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Robert Tisdale, 59: Laughter as Medicine

The pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in mental health problems and substance abuse, and Robert Tisdale decided to do something about it, applying his unique and diverse skill set to the creation of an app and foundation designed to heal. He discusses his path from modeling to movie production to mental health solutions, and laughter as medicine.

The incidences of mental health problems and substance abuse have risen dangerously during the pandemic. Relapse and overdose rates have increased by 30% since March 2020. Isolation and loneliness related to lockdowns are especially hard for people in the grips of addiction and depression. Robert Tisdale has taken his formidable combination of skills in digital communication, entertainment, and entrepreneurism and focused it on this crisis, helping to develop a tool for treatment centers to better address the needs of their people.

His experience of working in fashion in Paris in the ’80s, having produced a major film in LA, and having run a talent management agency, has given the Elizabeth, NJ native a unique perspective on how hard those worlds can be on the people in them. It may look seductive on the surface, but underneath these industries can be crushingly hard on psyches. At an age and a level of accomplishment that others could allow themselves to avert their eyes, Robert has come up with a novel and compelling solution to the pandemic’s isolation for those who are some of the most vulnerable to being alone.

How did you become interested in recovery?
Over the years I’ve experienced friends, clients and family suffer from substance and alcohol abuse / mental illness. Some are no longer here. Four years ago, I completed an MBA from LMU and decided to add Recovery Advocate and Strategic Consultant services to my string of pearls, taking Recovery Centers through digital transformation. I learned what the underbelly looked like and decided to make a difference, simultaneously identifying ethical accredited facilities that could be shared with addicts suffering from the disease. Our soon to be launched site is LaughMDrecovery.com.

LaughMD Recovery App

How are laughter and comedy used to help people in recovery?
Watching comedy for a few minutes reduces stress levels significantly. There’s a lot of science that supports laughter as a medicine.

How is the digital recovery app used by the customer? Is there a program? Are they connected to other people in recovery?
LaughMD Recovery product is an enterprise app available to facilities only. Each patient has their own device that’s not connected to the internet. The app is a HIPAA compliant product, filled with vetted comedy and inspirational content as well as proprietary content aligned with a facility’s clinical program.

How are you managing privacy issues?
Our technology supports de-identified data only. LaughMD Recovery doesn’t know the identity of patients. 
 
Could this sort of app be used for other similar issues outside of addiction recovery?
Absolutely. One of our advisors is a behavioral health professional. They see the value add for social skills programs supporting the autism ecosystem, children, young adults and their families.

What would you say the need your app is addressing that is not currently being address by recovery centers?
The APP is solving a problem. It’s a one-stop-shop platform for each patient to explore content which enables a healing process to occur earlier than usual. As an example, a patient’s device is usually taken away at in-take. During intake, they’re given the LaughMD Recovery device with the APP preloaded that is not connected to the internet.
Imagine six patients are watching television together. Someone turns on a piece of inappropriate content which could possibly be a trigger. The LaughMD Recovery APP creates an opportunity for a patient to depart from the group to their room and enjoy some comedy, podcasts, and or inspirational content. They’re able to explore the APP further which includes other content aligned with a facilities clinical program that a person suffering from the disease will appreciate.

 

It’s a major value add during Covid19. Many facilities are operating at an adjusted capacity. LaughMD Recovery also assists with moving a program forward when isolation is necessary.

What would you say the future of mental health/recovery looks like? How do you see digital and IRL working together?
Covid19 has been a level 5 hurricane for those suffering from mental illness and addiction. Suicides and relapses and well as domestic violence has been escalated. Just like we need successful vaccine outcomes, economic stimulus, we need to fuel facilities and organizations with the strategic tools to create solutions for the future of mental health/ recovery. The healing process is a lifetime journey. 

LaughMD Recovery is an example of a digital solution. As well as Integrity Recovery Foundation. (IRF). Both are solving problems via healthcare technology and creating philanthropy with innovative ways by delivering present and proactive strategies that assist the recovery ecosystem in many ways with the hopeful expectation of saving lives.

Robert leading a recovery panel of advisors the Integrity Recovery Foundation

Integrity Recovery Foundation

Is this the first app you have built? What was the process? How did you learn the new skills you needed?
Yes. This is the first app I’ve been involved with. One of my business partners and I identified a developer and edited very closely with them to create the app.

Please tell us about Integrity Recovery Foundation.
We launched the Integrity Recovery Foundation (IRF) in 2020. I’m the Founder and Executive Director with a solid team. IRF evaluates resources and economic services for those suffering from alcohol and substance abuse and mental illness.

