Guy Branum Goes to Minnesota, Gets Good Internet, Finds Self
Is depression funny. Oh, absolutely. Depression is funny because it is a fun house mirror. You don't see anything the way that it really is things are two big things or too small, and that is a ridiculous way of looking at life. Doc sisters. Be a sad shake now is there. Take. It's the hilarious world of depression. I'm John Moe. This episode is about coming to terms with who you are. When who you are seems different from who most people are it's about being told you're a monster trying to manage your life as a monster. And then deciding, hey, wait a minute. I'm not a monster. My name is guy Brandon. I am a standup comedian. I'm the host of talk show the game show on TV and the author of my life is a goddess a memoir throw in popular culture and currently in booth at an audio facility on Melrose avenue guy was in L A where his brand of intellectual comedy delivered with some degree of bombast is rapidly making him a star. I was in Minnesota, which is where guy went to law school, Minnesota as you will learn is a very important place to guy I would say the real upsides of Minnesota. You're very strong pancake game. Also like the entire summer slate of festivals awkward tiny. Oh, you're Hopkins raspberry festival. You're still water lumberjack days. Lash. They're they're pretty great. He has a lot to say about Minnesota. Just physical texture of Minnesota. I think gave me some really important tools for figuring out depression because you guys have like six months out of the year where life is physically depressed by the temperature. God tries to kill you every year. Yes. I mean, I like I have a joke about that about how like in Minnesota. You can be killed by outside. Minnesotans don't talk about Minnesota as much as guy Brandon talks about Minnesota. And Minnesotans are always talking about Minnesota. There's that weekend. In may where everyone understands it is over and everyone hits that garden so hard and makes that state as beautiful as they can. Because the time is now my first springtime here. I moved here in March and then on that day in may I asked my wife like is there a ten K going on outside? It just everybody is just a nice day. And everybody's going running all at once. Well, it was very hard for me because I came from northern California where spring lasts about five months. And it was like winning spring and a girl from my law school was just like it's six unconnected days in may. All right. Don't worry. There's more about Minnesota coming up, plenty more. But for now, let's go back to guys origins in Yuba City, California, forty miles or so north of Sacramento farm country. He was born in nineteen seventy five he's forty two. Now, it's very working class. Most people working agriculture or there were a lot of guys who worked in construction. Right dad works and construction because there was a lot of growth going on in Sacramento when I was going up. So it's a place where Lanc other than schoolteachers. I didn't really know anyone who had gone to college. It's very hot. Which you know is really good for for growing, peaches and almonds, but gets kind of annoying during the summertime, you know, it's a place where the factories run six to lake eight weeks out of the year because all they're doing is canning tomatoes or prunes. And so. Very high unemployment rates, very high crime rates, very low education rates. So when lists are compiled of like bad places to raise a child or worst places to live. We always do very very poorly, and can you enumerate the various ways in which you did not fit in in this town in which you're in contrast to the prevailing thing. I just wanted to understand the world that I was saying on television where there were like politics and people who knew seven people who are in charge of things where everyone around me pretty much understood like their job was to be a proletarian. And that's what their parents have done. And that's what their children would be doing. And so that was the primary way that I didn't fit in was like a resolute desire to understand and be understood by the world outside of the place that I was from your close enough to San Francisco that try. Buying or hoping could really destroy you. And it was it was really interesting in the first of all let me say like the tone with which I speak of my hometown. In the book is as much about me as it is about the town. It is about knee sort of you know, parodying my own rage. It having to be in this tiny little town that didn't matter and figure out how I could potentially matter like, it was that rage that sort of pushed me out of there and was very helpful and useful to me. Like, I don't mean to say, it's terrible place. I mean to say it's place that just never quite knew what to do with me. One of the most interesting things was going to the mid west. And seeing what real small towns that aren't in California are like and realizing that like, you know, I remember being in Saint Peter Minnesota, and they had like a community band. And I was like this town is a tenth the size of my town. But it has like a community band and community. Feeder and stuff like the mid west has the sense of lake community and responsibility. But California doesn't have that because it's California. And as I say in the book, everybody showed up six weeks ago, you know, like nobody like very few families where we there before nineteen sixty and so, you know, Joan Diddy, and describes this process of California of people showing up and then immediately crossing their arms and being judgmental of the people who showed up a day after them. I mean, there aren't a lot of people in Yuba city who freely quote Joan Diddy in here's guy on the Conan show. It's really not listen fascinating. The book is terrific. It goes back to your earliest memories. What stands out for you is the most sort of powerful potent early memory like as a small charter grew up on a little farm town in northern California. And while I was growing up. There were always old men who were asking me, what do you want to be when you grow up? And if you're wondering why old men in northern California had southern accents. You're going to need the read the book either this book or the grapes of wrath. I would always give the normal answer. What do you wanna be? When you grow up away tress. Angry with me they were like all want to be a football player. They were obsessed with me being a football player that seemed impractical like it's not a reasonable way of life. You just thought I can't be at when first of all you do have the size and the strength to be a football player. Like, you're a talk show host you've met a lot of like Michael Strahan is probably hear constantly. But most people do not deal with football players professionally on a regular basis. Waitresses, however are all over the place making people's lives better with pancakes. Like. You know, one of the reasons I blame Minnesota is that when I was there for law school is the first time I was ever able to put a label on depression. But it was definitely something that I struggled with before that point. I just didn't have a name for it. It was just part of a larger slate of me not fitting in like, you know, like I was unhappy. I was very, you know, I was frequently unhappy as a child just because it was a hostile world that was yelling at me for my existence. All of the time. And what of that was, you know, psycho chemical, and what if that was just situational? Is hard to say, but you know. Going into Funk's getting alienated like periods where I couldn't really experience. Pleasure. Those were things that happen. But they just felt like the lay of the land. And it wasn't until I went to college in law school, and then came out that it really came to a head enough for me to be able to call it what it was when when it was happening when you were younger. Did you just chalk it up to oh, I'm just a strange person? And this is these are the cards. I've been dealt. I just have to live like this forever. Yeah. And it was really scary to me. Like, I really thought I was going to be trapped in that town. I thought I was going to have to work construction for my entire life. I thought I was never going to be around people who were interested in the things that I was interested in it just seems like this. The world seemed like a barren place. You know, I didn't I wasn't able to say oh me trying to fit into this town is the problem. I just thought it was a condition of my life. But also like it wasn't just the town. It was also the nineteen eighties. Where we didn't know what to do with a little boy who was gay. You know, we didn't have structures for that. And so like being humiliated and having to hide a significant part of who I was just seemed like what one had to do. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, you gotta make the best of that. And then along came something that expanded guy Brandon's horizons like really quick it was in the form of a comedy special. Eyewash Eddie Murphy, delirious, when I was, you know, I think less than ten years old in the living room of my parents house with Maine's higher family crowded around very excited for this piece of lake sophisticated culture that was coming to us from the outside world. And I I loved it. I like I I thought that he was the funniest in the most in control and sort of the mix of. Confidence and wit and savvy like it's one of the things that most deeply made me want to do what I professional do today and the wave at lake the tropes from that special echoed out in leg. Margaret chose specials in so many people afterwards like the the the trope of the stand up wearing a leather suit, which you know, I understand hearkens back to Richard Pryor before Murphy. But I only knew it from Eddie Murphy. And so I you know, I had fallen in love with so many stand up comics during that period of time, George Carlin Rita redner Poundstone, but like to me the lake the center of power was always any Murphy's delirious. So in two thousand thirteen I was in New York writing on the TV show. And I was like, hey, it's on YouTube. Why don't I just watch it on YouTube and what I didn't realize is the first five. Minutes of that special are just him talking about how gross gay guys are gross is a huge understatement. Here. Eddie Murphy uses the worst slurs to describe gay people. He suggests you could get aids from a kiss it was like shocking because all I remembered was the good thing. All I remember, it is that it made me love stand up, and it made me love the power and confidence and certainty of stand up. And then I had to watch it and realize like it had sown into my brain like constructions of what game and were that had helped keep me in the closet until I was twenty three that made me hate myself. And it's certainly not just Eddie Murphy. It was a world that was doing that. But to have it so sharply included in his thing that I loved and was thing that was like liberating from the world that I lived in. It was. Stark realization, it was a stark realization that it had done something so good and so bad at the same time. It wasn't just that guy realized he loved something that was offensive. It was guys realization that his idea of what enga- man