Comedian Rick Shapiro on Surviving a Health Scare, and His Comedy Store Benefit to Help Pay the Bills

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Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 1:16 PM

click to enlarge Rick Shapiro - SHELLI WRIGHT
  • Shelli Wright
  • Rick Shapiro

Gruesome fact: most stand-up comedians don't have health insurance. Thus Louie actor and firebrand comic Rick Shapiro not only remains in the thick of prolonged effects from a heart scare, he's also facing a 60-day hospital bill.

Fortunately most stand-up comedians also look out for their own, which is exactly what they'll be doing this Thursday night at The Comedy Store's Rick Shapiro: Benefit for Healing.

Here's our interview with Shapiro:

You were hospitalized on April 13 -- your birthday, no less -- with a "mild cardiac event." What exactly does that mean, and what do you recall about the experience?

The medication that I was prescribed impacted my heart and destroyed my nervous system. I guess I have blocked a lot of it out, but I know I refused to take my boots off for the first 24-hours. I look back now and remember the nurses that had to feed me, wipe my ass... so along with miscarriage jokes and gargoyles running for president (a bunch of Shreks in blue suits), I guess I have nursing home material now.

How long were you in the hospital, and how has your recovery progressed?

I was in the hospital for 60 days. Fifty of them were in a wheelchair. Now I am walking but it's really hard to get comfortable. I mean, man, it was, is, traumatic. I am not the kind of guy that takes time off... Progress, if you call this progress. I am lucky, though. I am told I almost died.

What are your doctors saying about your current status? Are you more or less out of the woods?

I am healing now. Only time can fix that. I keep going to doctor appointments and all they keep saying is I am doing great. What the fuck is great about not being yourself? The hospital even graduated me from "home care," meaning they don't send nurses to my house anymore. Now I have private care -- that is where the donations have gone. Before, I was unable to walk, move, hold a coffee cup, for like 45 days... I want to get back on stage. I want this to be over. I want my body back. I am a comic that gets on stage, and now I sleep. I hate this. I am so angry. At least no one is feeding me bowl of oatmeal in under 12 seconds anymore.

How has all of this affected your long-planned run of nightly shows at Scotland's annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August?

Nothing is going to prevent me from grabbing the mic. I picked up the habit of pacing from 60 days in the hospital; I am sure that will stoke up the fires in my head. I just have a hard time ice skating.

And what else is on the horizon following Edinburgh?

I'd like to stay overseas for as long as I can...another CD, publish another book, do another movie. But I like it in London. I like the comedy there. I don't know...I kinda have a different perspective on things now. So I guess I accept this new reality.

What can supporters who attend your Comedy Store benefit expect from the show?

Well, this will be my second scheduled public event...I am much taller now, and I smell like the essence of lavender oil. Really, though, the comics on the bill are people I have known a while and respect. So the audience can expect a bit of a roast, lots of laughs. Also, me: my gratitude for everything may render me speechless. I was hospitalized when my first benefit happened. I must have called my manager 20 times to ask what was going on. I remember texting her, "Did I die? Why are people helping?" So to be there, with Morgan [Murphy], Laurie [Kilmartin], Chris [Neff] and Eddie [Ifft] and everyone else that attends, well, I really am lucky.

Anything else you'd like to get out there?

Just thanks. I am thankful. It kinda blows me away how much support I have received from comics, fans, friends.

Rick Shapiro: Benefit for Healing. With Chris Neff, Laurie Kilmartin, Eddie Ifft and Morgan Murphy will take place at The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., Thurs., July 19, 7 p.m., (323) 650-6268, $25. www.rickshapiro.tv

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