Stand-up for Cancer

by Carol A. Westbrook

I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy, and I especially enjoy live performances. I try not to sit too close to the stage, though, because then I'm fair game for the comic. I don't mind being the butt of jokes, but I don't want to embarrass the performer. Stand_up1

You see, I'm a perfect target. I'm easily twice the age of the rest of the audience, and I suppose I do look like a granny with my little spectacles and the grey highlights in my hair.

It usually begins with something only mildly insulting, such as “Did you knit anything interesting today?” or “Are these your grandchildren?”

But woe betide the comic who asks me what I do for a living!

“I'm a doctor.”

“What kind of doctor?”

“An oncologist–a cancer specialist.”

That usually brings the fun to a screeching halt.

The younger comedians, and the typical comedy club audience– GenXers and Millennials–hear the word, “cancer” and think “death.” Perhaps they remember the funeral of an elderly relative. Or they saw a movie or TV show depicting someone dying of cancer. Or they recall an unenthusiastic visit to a hospital with their parents to visit a dying relative.

It doesn't matter. The mood is gone. The room is suddenly quiet.

I'm always amused to watch the comedian try to recover from this. Usually he will quickly change direction and turn to another, younger, audience member, asking what she does for a living. Or the comic will start to talk about prostate exams, or colonoscopies–which usually causes the show to deteriorate into penis-and-butt jokes of the sort that were popular in 6th grade, from which there is no comedic recovery.

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