was got formed by this stand up routine. So he had this baked in very negative idea of what gay men were. They are not human beings. They are like gross monsters, like, they are, you know, it was the height of the aids scare and so that's deeply wrapped into it. His you know, belief that being gay means that you have this disease. That is also marginalizing that also makes you disgusting. You know, he does beloved characters from television. Imagine how ridiculous it would be. If they were gay like gay men are gross disgusting risible ridiculous. And she does not want them around. Eddie Murphy issued an apology in nineteen ninety six. He said he was sorry for any pain he caused with the language that he used that was fifteen years after the special was released not super helpful for someone who had been taught by Murphy and society to hate who he was. I until I was in law school. Couldn't look you in the face and tell you that I was gay. I understood that I was sexually attracted to men, but the additional psychological step of being able to say that I was a member of this group was impossible for me because I was a person and gays weren't people. Let's not forget it wasn't that long ago that we were all perfectly allowed to believe that gay shouldn't be able to get married. Barack Obama was elected saying he didn't think that marriage between two men or two women was real marriage like the world was deeply hostile place. And it's hard to learn about the world and be able to as a child pick out this stuff that is like gross or demeaning to you. And you know, I'm I'm never going to be able to extricate myself from the homophobia for the world, I grew up in. We're all trying to make a better world, and that's wonderful. But like. It's in there. Now, some of us can identify with his predicament, and some of us just have to imagine it. But you got Eddie Murphy saying, you're subhuman, and that's also a reflection of what society had been saying for decades. And then you have to go out in the world. Good luck. It feels like you have been handed a curse it feels. Like, hey, I wanna be a good person who fits into the world. And I've got this thing in me that makes that impossible. How do I manage this? Guy was raised Jewish. And when he was growing up sensing that he was not straight. He turned to his religion for answers, judy's teachers that you are not bad person for wanting to do a thing. You just should not do it. And the the laws of Judaism lake the the morality is not in the thing itself. It's not that. Pork is necessary. As it is that you've been commanded not to eat, pork. And so it is in following that that you are sanctifying your life and God's law. And so I really just felt like, you know, because homosexual sex is also forbidden by Judaism, I was like well that is my answer. I will just not engage with this and understand that this is my struggle to bear. And it means that you don't get to have a life that is shaped like everybody else's. And that means that important sources of pleasure are also lake negated and turned into sources of Shane. And I think, you know, having to negotiate all of that stuff made it harder to be happy. The challenge then for guy, and it's a hell of a challenge was to see himself as valuable in a world that told him he was trash not everyone makes it out of that alive. According to the Trevor project young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to young people who are heterosexual. Some people are just going to say, you wanna know what your rights or you wanna know what I cannot find a path through this. But I think the people who do end up surviving have to acquire skills along the way. That is a thing. The press loves to write articles about the death of gay culture or the death of the gayborhood or or things like that about how things are going to become so inclusive that we're not going to need gay culture anymore, and that's preposterous because like, you know, gay culture are set of tools that we figured out over time in very hostile situations to lake manager life in a world. That's not built for us, and is never going to be built for us like it can be more inclusive, but we'll still be a tiny minority of the population. Just ahead guy leaves Yuba city, and though he gains more access to cappuccino and foreign cinema. Not all his problems get solved right away. The hilarious world of depression is supported by health partners. And by make it, okay dot org. Make it okay. As a campaign to start conversations and stop the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, not just depression. But all kinds of mental illnesses. We have some laughs on this show. It's a way of dealing with depression. Maybe demystifying depression a little bit making not so scary. But let's not kid ourselves. It's a serious illness. The good news is that people can and do recover the get help. And that's why we need to make it okay to talk openly could be an awkward conversation, but make it. Okay. Dot org is full of information. 