Posts Tagged ‘surgery’

Healing With Humor

November 13, 2013

Monday November 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

This has been a rough year health wise for more than a few of my friends. It’s been no polka in the park for me either having to deal with my recent kidney stone, but that’s nothing compared to what some other people I know have had to face. Many are comedians, and it doesn’t seem right.

I would think since comedians provide a service to humankind we’d get some sort of free pass, but we aren’t exempt from the same health horrors everyone else faces. Sometimes it even seems like we get it worse, which I could never understand. There are a lot of people I know suffering.

Jim Wiggins had cancer surgery just a couple of months ago, and he’s having to get used to life with no prostate or bladder. He is now cancer free which is something to celebrate, but that came with one hell of a price. He’s recovering nicely from what I hear, and hopes to work again soon.

Scot Wickmann is another comedian friend who has been dealing with health issues for a long time. He has been on kidney dialysis for quite a while, and recently he had triple bypass surgery. That’s serious enough, but apparently there was an infection and he had to have more surgery.

Bill Gorgo has been getting updates from Scot’s wife Jackie, and she said Scot just had one of two more surgeries he needs and everything went smoothly. He had an abscess on an artery, and that sounds frightening. I don’t have details and the last thing I ever want to do is bother Jackie.

The bottom line is, even if his next surgery goes well he’ll be lucky to be out of the hospital by Christmas. Crikey. I thought the eight or nine days I spent in the hospital for my surgery in 2011 was horrific – and it was. I can’t begin to imagine having to be in a hospital bed for six weeks.

Again, my problems really aren’t problems compared to what Jim and Scot and so many others are going through, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of them. There are a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to help comfort them if I can. It’s all about human kindness.

All that actually matters in life is what we are able to give – especially to those that truly are in need. What could I do myself or help to organize that will make someone’s life even a little more pleasant when there’s a long road of recovery ahead? There has to be some way of reaching out.

I was delighted to be able to organize the big benefit comedy show last October for Milwaukee Police Officer Josh Albert after he was almost killed by a drunk driver going the opposite way on a freeway on ramp. His injuries were beyond a nightmare, but we were able to assist financially.

Peter Jest of Shank Hall in Milwaukee donated the hall, and the all comedians donated our time to perform. Drew Olson was a fabulous host that night, and Officer Albert’s work partner and my cousin Katie Anderer and her whole family got the word out to make it a success. We received a blanket of media coverage as well, and it ended up being a successful event that helped someone.

That’s what life is about. Period. I know we all need to pay our bills, but after that it’s what we are able to give that has any lasting meaning. Seeing my personal friends having to endure all of the personal hell they’ve been through makes me want to jump up and take action to help them.

But what could that be? I’d like it to be comedy related somehow, but I don’t think doing a live show is the answer. I would gladly volunteer to do it in a second if that would help, but it doesn’t strike me as the solution. I think there needs to be something that is able to reach more shut ins.

Scot Wickmann is going to be laid up in bed for a while. Even if he wanted to see a live show I doubt if he could make it unless they wheeled his bed right into the performance area. I’d be fine with it, but I can’t see it happening. A room full of beds with people from ICU would be silly.

It’s hard enough to be funny in a traditional comedy setting, but this would be off the charts to try and pry laughs out of hospital patients. That’s not what I had in mind. I would like to create a product that could be used to touch people depending on their condition, and that’s a wide scope.

One idea I had would be to interview comedians who have endured health issues, and try to put a comedic perspective on things that as a rule aren’t funny. When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice there are a lot of potentially funny events that only someone who has experienced them could relate to. I bet it would be of great comfort to have a video for new patients to watch.

There has to be a way to produce a video of comedians telling their hospital stories, and have it run on a constant loop on one of the hospital TV channels. I’d bet there could be several releases over time, as a lot of comedians have stories. I’m sure some celebrities would jump on board too.

David Letterman went through major heart surgery a while back, and I’m sure that gave him an abundance of stories that are a lot funnier now that he’s fully recovered. Sometimes it seems like the situation is overwhelming while in the hospital, and something to offer comfort would help to put a patient’s mind at ease. I remember how I felt when I was laying there and it was a bad trip.

