Carrie Fisher is talking about electro-convulsive therapy -- ECT, more commonly known as shock therapy -- and how valuable it's been for her in dealing with the depressive aspects of bipolar disorder. And yes, she admits, it does mess with her ability to remember some things.
"My memory is lousy," she says, joking, "I can't tell which part of that is age, which is LSD and which is ECT."
It's a good line -- is it going to become part of her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking?
"Oh, my mind just does that," she says. "The lines go into the show, they go out. I'll use it, then think of a better place for it. I have one where I say, 'I'm really comfortable in my own skin. I just wish there wasn't so much of it.' It keeps moving around."
Fisher is chatting on the phone about Wishful Drinking, the one-woman show she created in 2008, based on her book of the same name. Having developed it at Berkeley Repertory Theater and played it on Broadway, Fisher now has a filmed version that began airing on HBO this week.
And, as befits someone who talks about her own bipolar disorder in her show, Fisher is of two minds about it. On the one hand, she's glad to have a document of a piece of her life that she's been performing off and on for two years -- and will continue to perform into the future. On the other hand, like a comedian who has just presented a well-honed bit to a TV audience, she will never have the element of surprise on her side again with this work.
"Yeah, I didn't think of that until it was too late," Fisher, 54, says with a throaty chuckle. "But there is a whole part that's ad-libbed every night. It changes all the time. I could do a whole show called Any Questions? I love doing something like that. Then it's its own animal. It's easier than memorizing and reciting the tale of my life."
Like most of her writing, the book -- and the show -- grew out of Fisher's own experiences. The daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, she's chronicled her own problems with substance abuse, demanding parents, unhappy relationships and mental illness since writing the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge in 1987. But it was always easier to do, she says, when she was writing it as fiction, rather than fact.
"There's more freedom in writing the books because I can make stuff up," she says. "When I'm doing it in the first person as myself, I have to ask people's permission to talk about them. When it's third person, I'm omniscient. I can play God. Or God-ish."
Still, the idea of telling her own story -- about herself and her family -- appealed to her. She was, in a sense, doing it anyway.