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Back with guy Branam, we're taking a journey of identity with him something he's been doing on his own for a long time. You may have noticed that. I've unusually large for homosexual. I'm not certain this is the case. My working theory is that wants my parents realized I was going to be Gabay figured they might as well, raise the largest one in the county. If they're not getting grandchildren out of the deal, at least they could get a blue ribbon. After high school guy went to UC Berkeley, it's liberal. It's near San Francisco. It's the perfect place to come out as gay and stop hating himself like society and Eddie Murphy told him to but he doesn't come out. Then it's on to law school at the university of Minnesota. I was far enough away from my parents that I wasn't having to manage their scrutiny constantly leg. I felt that kind of distance. I was just kidding said from my friend base. And so a lot of those things I had sort of put in place to to buoy me to make me feel better. Warrant their law school was clearly terrible fit. And it's it's not that. I was the worst at it. Or that? I really hated what I was doing. It was more just sort of realizing I was moving along path that wasn't right for me guy was enrolled in law school and being a lawyer can be a very good career. There are practical reasons to stick with law school. But there were no practical reasons to stay in the closet, especially when going online became so much easier than it had been. It's just the internet had gotten better and the internet getting better made it easier to talk to other gay guys and realize like it was not this horrible thing that that Eddie Murphy and the world had convinced me that it was like I knew gay men at at Berkeley. But they scared me and. I didn't know how to talk to them because it was both full of they were it was such a jarring reminder of what I hated about myself lake. They made me nervous sexually. It was just too much. But like in a nice chat room with people. I wasn't having to look at who. I knew couldn't look at me. I got to sort of leg explore and figure it out. And the thing is like once I did come out and start exploring the world. Minnesota was a wonderful place because it is a fun gay town and just the perfect size to not be overwhelming. It's not like I got shoved out of my door into Manhattan or West Hollywood like it is all of the best of the upper mid west sending fair there gay young men to Minneapolis to do their business. But it was like. Nice reasonable boys with with real jobs and also took me a while. But like I made some really good friends, and they started showing me like this is how you live a life. And then I ended up being far more focused on that for my final year of school instead of actually learning the law. Guy was having fun. So great news problem solved. But hold up sound of screeching, brakes problem. Not solved because there's still, you know, depression, vocabulary word for this next cut and Adonia, the inability to feel pleasure. I did not know how to move towards happiness. You know what I mean? Like the Antonio was real. It did lead to coming out only lead to more problems. Like, I was depressed. I came out. I got a terrible crush on a boy. I was very annoying and helix said stop it. And that like threw me into the very like real bad state that pushed me to then go to campus health services, get on meds stark owing to talk therapy and starting working through you like we as a culture spent so much time castigating, the gays and sort of make fun of us for behaving as though coming out is a big or heart issue. But it really is. You have to figure out who you are. I didn't know, and there are ways that that is deeply liberating. You're like that other that other person was just a shell. Now. I'm going to turn into the beautiful butterfly than I am. But I think the turning into a beautiful butterfly. And so frequently. Be underpinned with all of the self hatred, and and self negation that you've learned from years of being a closeted gave her. So what guy was facing? Here was tough in many ways. In fact, let's count them. One living in Minnesota after a lifetime in California. It gets down to twenty below here to depression, which can make you be little and hate yourself three accepting that he was gay meaning society will also do the belittling and hating for you for law school and five trying to figure out overall who he was and what he should do. What are the strangest things for me in my life? Is that gave marriage became an issue? It became a thing that we even contemplated. So late in my life that you know, I was an adult before I was like, wait. How would it work? If I got married and some people, I know just our relationship oriented are the marrying. Encouraging and sort of internalized rules from heterosexuality and said that those apply to me too. And there's good and bad that comes with that behaving as though we are just the same like run some risks. But for me, it was the very different thing of having say like, oh is this something I could do it never really crossed my mind. You have to figure out you have to make wrong choices before you can make right choices like, especially when they're just aren't structures there. What's the nice responsible way to be a gay guy having anonymous sex? I don't know the world didn't tell me. And so I had to find my answers. And you know, I took some big swings. At a lot of them were were messed up because also at the same time also having to figure out like it's it's not like I went into the loving arms of homosexuality, which which took good care of me. I went into a gay bar that was very ready to be like your fat and weird. We don't want you. And I had to figure out how to manage that. It strikes me that a lot of the things that you had to do at like age twenty three or so are things that society provides for people when they're sixteen years old that kind of struggle through dating, and and all this kind of stuff like you just didn't get a chance to practice and when deeply judgmental of queer people for fee figuring those. Things out at a different point in time. I remember one time a girl saying to me to the way they came in act in a pride parade like