Another idea I’d love to pursue would be establishing a humor library in all hospitals so people could watch and listen to comedy as they recover. It could be standup comedy CDs and DVDs or funny movies or even written publications like Mad magazine or comic books. It could help pass the time for patients, and even the employees could use it. I’m sure a medical staff has stress too.

I realize that these are all pie in the sky dreams, but I want to put it out there in the universe so hopefully someone else will see it and act on it. Even if it’s bouncing an idea back at me, I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward however I can. This is an idea that has no time restrictions.

We always see photo ops where celebrity athletes go in and meet sick kids in the hospital, and I think that’s a great thing don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more of it, but what better source of cheering people up who need it is there than comedians. This would be a way to really be of use.

I think this would be a great place to develop the King of Uranus character. It’s so goofy that it can’t help to at least get the attention of somebody in a sick bed and take their mind off their pain for the moment. One way or another, I really want to reach out and make a hurting person laugh.

Hearing of Scot’s current situation and Jim’s recent issues has brought this idea to the forefront of my thoughts. It would be a great opportunity to match comedians with recovering patients and I’m going to keep thinking of what I can do to get this ball rolling. Service is what life is about.

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

Cancer No More

October 18, 2013

Thursday October 10th, 2013 – Sparta, WI

In all my years of gallivanting around North America, I can only recall a couple of times when my schedule happened to work out conveniently. I am notorious for having horrific routing over most of my career, and the stress from it has probably already shaved some years off of my life.

I’ve got some more coming up in a couple of days, but for now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve got a show tomorrow night in LaCrosse, WI and that allowed me to take a ride to Sparta, WI with my friend Bill Gorgo to visit our mutual friend Jim Wiggins on his birthday. It was a special birthday for Jim as he was just released from a nine day hospital stint after having major surgery.

If anyone can relate to the misery of nine days in the hospital it’s me. That’s how long I had to rot when I was in for my own surgery in 2011. It seems like two lifetimes ago now, but it was an unexpected obstacle in an already difficult life. I wasn’t expecting it, and it changed me forever.

Other than total financial disaster, I’m much better for it today. My type 2 diabetes is in check, and I could have easily lost all my plumbing. Any time a man has his junk sliced up like sushi it gets his undivided attention. ‘Testicle’ is a funny word – unless it involves surgery on one’s own.

I’m just now getting to a point where I can talk about it freely on stage. I’ve done it a few times and it’s gotten mixed responses. There’s a fine line between comedy and sympathy and there has to be just the right mixture of funny in place to get laughs rather than ‘oohs’ – or stunned silence.

I’m still working on it, and hopefully I’ll be around a while longer to polish it into a closing bit. Anytime severe discomfort and someone else’s genitals are involved, it’s always a guaranteed hit with a crowd. ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ has proven it for years. Nothing follows a crotch hit.

Jim Wiggins had a crotch hit of his own as he had his prostate and bladder removed. That’s not funny in the least, but life plays no favorites – even with comedians. It’s our job to find the funny in a lot of things that don’t seem glib on the surface, and I have no doubt Jim will use this as fuel for future routines. We can’t help it. A true comedian always looks for funny in every situation.

Sometimes that’s what keeps us going. Life can be downright frightening, and if anyone could come even close to relating what Jim was feeling it was me. He had a lot more done than I had to have, but I know how lonely and intimidating it can be laying alone in a hospital bed waiting for some stranger to carve into your bean bag like dark meat on a turkey. It makes sleep impossible.

I wanted to make sure I saw Jim on his birthday, but Bill and I weren’t sure if he would still be in the hospital or not. His hospital was in LaCrosse, so either way we knew we’d see him but it’s much better that he was at home. He was tired and moving slow, but he looked remarkably good. We didn’t know what to expect, but he exceeded our expectations. We were just glad to see him.

The best news of all is that he’s now cancer free. He had gone through three painful bouts with chemo, and that’s now over with. Now the thing to focus on is healing, and Bill and I focused on that as we sat and visited. Jim eventually nodded off to sleep, but I knew he was glad we showed up. I was glad we did too. For once my routing made it possible for me to be in the right place.

Comedian Jim Wiggins 'The Last Hippie In America' no longer has cancer! www.lasthippie.com

Comedian Jim Wiggins ‘The Last Hippie In America’ no longer has cancer! http://www.lasthippie.com