Modeling, Management, Movie Production, MBA

You have a fascinating background. Could you walk us through how you got modeling, then management, movie production then an MBA? That is quite a journey.
Thank you. I started modeling in NYC while in college. I always used the opportunity for side cash. I was repped by a couple of really cool modeling agencies and had the opportunity to live and travel throughout Europe. Mainly Paris, Milan, and London.

I left London for a fashion editorial spread for a British magazine shooting in Los Angeles and decided to stay.

Around then I decided to take a modeling timeout and was recruited into the automobile industry, working my way up very quickly to a Sales Manager at a Toyota store in Culver City. The majority of my clients were in the entertainment industry. I probably filled out hundreds of credit applications understanding the careers that were possible.

[After meeting with Bryan Lourd, one of the partners] at CAA (Creative Artists Agency) I decided to become a talent manager. Annabel Schofield, a fabulous British model/actress was my first client. Her dad is the late John Schofield, film producer (Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets, etc). I learned a lot from them and the importance of representing clients that you really like and believe in…

I launched Managing Artistic Concepts in 1998. It’s been through many facelifts and pivoting.

Another early client was Jeff Jenkins, whose works are mainly in the scripted reality world. The Kardashian franchise, The Simple Life starring Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie, and many more.

Robert Tisdale

Jeff wrote a screenplay titled Play Dead. He was in production and needed more funds. I found $200k or so and jumped on board as a producer. A fun fact is that a college buddy Joe Jacobs, who’s one of the very few Black outdoor advertising developers, wrote the check.

A few years later, Joe and I secured a 14 x 48 billboard in Hollywood at Sunset and La Brea where I locked a contract with Paris Hilton for a couple of years. Her manager Jason Moore was a friend and helped get the deal done. We created an opportunity for Paris’ brands at the time to keep their billboard leased.

I spent years building and juggling a sea full of stuff as a Holistic Entrepreneur, where there’s no separation from my love, life, work, and spirituality. I decided in 2014 that it was time to communicate a bit closer with my colleagues that have navigated the ‘C’ Suites throughout various industries. I decided an MBA would take all things to the next level. I spent every Saturday morning on the Loyola Marymount campus for 18 months knocking it out getting that done.

“The ’80s fashion industry was decadent and fun!”

What was Paris in the ’80s like in the fashion industry?
The ’80s fashion industry was decadent and fun! Just so happened that designers started casting Black men for fashion week around that time. I bounced around Europe following the shows, etc. Paris really helped mold me in more ways than one. I’ll leave it at that…
 
How did you come to make Play Dead?
Writer, director, client Jeff Jenkins needed help so I came to the rescue. I really enjoyed working with the cast and team. The lead actor Nathan Bexton was a client. The supporting cast Diva Zappa (Frank Zappa’s daughter) and Jason Hall (who later wrote the Oscar nominated American Sniper) along with Sheri Rose and then child actress Jessica Stone. I was really proud of this work as a producer and my company Managing Artistic Concepts as one of two production companies. This process gave me a solid education of the filmmaking process. I secured the foreign sales rep after the production was selected to participate at the Slam Dance Film Festival that runs concurrent to The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. We sold the film to Here TV.

Fitness and Superpower

Do you have a fitness/wellness routine?
I’m a low-key yoga guy that enjoys weightlifting, running, meditation, and staying positive.

Do you have a favorite app, supplement, or piece of fitness gear?
The ab roller is my friend these days. I don’t really take supplements, etc.

What would you say your superpower is?
Spiritual maturity, positivity, and a high level of emotional-social intelligence. My social media hashtag of over 10 years is #positivityisourbirthright
 
What are your ambitions looking forward 5 or 10 years?
Staying positive, loving more, helping others, and taking my Holistic Hollywood Entrepreneurial Lifestyle and Ventures to levels beyond my own understanding. I also call them my ‘string of pearls.’

https://www.laughmd.com/

https://integrityrecoveryfoundation.org/

3 COMMENTS

  1. Robert’s positive attitude is infectious and his aim is true with these impactful solutions. Looking forward to seeing LaughMD and Integrity Recovery Foundation make major strides for the many people dealing with substance abuse challenges today.

  2. Robert Tisdale is most definitely what I would call a multipotentialite or multi-passionate. Happy to see us represented in your writing. In addition, would love to see more people of color highlighted on your cover.

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AUTHOR

David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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