Seriously Schimmel

Robert Schimmel tries to take everything lightly. It is, after all, his job. Luckily, almost everything can be humorous, even cancer. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, to be more precise -- the particular strain from which Schimmel is currently recovering.

"The last time I went [to the doctor] I had to do a urine and stool-sample thing; they check everything," the comedian says. "And the nurse comes in and gives you the little cup you have to pee in and that Wet Nap thing and says, "Here, you have to wipe yourself off with this first before you pee in the cup.' And I'm thinking, "What's gonna be on my dick that's gonna throw the test off?'"

The hilarity of potentially lethal diseases aside, Schimmel has little time to work on new material. A TV series, the premiere episode of which opens with Schimmel involved in an uncomfortable proctology situation, looms in the near future; the comic is working on a one-man show as well.

"I want it to be the real thing," he says. "I know a lot of standups that do one-man shows who take an ottoman on stage and a lamp and do their regular act and call it a one-man show. And I want this to be totally different, where it's not any of my material from my HBO special or my standup; more conversational, 'cause I've gone through a lot especially in the last year, with the cancer and everything."

Despite the treatment and the other projects, Schimmel is loath to give up his standup appearances, like this week's in Davie.

"I'm not one of those guys who can sit down and write material," he says. "You know, sit at a table with a laptop or legal pad and start writing jokes. I used to do that when I worked for In Living Color, but for standup, it just doesn't work for me. The only way to try out new material is to try it out on-stage."

That philosophy can make his shows a hit-or-miss experience. But he is unperturbed by this, saying it's a downfall that nearly all of his brother jokesters share.

"Every comic has a joke that's one of their favorite jokes that never works," he says. "I used to do this joke, "Sometimes when there's a plane crash, they say they have to identify the bodies by the dental records, right? Well if they don't know who you are, how do they know who your dentist is?' Now, I think that's funny, but it doesn't get a laugh."

Of course, since the terrorist attacks, Schimmel has avoided the joke altogether. Cancer may be funny, but some things really don't have a lighter side.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney