Potent laughter

Comedian celebrates a new child,
new pilot and no sign of cancer

Robert Schimmel

Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Tickets: $20 to $25
Call: 589-1999

It's the second coming of Robert Schimmel -- in both a professional and personal capacity. Calling from his tour stop in Miami in advance of his Pipeline Cafe shows Thursday and Friday, the candid, sometimes raucous "comedian's comedian" said he had just signed a contract that arrived by overnight courier that completes a development deal for a sitcom on the WB. The new show will be produced in conjunction with Howard Stern Productions.

"Immediately after getting back from Honolulu, I'll be meeting with the guy who'll help produce the show, cast it, shoot the pilot episode in March, and by May we'll know whether or not the show will be premiering in the fall," he said.

The show will be based on his life both onstage and off with "my beautiful wife and daughter."

These are not the only things Schimmel is thankful for these days. "It's also an exciting time for me because when I walk on stage Friday night, it'll be my birthday -- it'll be three years in remission, and what better way than to celebrate it but in Hawaii."

Schimmel was diagnosed with third-stage non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer in June 2000, just two weeks after inking a sitcom deal with Fox after his career-making HBO special, "Unprotected," aired. He was given only six months to live. He had already lost his 11-year-old son, Derek, to brain cancer, and his mother is a breast cancer survivor.

But the 53-year-old attributes the healing power of laughter to giving him another chance at life. During his long and sometimes painful chemotherapy, he would listen to CDs of his favorite comedians -- particularly Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce -- whose classic bits of hilarity gave Schimmel the fuel to help rebuild his weakened immune system.

"Humor and laughter definitely have a lot of healing properties," he said, "and now, wherever I perform, I ask people to take their old music and comedy CDs, portable CD players, comedy movies, audio books and video games and their systems, and bring them in. I'll make sure that the local American Cancer Society and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offices get them to distribute to their local cancer infusion centers. This way, I'm getting revenge on what happened to me."

Schimmel is also taking his revenge on fans who have freely downloaded his material from his three comedy albums on Warner Bros., by making his new CD available only on his Web site,

It's called "Reserection." The title refers not only to his hilarious "blue" routine, but his newfound sexual potency as well (the chemotherapy was supposed to have rendered him sterile).

On June 6 this year -- three years to the day he was diagnosed with cancer -- Schimmel's second wife, Melissa, gave birth to a healthy Sam Schimmel, the couple's first child.

"When I called the doctor that treated me to ask him to be the godfather to the kid I wasn't supposed to have, he thought I was going to sue him for child support," he joked. Sam joins the current Schimmel brood of 25-year-old Jessica, 12-year-old Aliya and 4-year-old Jacob. ("My ex still won't acknowledge the fact that I remarried -- she refers to my wife and baby as 'my friend and her kid.'")

THE COMEDIAN says he's glad that his audience forces him to be true to himself every time he hits the stage. Through his numerous TV, radio and club appearances, Schimmel has always been forthright about what he's gone through in his own life.

But Schimmel was audibly excited about his second chance at network television. "The chances of going out to L.A. to make it in show biz (like he did, as a former stereo salesman from Scottsdale, Ariz.), it's like winning the lottery. Then to get a development deal to star in a pilot for Fox, and to get the deal at 49 -- I mean, what 49-year-old gets his own show? This usually happens to kids 30 years younger than I am!

"Then the pilot episode is shot, we get picked up for 13 episodes ... and then the amazing thing of getting diagnosed with cancer and losing the show. And what are the odds in getting another deal? Forget about it!

"My own survival rate will always mean something to me that TV doesn't even match. It would be nice to be on TV and make millions laugh across the country and be able to do so much more as a household name. But I will never lose my standup career.

"I know that I can't change the past, and the future is just an illusion. I refuse to forfeit my life because of what may happen six months from now. People sometimes tell me that, 'Oh, your career is happening again, you can't get sick again.' Hey, I meet people every night who tell me they had or are diagnosed with cancer, and if I can mean something to them, telling jokes, maybe it's not the end of world."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.


E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --