that's so beautiful. And I think that so many of us, that's what we're looking for in life. And you've You've had that experience of everything clicking in and turning into color. Yeah, what a great note. And that's really so beautiful. I'm so glad that you were here and shared. And I'm gonna get, uh, that person's name so that we can tag them in this episode so they can hear that you're probably gonna get real tired of me. No, probably not. Not at all. Thank you so much for being here today. 00 no problem. I'm
so excited. Thank you. It was such a joy to have to do on the podcast today to talk about what it's like to express oneself as a performer but then also to inspire and find inspiration in others in the world around us. If you want to catch Dido solo show, she is currently in previews and you can do that by following her on Instagram at Dido Jones TV. It also has to Facebook pages. One of them did. Oh, Jones is four stage and TV appearances, but you can also follow her on her personal page for some amazing
depression means who this show is hosted by Liz Co. Mohs and produced by Me Jack Matthews. If you'd like to support the Houthis show, you can tell a friend or leave a five star rating in review on apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. When using Social media, feel free to use the hashtag who dis for more information on the hood is show, including upcoming live shows We're on Facebook. Twitter at the Hood is Show Instagram at Who does show or on the Web at Who does show dot com. That's W h o D I S S h o W. This episode was recorded at the Io Theater. The I O Theaters, home to Chicago's best improv comedy was shows seven Nights a week. They offer classes and improv writing and more. Visit Iowa improv dot com for a full schedule