The Frame

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Comedian Quincy Jones: 'There is no cancer when I'm on that stage'

by Darby Maloney and Michelle Lanz with Elizabeth Nonemaker | The Frame

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Comedian Quincy Jones, left, with The Frame host John Horn.

UPDATE 6/01

Here's a link to Quincy's stand-up special, which hits HBO on June 2. 

UPDATE 3/21

HBO has announced that it will air Quincy Jones's stand-up special. Jones recently went on the "Ellen" show and host Ellen Degeneres called out for a network to pick up his special. Looks like it worked!: 

On July 3, 2015, L.A.-based comedian Quincy Jones received the kind of phone call that many of us have nightmares about: he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given about a year to live. 

Jones has been going through chemotherapy, but he's also embarked on another journey: he wants to tape an hour-long special of his standup comedy, explaining that "would be [his] opus."

Friend and fellow comedian Nicole Blaine volunteered to produce it along with her husband, Mickey Blain, and to help with the production costs they started a Kickstarter campaign. Their projected goal was $4,985. To date, with 21 days left in the campaign, they've already received pledges exceeding $35,000.

Originally from Seattle, Jones came to Los Angeles four years ago to further his stand-up career. He worked as a barista while pursuing comedy gigs at night. When he got the cancer diagnosis he'd just booked a comedy tour on the East Coast. Jones spoke with The Frame's John Horn to talk about his goal, and what it's like pursuing a lifelong creative dream while simultaneously battling stage 4 peritoneal mesothelioma.

To hear an extended interview with Jones in which he talks in more depth about his diagnosis, his childhood and Chris Rock as an influence, click on the play button at the top of this post. Below are some interview highlights.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

I want to talk a little bit about your diagnosis of mesothelioma. 

I have peritoneal mesothelioma. There are three types of mesothelioma: peritoneal is in the lining of the stomach wall, where mine's at. It's the second most rare; [there's] the lung, which is most common; and then the heart. And so they all get in a lining and they block the vessels so fluid can't travel through it. It has to get backed up somewhere. 

And what have the treatments been like? Is there a lot of chemo? 

A lot. I just had chemo on Monday.

How are you feeling?

Nauseous. It comes and goes in waves.

Have the things that you've found funny changed since you got your diagnosis? And has comedy changed in terms of what it means to you — what you're able to laugh at and what isn't funny anymore?

For me, I still find things funny. I love comedy. I love the art of it. It's pure joy for me on that stage. I love the ability to perform. And one of my biggest fears when I was in that hospital — I thought I wasn't going to be able to perform again. And so when people asked me, What do you want to do?, I said, Well, the next step in my career would be a special. An hour special. I have over an hour of material.

Is the whole idea, that you can leave behind a document, a testament, the version of your comedy that can live forever?

Yeah, that was the thing. When you're faced with your mortality, like — most of us lived life before the documentation of the Internet and Instagram. I don't have any pictures of when I went to Paris or anything like that online. I don't have any kids. I don't have a wife. What do I have? You start thinking about it. At 31, you're like, What do I have? What have I done? You start looking at all your friends who are getting married and having kids. Because I'm at that age now. I'm like, I gave up on that life to be at an open mic? You know what I'm saying? You start questioning — Oh my goodness, did I make the right decision? Is this really what I want to do? And then I was like, Alright, well, I do comedy. That's what defines me. That's what I am. I'm a comedian. So I want to leave a special behind.

The comedian Nicole Blaine started this Kickstarter campaign for you. Who is Nicole and how did you meet her?

Nicole Blaine is a good friend of mine. She's an amazing comic and producer. I met her at an open mic and we just hit it off. She and her husband Mickey, they're a production team. They [said], "We want to help you film a special." Then the Kickstarter [campaign] dropped. But I was in chemo when the Kickstarter dropped.

So you had no idea that not only had you met your goal, you went way past it. 

I had no idea. I didn't know until Tuesday afternoon. I had chemo on Monday afternoon and I was just out of it. And then Tuesday afternoon I posted on Facebook, and I was like, Whoa! The love has been amazing. It's an amazing feeling, that all humans have come together. It almost restores faith in humanity. Because these people don't have to do this. They don't have to donate.

What do you imagine it will be like when you step to the microphone during that special? It's been your life ambition to have a one-hour comedy special. You're going to be onstage with the microphone at the same time that you have a stage four cancer diagnosis. 

There is no cancer when I'm on that stage. I don't feel anything. I give myself so much to the craft. I'm so in love with it that [I] don't feel any limitations. The only thing you're restricted by is time. But you have these people — they're there to watch. They're supportive. And this is any performance. So I imagine in the special, it's going to be people who also want to support. And they're there to laugh. They're there because maybe my story inspired them. 

The special is dedicated to anybody who has been through cancer, lost someone to cancer, or has cancer. It's not about me. This is bigger than me. This is literally about a disease. It's not even just about peritoneal mesothelioma. It's about cancer. 

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