"You have cancer."
That’s how it’s said. The doctors always walk in, business as usual, and swiftly tell you something that will change your life forever. You sit there and your whole life flashes before your eyes. Everything that you’ve lived for is just gone in a flash. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve been here…
In 2005 I moved from Chicago out to California to play professional hockey. I was 17 years old and it’s all I ever wanted to do with my life. That dream quickly shattered, along with my collar bone, a week later. My perfect dream morphed into a lonely nightmare. I left everything and everyone to pursue this passion and it was taken away. There was no whistle, tag out, or “SCENE!” I had to “YES, and” my entire life…and that’s exactly what I did.
Improv gave me a new direction in life, but fulfilled me with the themes I was familiar with. I had a stage (was no longer frozen), a crowd that cheered for success, and a new group of friends to call a team. I could be myself (or anyone/anything I wanted to be) and make up new worlds that I controlled. Nothing bad could happen while I was on stage. I was safe. And maybe…even for a few minutes…I could help someone going through their own personal hell.
Flash forward 11 years later. I decided to do something I never thought I would do - make a move away from improv. WHAT?! It’s not like I didn’t love it anymore, but my girlfriend, Sarah, knew I needed to grow and I needed to be on larger stages. She knew that improv alone wasn’t going to take me where I wanted to go. She was right.
Improv gave me everything I needed. I am comfortable on stage in any situation…this only helps me in my new stand up comedy career. I have endless stories of insane scenes, audience members, and wild shows that I still reminisce about whenever I get the chance to. I’ve made life long friends that I’ve shared so many laughs with. Most importantly, it gave me an escape from the darkest time in my life.
It’s funny how things change.
"You have cancer."
I didn’t even know what to say. What can you even say? I felt helpless and angry, just like I did when I was diagnosed in 2005. Except it was worse this time, because the doctor wasn’t talking to me.
It’s amazing how fast you become a performer when anyone receives bad news. We want to bring happiness. We want people smile around us. It’s what I am meant to do. I tried to make Sarah smile that day…I failed.
The next few weeks were a blur - tears, tests, doctors, and family calling us nonstop. How is this our lives now? How are we going to get through this? “You need to keep pursuing comedy,” Sarah told me. What?! How could I even do that? My mind can’t focus on anything else right now! Our whole world is ending! “It’s just like when you got hurt," she went on. "It all worked out for the best.”
Life is an improv game. Sometimes the start is rough and you don’t know what’s going on, but a gift comes along that gets you back on track.
A few days later I got a phone call about a new improv team starting up and if I wanted to come to practice. Can improv really save me from me twice? It has.
So here I am. Round 2 of my improv journey. And being a part of ComedySportz has been an absolute blessing. It gives me chance to escape the unescapable and to not feel so alone. It clears my mind and refreshes my thoughts…and that, believe it or not, helps Sarah. She doesn’t want me sad, stressed, or angry. She wants the clown she met five years ago and feels that us staying who we are through this rough patch will ultimately get rid of this terrible disease.
We’re still battling this terrible disease and we may have to for a while - but if improv has taught me anything, it’s to dig my way out of rough spots because you never know how incredible the scene can be if you keep moving forward.