‘Have a Good Trip’ Humorously Examines What We Think We Know About Psychedelics
After thirty years of working as a writer and producer on shows like “The Simpsons,” “Late Show With David Letterman” and “Parks and Recreation,” Donick Cary looks to shift the conversation around LSD and other hallucinogens with his Netflix documentary “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.” Partly entertaining, partly educational, a host of celebrities, including Carrie Fisher, Anthony Bourdain, Sting, Sarah Silverman, Nick Kroll, Rosie Perez and ASAP Rocky, regale the viewer with tales of their own psychedelic trips.
“This really came from, like most things in my life, a pursuit of comedy,” Cary explained to Entertainment Voice. “It seemed like a funny, uncomfortable, interesting, weird area of stories to explore, hopefully for laughs, first.”
As Cary got deeper into his research and interviews, he became more interested in the medical benefits of psychedelics and how they can be used to treat depression and other ailments. This led to the inclusion of enlightening interviews from alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra and UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. Charles Grob, as well as Nick Offerman in a lab coat hitting us with knowledge. “This recipe in comedy that took me a long time to learn while writing for shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Parks and Rec’ is that often things are funnier if there’s a little bit more reality in it.”
He continued, “There’s been a lot of versions of addiction and depression and things in my family history that [made me realize] this stuff is, when looked at as a medicine and a tool rather than an illicit drug that we can’t talk about, something that might offer some answers if we go about it the right way.”
“Have a Good Trip” includes a host of comedians, not just the storytellers, but also those who vividly reenact some of the stories, including Andy Devine, Natasha Leggero and Rob Corddry, while other tales are recreated using animation. To obtain such a wealth of talent, Cary made use of the persistence he learned not only during his years of TV producing, but also through his work with his musical charity Musack, as he often reaches out for celebrity support in his fundraising efforts. “That was sort of the process for this and learning through life that you gotta just ask. You gotta ask one hundred times for ten things to happen.”
“Have a Good Trip” also includes a hilarious parody of an eighties afterschool special. Hosted by Adam Scott, with Riki Lindhome, Haley Joel Osment and Maya Erskine playing teenagers who find themselves freaking out at a drug party. “Some of the messages were great,” said Cary of the afterschool specials he grew up on. “They were trying to deal with big issues of alcoholism and pill-popping and stuff, but the general gist when it came to psychedelics was, if you even touch one of these, you’re going to jump out of the window.”
Cary realized the disconnect between what he was told as a kid and what psychedelics actually do when he got older and began attending Grateful Dead concerts and other events where people were indulging. It is his hope that this film leads people to question what they think they know about these types of drugs and to think outside of the box. “Forget everything you heard; forget all the scare stuff. These are real people telling real stories. They aren’t telling you that you should do it, they aren’t telling you it will fix everything, but they are telling you to have a conversation about it and think about it in a new way.”
Probably the most memorable parts of “Have a Good Trip” are the interviews with two people who are no longer with us, actress Carrie Fisher and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. “They are shining lights of inspiration, Carrie and Anthony,” said Cary with fondness.
Cary recalled spending an afternoon with Fisher in her home. “She shared some really practical stuff… She was like, ‘You can’t tell an orderly story when you talk about psychedelics. It’s like this dream state.’ You start to talk to people, and she was right, there’s no orderly story. She gave four hours of unorderly stories when we talked to her.” In addition to the humorous and on-brand story Fisher tells in the film, she also spoke to Cary about, “Stuff that was close to her heart. She was talking about friends she was with and going to Grateful Dead shows, just this snapshot of where she came from.”
He also reflected on what he learned from Bourdain. “Travel and food and connection, the way he brought his gifts to all of us through those things, the undercurrent that I loved was, and the message I was getting through a lot of these stories was, connection. We’re all the same when we look at it. We all want to share good food, good music… We’re all supposed to sit at the table and break bread with each other and learn how to emphasize.”
When asked about if he plans to use the extra footage of Fisher in a future a future project, Cary discussed the possibility of creating a sequel or series with not only more Fisher, but also celebrity interviews that did not make the final cut, including those with Patton Oswalt, Bootsie Collins, James Van Der Beek, and the late Tommy Ramone.
A “Have a Good Trip” series would no doubt be compared with the Comedy Central Series “Drunk History,” which began to air after Cary’s film was already in the works. He pointed out the key difference between the two. “They’re doing real history with drunk people, while we’re doing very sober people reflecting on their own personal history.”
When all is said and done, Cary hopes that we can honor those we have lost by looking at the good in them and following their examples. “With Anthony, I’m like, share travel stories, make good food and share recipes. Talk to people who you might not know and listen to different perspectives… Be a rebel like Carrie was. Oh my god, she was never afraid to say anything.”
“Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” begins streaming May 11 on Netflix.