This holiday season, local comedian Bob Lazarus doesn't need any prompting to list what he's thankful for. He's thankful for his regular medical checkups, that he was diagnosed with leukemia in August while he had time to do something about it. He's thankful leukemia has become a much more curable illness in the past few decades. And he's thankful that, over his nearly 30 years in Boston comedy, he has made a lot of talented friends.
Many of those friends - Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke, Tony V., Mike McDonald, Don Gavin, Mike Donovan, Jimmy Tingle, Steve Sweeney, and Kevin Knox - will gather Sunday night at Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus for a benefit to help Lazarus, who has not been able to work since his diagnosis and may not be able to for another two or three months.
"It hasn't been easy, living on some savings," says the 51-year-old comedian, who lives in Stoughton with his wife and 11-year-old daughter. "It didn't get highly publicized, but Steven Wright, when he played the Orpheum in October, he made the show a benefit for me, which was unbelievable."
Lazarus's health insurance has covered medical costs so far, but he may see bills for the more experimental elements of his treatment, and stand-up comedy is his family's main source of income. Lazarus's longtime friend Tony V., who organized the benefit with Giggles booker Mike Clarke, understands what Lazarus is up against. There are no pension plans in comedy and self-employment health insurance is expensive. Benefits hosted by friends can be the difference between staying afloat and going under.
"I think about that," says Tony V. "I live OK, but it's because I work four or five days a week doing this. And if I couldn't, I don't have the nest egg that most people that have been at a job for 25 years have. I go paycheck to paycheck, like a lot of people. You try not to take that for granted."
Lazarus is in remission and has one more hospital stay left coming up in December. He expects to be at Giggles Sunday laughing with everyone else, and Tony V. says they wouldn't have done the show otherwise. "I think that's important - it's not just giving him the money," he says. "It's having him be part of this, to see how we feel and what we want for him."
Tony V. and Clarke are planning another benefit for a bigger venue in March or April to help with Lazarus's continuing expenses.
And it's obvious Lazarus hasn't lost his sense of humor through his ordeal.
"Between what Wright did for me here and this benefit, I'm thinking of getting an illness every year," he says. "It might be easier than working."
'A Parenting Story'
Veteran Boston comic Bill Campbell likes to say, "If you've got a kid, you've got a story." Campbell has more stories than most, and he's gathered them into a one-person show, "A Parenting Story," which comes to the Spiegel Auditorium in Harvard Square tomorrow. The show follows Campbell's experiences trying to raise three kids while being a stand-up comedian, and how his family came through years of friction and fighting. It's a story he hopes parents will find inspirational.
"It's been very satisfying for me, as I've gotten older, how good it is with my kids and how tough it was for a while," he says. "I was real scared. But now it's really good. So I kind of feel like other parents should hear that, especially if they're having trouble with their teenagers."
Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, of "The State" and "Stella," come to the Somerville Theatre on Thursday. Meanwhile, two-person sketch troupe Somebody's in the Doghouse performs "Cruisin' for a Bruisin"' Thursday at Improv Asylum.