Mesothelioma Survivor Quincy Jones Revives Comedy Career
March 24, 2022
There is nothing funny about malignant mesothelioma – unless Quincy Jones is part of the conversation. He will make you laugh every time.
Jones is a six-year mesothelioma survivor who refuses to allow this cancer with no cure to define him. He is determined to stage another miraculous comeback as a stand-up comedian.
Through his eyes, it’s one “Big C” (comedy) against another (cancer).
“Comedy helped save my life,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t be around anymore without it. It’s all I want to do now.”
Jones’ Rise and Fall and Rise Again
Jones, 37, first rose to national fame in 2016 when his dying wish of recording a comedy special to immortalize his work became a reality.
“Quincy Jones: Burning the Light,” his one-hour special on HBO, was sparked by his mesothelioma diagnosis and one-year-to-live prognosis, a great stand-up routine and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
His improvisational comedy show, filmed in Los Angeles shortly after a round of chemotherapy, met with positive reviews and considerable fanfare. This led to increased demand on the LA stand-up comedy circuit.
It eventually led Jones to New York City, though, where his career faded suddenly amidst bizarre social media speculation when he survived longer than anyone expected. Some questioned his motives, which seriously dampened his spirit, considering all he’d been through.
“You’re at the top of your game, and people try and tear you down. I couldn’t believe it. It took me a long time to just let go of that,” Jones told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “I went from being loved and celebrated to being a social pariah. And that messes with your head. I went from people celebrating my resilience to people defaming it.”
Youth and Great Care Extended Survival
Jones, who is not to be confused with the legendary music producer of the same name, had struggled for months with various symptoms before being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma cancer in August 2015. It was found throughout his abdomen.
“It was almost a relief at first to finally know what I had, but when the doctors told me I would die soon, I never really accepted that,” he said. “I learned eventually that mesothelioma doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I had to learn how to survive. Continuing comedy was part of that.”
Most importantly, he found mesothelioma specialist Dr. Richard Alexander, who was practicing at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center at the time. Alexander performed Jones’ cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, also known as HIPEC.
Jones was hospitalized for more than a month, but the extensive procedure, combined with his youthful exuberance, was instrumental in extending his survival.
Yet it hasn’t been easy in the last 12 months. Last fall, a scan revealed new tumor nodules on his lungs, which meant another chemotherapy regimen. The mesothelioma relapse, accompanied by kidney failure, hospitalized him for several weeks at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn.
Instead of lamenting his fate, though, Jones continues to celebrate his gift of life and a talent for making others laugh. He feels better today than he has in a long time. He may soon be starting immunotherapy treatment.
Jones’ Comedy Comeback Has Begun
In the meantime, Jones is in the midst of resurrecting his comedy career. He has returned to Los Angeles, where he originally blossomed. He expects to begin touring again soon, going beyond the open-mike stand-ups around LA that are now getting him back into form.
He already has a major performance scheduled for May 13 at the Comedy House New Orleans. Several more dates will be announced in the coming weeks.
“I feel like Santa Claus at times now. I get to go around different audiences, telling jokes and making strangers laugh, based on material that relates to them,” Jones said. “It’s a gift that I want to spread. Comedy is good for your soul. It takes your mind off stuff.”
His improv routine often includes social commentary, only twisted to make you laugh, hitting on topics such as racism, police, politicians and McDonald’s hamburgers.
He even touches on mesothelioma cancer.
“I don’t write cancer material because there’s nothing funny about it, but I will acknowledge it on stage,” he said. “I tell the audience, ‘I have it, but don’t worry, it’s not a death sentence. I’m not going to die on you guys.’”
Away from the stage, Jones wants to inspire others with his ability to persevere.
“Your job is to fight this. Focus on getting better and beating the prognosis. There is always a silver lining to find. Mine is comedy,” he said. “The best advice I could give someone is learn how to accept help. No doctor knows your body better than you. Get out of the hospital and surround yourself with the people who love and care about you.”