Real People

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[Fred] You have a little soul inside you. It's a pilot light. Everyone has it.

And you have to be true to that pilot light of what you are uniquely meant for and shaped for, and to be dedicated to it and to sacrifice for it and it rewards you.

It doesn't come easily, though.

I've had cancer three times. I had it first when I was 28, testicular. Then I got it again four years ago.

And then, last July, I found out that I had esophageal cancer, and I went, "OK." At 28, I made a decision to quit my job.

I came out to California without any kind of future, all running on fumes, to go back and do stand-up again and went to the open mics to try to find myself.

People always ask me about gloves, boxing gloves. They go, "Are you a boxer?" And I go, "No. This is a fight."

[Nurse] One, two, three.

[Fred winces]

[Nurse] All right, diggety done. Just gotta transfer your tubes.

[Fred] OK. People on that highway of life- every six months to a year, I have to pull up to a tollgate.

And I'm in a CT scan and I wait for the results and wait for that gate to come up so I can get back on the road.

And I just have to hope that, when I go through the CT scan, that it's a happy ending of continuance. It happens tomorrow.

You kinda get the verdict. You're sitting there. Is the jury in? And you look, and man, you're looking for that oncologist and you're hoping they're smiling.

You know, the results could be devastating.

I'm gonna tell some jokes. Gonna talk about-I'll be up the stage, and I'll tell people I had a CT scan and try to come up with a CT scan joke, and then I'll ask for their support. I'll say, "I'm going for the scan tomorrow. "I'm going for a result, and I would appreciate your support."

And I'll take whatever emotion they give me to keep cancer away from me.

[Announcer] We're gonna bring up your next comic. Please welcome the very talented Fred Reiss.

Come on up, Fred. [audience applauds]

[Fred] Thank you. Thank you. My name's Fred Reiss. I'll start and tell you a little bit about myself. I'm a three-time cancer survivor. [audience applauds]

Yeah. Thank you, thank you. When I was going through chemo, I was pale, I was bald, and no one felt sorry for me because they thought I was a vegan.

[audience laughs] I almost died three times to say that joke. Give me a break.

[audience laughs] Where are your souls, people? Where are your souls?

[audience applauds] I don't feel I have cancer when I'm on the stage.

I'm completely Fred. I'm no longer the guy who has cancer. I'm the guy who's talking about cancer.

The thing that was incredibly satisfying about it is instead of people saying I was funny, they would come out of the shows and they were emotionally moved and I had inspired them, which I never anticipated.

[Fan] Lost mother to cancer, father, sister-so many people, so anybody that's still here... Thank you. God bless, man.

[Fred] God bless you. I have to walk in here and get a verdict, waiting to hope that she comes in smiling.

And then if she's not, then to see where I go, if something spread or I have to go through chemo again.

Hey!

[Doctor] Hello! How is it going, Fred?

[Fred] Good. I'm semi-optimistic. You're smiling.

[Doctor] Yeah, I'm smiling. [laughs]

[Fred] All right, okay.

[Doctor] Yeah, no, the scan looked really good. It looked good. Yeah. No, I'm very, very pleased.

[Fred] I'm excited for the opportunity to know that I'm gonna be around, that this world is not gonna be taken away from me and that I could add more intensity to it and maybe even improve it.

I always tell people, I say, "You know, I've been given the chance to play the role of a lifetime, and it turned out to be me." That's what I think.

Wow, look at that. Role of a lifetime-me. I got something to say. I matter, and it's bigger than me.

And I could be the hero for other people and myself that I always admired. I could be that guy.

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Fred's story: Making cancer the punchline

Fred makes people laugh for a living. But this wasn't always so.

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