Published Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 | 11:21 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 | 11:21 a.m.
Ron Shock on Bill Hicks (adult language)
Ron Shock is facing pure torture, and that’s if he’s lucky. If the best-case scenario, the very best outcome, does play out, he still faces hell.
“I am in a very, very difficult position, very difficult,” Shock, a veteran stand-up comic and brilliant monologist who has been performing in Las Vegas and around the country for 30 years. “I’ve got a very aggressive and rare form of cancer. The cure, if it works, is going to be very hard, very difficult.”
Shock suffers from stage-4 urethral cancer. How bad is it? The great storyteller manages a chuckle when describing his condition.
“How they (pause), how they treat this is with chemo, radiation,” he said during a phone conversation Friday. “They shrink the tumors down so they can operate. The operation is they remove your penis, bladder and prostate. That’s the cure. That’s the best-case scenario, my brother. It’s really rough. There’s no point in sugar-coating it.”
The form of cancer from which Shock suffers is so rare that only 2,000 cases have been reported, ever, in the U.S. Information he has found can hardly be called fresh; the latest reported advances he has found online are nearly a decade old.
Shock’s medical bills have mounted so high that he’s not bothered to tabulate them, through the current sum easily surpasses six figures, as he has been treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Nevada.
“The bills are coming in, and there are more to come,” Shock said. “If it wasn’t for help from friends, wouldn’t know what to do.”
To help defray those costs, Sin City Comedy owner and producer John Padon has scheduled a fundraising show tonight at 11 his club at V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. The minimum suggested donation is $10 at the door. Those who want to show support can hit Shock’s Storyteller website and click on Ron’s Cancer Fund.
Comics listed in tonight’s lineup include Vegas regulars John Bizarre, Greg Vaccariello, Don Barnhart and Padon himself. Padon is not permitted to promote other comics performing on the Strip, to keep with cross-promotion restrictions between competing clubs. But Padon says many headliners are expected to turn up to show support for Shock, one of the brilliant storytellers of his time.
Shock himself will not be there. He’s too weakened by his condition and his immune system is not strong enough for him to share space with a large volume of people in a comedy club. He has not been unable to perform since a Jan. 7 show in Houston, limited to recording a series of video clips in which he conveys, in colorful detail, his odyssey of the past three months. As he said, “Unlike other stories I tell, I don’t know how this is going to end, and therein lies the rub.”
Shock didn’t even launch his comedy career until he was 40 years old (his career resume lists a study of the priesthood, jewelry theft, and a foray into electronics that resulted in three patents), but is widely admired and respected by his fellow stand-ups. A film crew has been recording his life since the diagnosis, footage that might well be turned into a full-length documentary of his compelling life and career.
Remarkably, Shock took a leave from his career in the late-1990s to attend to his wife, Ellen, who had been seriously injured in an automobile accident near the couple’s home in Antelope Valley, Calif. At that time, then-Riviera Entertainment Director Steve Schirripa assembled an all-star fundraiser at the La Cage Theater. Shock spent about two years away from performing to attend to his ailing and injured wife, who died in 2000.
Shock soon moved back to Las Vegas and remarried. He and his current wife Rhonda were wed in the back yard of their Vegas home in 2003 by longtime friend and comic Steve Epstein, who assumed the title of Pope of the Church of Logical Thought, an institution the Shocks set up specifically for the nuptials. Even as recently as last year, Shock had been busy performing at such Vegas clubs as Sin City Comedy and Brad Garrett’s Comedy club at the Trop, right up until the December diagnosis.
“After the surgery, if I have the surgery, there is a six-month recuperation,” Shock said. “In the meantime, you suffer from some heavy-duty chemo. It’s knocking my to my knees. It’s hard for me to eat. Everything tastes like gun metal.
“Some days I just break down and cry … What can I tell you?”
There is not much more to say in this tale with an unknown ending, only that it is time, again, to rally.