Part of Jon Richardson’s standup act recognizes his OCD-like tendencies, his stress about how his flatmates don’t do the washing up correctly, for example: leaving the spoons out to dry face up so that a “little pool of shitty water” collects in them, and how he’s going to stab them for putting the knives in the wrong place. On 8 Out of 10 Cats, the panel show where Richardson is team captain, he’s known as the one who is a little bit OCD, but he’s never actually been diagnosed.
In his documentary A Little Bit OCD (2012), Richardson investigates varying types and severities of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by interviewing people who have it and people who treat it. This ranges from mild cases like Friday Night Dinner star Tom Rosenthal, who has a particular way of walking on pavement, but doesn’t find his OCD affects a large percentage of his life, to people so disrupted by the disorder that they can’t take care of themselves anymore. After visiting a facility designed to help people recover (a place that had Richardson touch a toilet seat and then rub it all over himself as a treatment method), Richardson feels a sense of hope, that people can slide from severe to mild, but after visiting the OCD mother of a student who took his life because his inherited OCD became unbearable, Richardson feels the dread, seeing how bad it can get. It also poses a question about whether people can get OCD from their parents, either by picking up their behaviors or through heredity. He visits his mother, who believes that Jon is the way he is because during her pregnancy with Jon’s little sister, she developed anxieties about germs, symptoms which still linger today.
Richardson visits some old flatmates, one of whom is comedian Russell Howard. They recount stories of Jon and the cutlery, dubbed The Spoon Wars 2006. (“When you take a spoon into your room and leave it, you’re stealing it.”) His flatmates lament when they hear that Richardson spent a few of those nights sleeping in the car because he felt guilty for being an asshole about spoons. It was partly that he couldn’t stand to be in the flat but partly punishment to himself. (“I will go out and sleep in the car because it’s my fault and I deserve to be unhappy for wanting it a certain way.”) This is a running attribute throughout the documentary: Everyone Richardson speaks with recognizes that the problem is with themselves and not the untidy other people, that they blame themselves, sometimes unfairly or too dramatically, for any conflict that arises out of their compulsions. Some feel most anxious about the horrible consequences of not doing what they feel urged to do (straighten the canned foods, for example), while others just find straightening the cans will free up their minds to allow them to think of other things.
In the end, Richardson finally gets tested for OCD. I won’t tell you the results–you’ll have to watch the documentary–but OCD or not, what Richardson ultimately decides is that because his compulsions don’t bother him much, what he actually has is Obsessive Compulsive Order. Is this a new take on one of his old jokes that at the beginning of the documentary he says he regrets? “I never say I’ve got OCD because it’s got the word disorder in it and it seems untidy.” Or can we attribute it to Richardson’s confidence, comfort, and functionality in his lifestyle?