Comedian Rick Shapiro Talks About Doing Comedy With Parkinsons

rick shapiro light of day

In April 2012, comedian was very sick, and didn’t know why. He was completely immobilized for about two months. He had spent ninety days in a hospital, sixty days in a nursing home, two weeks in a rehabilitation facility, and was continually misdiagnosed throughout the process. Rick and his wife went through a frustrating ordeal, with some doctors not returning their calls for months, others suggesting that Rick’s problems stemmed from an identity crisis. One doctor even told Rick– under his breath– maybe you should take up basketball. A year later, for the first time, a doctor told them that she felt Shapiro needed a doctor who knew more than she did, and referred Rick and Tracy to the Mayo clinic.

The best thing to do, Rick says, is make a fucking joke.

At the Mayo Clinic, Shapiro was told he may have Parkinson’s Disease, and that there was a DaT test that Rick could take that would let them know if he had the disease.  One week later, he had the right medication, and he was able to put his own shoes on, something he had been unable to do before the diagnosis. One month later he went on the Opie and Anthony Show to talk about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and later that same night he went back on stage and killed. He also appeared on IFC’s Maron this year in a role that hopefully will recur.

Now it’s almost two years later and Rick has been fighting the symptoms of Parkinson’s ever since, refusing to let the disease keep him from being creative. He stays physical, upping the doctors recommended ‘stretching’ activity to a more aggressive boxing regimen.  He watches his nutrition and stays sharp by going up on stage as often as he can.  And he has characters that help him on stage, because he finds that being silly takes him outside of himself, and alleviates some of the symptoms he deals with.

“The best thing to do,” Rick says, “is make a fucking joke.” Comedy really is the best therapy, and he still performs regularly.  Rick’s style is still the same, although he now adds jokes about his doctors (see below) and about having Parkinson’s to his material.  But his comedy is as fearless and powerful as ever, something he’ll be proving it this week when he returns to New York to headline three shows in one night in New York’s first comedy crawl to benefit Parkinson’s research with the Light of Day Foundation.

Rick is a fighter, and has not lost the stream of consciousness and aggressive style that has made him so popular over the years, and so when you ask him how he feels about taking on a leadership role in awareness and fundraising for Parkinson’s, he is somewhat conflicted. “I didn’t plan on going from ‘umm that’s a great ass and great dope’ to ‘I’m trying to be more consistent with my juicing’ overnight,” he told us. “I didn’t want to be an inspiration.”

But he does love to perform and is lucky to count some of New York’s best comedians among his friends, many of who will be joining him for the Comedy Crawl. “They’re very special to me” Rick said in a serious moment. “I didn’t know how they felt about me and I was so amazed they said yes.” Some of the friends joining Rick on stage this week include his friends – who will be performing at all three clubs along with Rick on Tuesday, , , , , , Big , , , , , , , Joey Gay, and more will all take to the stage at the New York Comedy Club, Stand Up New York, and the Village Underground on this Tuesday, January 13th, with all proceeds going to the Light of Day Foundation.

Support the fight to eradicate Parkinson’s disease by buying tickets to all three comedy shows, or any individual show.  To get tickets, click the link below, or scroll down to find out how to donate.

Purchase tickets to one or all three shows here.

The Light of Day Foundation has been helping to fundraise and raise awareness to fight Parkinson’s Disease and the associated illnesses of ALS and PSP since 2000. Over the past 14 years, Light of Day has raised over $2.5 million in the fight to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease through its various events. Although Light of Day has grown to include numerous events around the calendar and around the world, their primary fundraising event continues to be a ten-day music festival that takes place every January throughout New York and New Jersey with its epicenter in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

We do have a star in our camp, and his name is Bruce Springsteen and he has played ten out of our fourteen years.

We talked with Tony Pallagrossi, concert promoter, former member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and one of the founders and directors of Light of Day, about the extraordinary results that they have achieved over the years. “We are a fiercely grass-roots organization,” Tony explained. “We don’t have any big check writers.” They also don’t have a board of stars. None of the board members are celebrities per se, but they do all work in the music industry and have great contacts. One of those contacts has been particularly helpful to the organization. “We do have a star in our camp, and his name is Bruce Springsteen and he has played ten out of our fourteen years,” Tony said. “And we have someone who unofficially puts his name and his presence and his talent to bear on our cause and it certainly helps us a lot. A lot of our ability to generate interest comes from his interest in us.”

light of day bruceJust a few years ago at a Light of Day Event, Springsteen spoke about the importance of a musical community and the importance of community in general– a theme that’s been a part of his music since the beginning. It’s this idea of community that permeates the work of Light of Day, in their efforts to help eradicate Parkinson’s, ALS and PSP in our lifetime.

And now Light of Day has extended their community from the world of music to embrace the world of comedy as well. In order to stay viable and keep growing, a charitable organization needs to be able to grow and expand. So when the Board members of Light of Day learned that Shapiro had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, they connected with Rick and Tracy to start a dialogue about fundraising through comedy. “Tracy and Rick were very enthusiastic and very happy to be able to do something like this and attach it to an organization that had legs with a grass-roots organization like ours.”

Although most of the Light of Day events take place in New Jersey, they decided that New York City would be a better venue for a comedy crawl, in order to be able to attract such a high-caliber of performers and accommodate their schedules. Another event in NY takes place the next night, Wednesday January 14th at the Cutting Room with Suzanne Vega and other singer songwriters.

You can get more information on all of Light of Day events at their website, lightofday.org, and if you are not in the New York/New Jersey area but want to contribute, you can show your support and donate directly to Light of Day by clicking here.

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Follow Rick on Twitter @RickShapiro and visit his website rickshapiro.tv.  Visit lightofday.org to learn more about the foundation.

Watch Rick Shapiro express some of his thoughts on doctors here, during a recent doctors visit.  

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