it just seemed so immature. She said thinking, I got really mad. When did you expect us to mature? I mean, the thing is we are buying large lake very responsible indisciplined thirteen year olds while you guys are being messes. I was obsessed with the fact that here I was twenty three year old man, there's having the problems of thirteen year old girl. And so when things I did is I went to thirteen year old girl culture like I reread. Are you there? God, it's me, Margaret, I reread the diary of and Frank which is the the only piece of culture from a tween girl that we have like. Yeah. That's authentic, and it may seem morbid to go to that to figure out what liking boys is like, but like that's a real part of her life as much as being trapped. Above a pectin factory is. With one huge part of guys life becoming clearer steadily aided by Judy Blume. He's era in on another challenge his mental health which meant overcoming some biases. I haven't been so scared of meds. Like, it was a period of time when we were really talking very critically about Prozac. It was late nineties early two thousands where everyone had been scandalised by Prozac is the most prescribed drug. And I I wanted to be in talk therapy since childhood, but like because TV was obsessed with talk therapy in the eighties. But you know, we didn't have the resources in, you know, people from working class towns aren't supposed to have issues that are complex enough to require therapy. I. Like, my depression was like, an her Donia and inability to experience pleasure. And then like being crippled to inactivity, by my preoccupation with flake certain problems that I thought I had and that also led to a lot of sleep problems. And first thing that happened is I went on drugs, and it was the wrong drug. And so I was sleeping like twelve sixteen hours a day. And I did that for like a month. And at that point like, I didn't understand how to fix problems. And so I went back to the psychiatrist and she was like how's it going on? I'm like, it's fine. I've been kind of lazy like what do you mean? And I told her that I was sleeping that much. And she was like. Stop taking that drug. That means the drug is wrong. Not you. And then she put me on Prozac, and it made my problems assize that I could manage learned lessons from being on Prozac like being on Prozac allowed me to look at a problem. And instead of having it be so huge that it was insurmountable that I would never get around it to see it as something that was more manageable that I could get around that I could pick up and put away, and it is a skill set that I have been able to take into my undressed life was that the first time in your life that life had seemed like that that life had seems like surmountable the obstacle like manageable. I don't know the answer to that. Because there were definitely times earlier in my life where I had felt crushed by aspects of my life. Like, I used my nice forty in defense mechanisms before that like, there were always things that were terrifying to me, and I felt that we're going to keep me from having a life that was anywhere way worthwhile. I just use various tools to not think about them. But then they would come from me. They would come from periodically. And this really was a different point of understanding. I could like. Manage them fit lake all that I didn't have to be trapped that like my life didn't have to be a game of being trapped and talk therapy. I didn't like, you know, it's the thing about going to campus health services. The lady wasn't great. She was not well positioned for me. But it also taught me what talk therapy was and I was contentious and difficult. And sh. I found my way because one of the things is like. How do you find agency in a moment of vulnerability like that? Like, I still needed to think of myself as a smart person as a capable person as a person who had self problems. But I was also in a condition where I had to yell out to the world. I need help. And I think I was thrashing around trying to prove that I could take care of myself in a way that was counterproductive. But also me. Guy learned a lot and volved a lot during law school. But the one part that he never really liked was the whole actual law school part of it still he graduated and he moved back to the west coast dubious of the legal profession. I when I went back to California. I mean, I guess I still kind of thought I was going to be a lawyer like I had that too grea-. I I didn't know how to think about my life. It was a process of change. What other really great things was coming back and starting stand up and the minute. I got on that stage. I had to know who I was. And declaring who I was and have a perspective. And it sort of forced me to behave like a sophisticated with a gay guy. It forced me to behave. As though I knew what I wanted. And I always like for my first year or so of stand up. I really didn't imagine that. I was just going to be a hobbyist. And that the young straight boys around me, we're gonna get to go off and be real stand ups. And this was just cute thing. I would do. But then I ended up getting a job guy was hired as a writer for unscrewed with Martin Sargent on TV and started making on camera appearances as the am Basseterre of gay. He's gone onto right for the Mindy project. Totally biased with W Kamau bell Chelsea lately. He does a lot of stand up, and he hosts talk show the game show on TRU TV, you said that you that you eventually went off the Prozac that had helped you so much when and why did you do that? I think that was a result of knee moving back and not having health care. You know, like not having health insurances and important part of the first five to seven years of comedians career. I also think like I felt like I was through that patch. And so I went off it. And then. After I moved to Los Angeles. I found myself so like three years later for years later, I found myself in a situation where some of the signs were returning that. This. This mindset was coming over me. And so I went to a psychiatrist and a therapist and got back on meds. And it's a thing I've done a couple of times in my life for like. I think you know, two years or so, and then sort of said to therapist, there's the psychiatrist like, hey, I think it's time for me to go off and see how things go. Well, if they're if they're working why not just keep taking them. Because there are ways that I have found. They can get in the way of what I need to do is stand up. I don't know if this is mentally unhealthy perspective. But like their ways that they can keep me a little too fine. And I'm not pushing myself to go out and do stand up as much I'm not generating as much material. I don't know if that is. A a false causation. But I know that the two most recent times that I said, I think I wanna go off the drugs was because. My like, I wasn't going after stand up in generating material as much as I wanted to be think, it's it's it's hard. Because also when I when I'm very depressed. I also do not generate stand up or go out as much as I should if you've listened to this program for a while you've heard people comedians musicians, all kinds of people talked about how meds help their creativity. Keep them stable and more productive and how going off meds actually kills their creativity. You've also heard a say you have to find your own way. And you've heard me say that I'm not a doctor, and it's best to talk to a doctor before making decisions on something. Like this. Now guy brand does a lot of work in entertainment. He hosts the game show. He wrote a book he writes for TV. But like a lot of comedy people. He sees himself as a standup. I remember my name is guy brand I am a standup comedian. But he keeps it in perspective. I don't think stand up is therapy. Stand up should be. Steph is not what happened to us today. Stand up as crystallization of your perspective on what happened to probably three years ago. For me. It is like working out. It is like eating healthy. It is. Thing that I do to feel whole and taking care of. Lanc? It is getting to be in the middle of. My skills my writing skills, my performance skills. My improv skills to to put all of them in one place in be able to use them as much as I can for seven minutes, twelve minutes now, or whatever it is. And. It's also. The time when you are on stage, you're in a different mindset. Like there is a different kind of writing happens on stage. There's a way that ideas just sync together onstage in a way that you didn't see them before. And it's it's lovely to get to be that person. But one of the really important things about standup because it is for me like from the first time. I did it. I was just like, yes. This is wonderful. I'm getting to like. Fully expressed myself. And you know, I'm somebody who really felt like he wasn't allowed to talk about the things that he loved or his perspective for a lot of of my life and third personally myself. Like, so it's wonderful that but one of the most important things that stand up is getting off that stage and being able to like go from, you know, the self-aggrandizement and arrogance of being in charge of the space and turning that off and turn yourself back into a person. Because when you come off your your head is all blown up in your all full of yourself and that can be dangerous. And so it's you know as somebody who can feel. You know, has felt very unimportant in his life. It is fun to blow up my ego for a couple of moments, and then it's important to Deflategate folded up and put it away. Guys book is my life as goddess journey through unpopular culture, pretty good. Especially enjoyed the part that connect the word goddess. He's on Twitter at guy brand the hilarious world of depression is produced by American public media. Our producers, Chrissy peas, Christina Lopez is our web and social media. Make it happen. Her Kate Mussa's, executive producer, recording engineer and technical director this time around John Miller theme song was written in performed by Rhett Miller. No relation and read plays in a band called the old ninety seven's and I liked him. Use it in red is nice. If you need help confidential help is available at the national suicide prevention lifeline, one eight hundred two seven three eight two five five it's free twenty four hours a day seven days a week one eight hundred two seven three eighty two fifty five the hilarious world of depression is supported by health partners and make it okay dot org. Make it okay. As a campaign to start conversations and stop the stigma around mental illnesses. Make it. Okay dot org has information that can help you and your loved ones starting that conversation can be awkward, but make it okay has tips on what to say and not to say stories of hope from people who've been there, you can take the pledge to make it. Okay at make it. Okay dot org. Hilarious world dot org is our web home. We're also on Twitter and come visit us on Facebook. A lot of great conversation happened there with your fellow th wad balls new shows being formed a good place to hang out on our next episode adventures in therapy, who can I get some reverb on that adventures in therapy. True tales of breakthrough moments awkward disasters and everything in between. I'm John mo- by now. Tell.