HUMOR HELPS THE HEALING PROCESS
Written by Elias Stimac
Jim Tooey Uses His Acting,
Writing Skills and Sense of Humor To Dramatize a
Among all the productions in this
year’s 11th annual New York International
Fringe Festival, one of the most intriguing titles
is “Two-mur Humor: He's Malignant; She's Benign.”
The humorous, heartfelt play is written by Jim Tooey
and Valerie David, directed by Charles Messina,
and stars Jim Tooey and Kelly Chippendale. A World
Premiere from The Present Company and The Tumor
Humor Fund, the play will run August 10th- August
26th. For tickets visit www.FringeNYC.org,
or call 212-279-4488 or 1-888-FringeNYC.
This multi-character comedic drama is inspired by
the real-life experiences of Valerie David's diagnosis
of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and Jim Tooey's pituitary
brain tumor. The play follows their personal struggles
on the road to recovery as well as their crazy and
hilarious experiences. Their life-affirming stories
are told through the eyes of two characters, Paul
and Lisa. We follow their amazing journey through
wacky hospital roommates, health insurance debacles,
and experiences with family and friends.
Jim Tooey will be seen onscreen
this fall as Detective Russ in “The Jackson
Avenue Hustle.” He portrayed Tony the Hit
Man in “Running Scared” with Paul Walker
and Chazz Palminteri, appeared in Matthew Barney’s
“The Cremaster 3,” and portrayed a prisoner
in Susan Stroman's movie version of Mel Brooks'
“The Producers.” Other credits include
“The Guiding Light,” “Late Night
with Conan O'Brien,” “One Life To Live,”
“The Sopranos,” and “Law and Order.”
Tooey also helped establish a
non-profit organization, the Tumor Humor Fund, with
Kelly Chippendale, Valerie David and Yvonne Sayers.
The mission of Tumor Humor is to help children and
their families affected by cancer relieve the debt
associated with medical bills. Visit www.tumorhumor.org
for more details.
The actor grew up in the Northeast,
although his upbringing wasn’t always the
source of positive memories. “My childhood
started in a tough neighborhood in Jersey City,
NJ where I attended Catholic school and had to deal
with abusive nuns. I was the oldest of four kids.
My family moved to Lyndhurst, NJ at age 12, where
I attended Sacred Heart and Lyndhurst High School.
During those years, I played football and wrestled.
Later, I went on to William Paterson University
and that’s where I began to study acting.”
His love for TV and film led him to pursue acting
as a career. “I went into acting because I
always loved making people laugh. I always loved
to watch comedians such as Jackie Gleason, Abbott
and Costello, John Candy, and The Three Stooges.”
Despite his love of comedy, Jim
has lived through his share of tragedy as well.
He is a nine-year pituitary brain tumor survivor.
Fortunately, Tooey’s acting assignments became
a cathartic outlet during his recovery.
“I was basically on my couch
for a year,” Tooey relates. “I was incapacitated
from a staph infection that occurred after I had
ACL scope around the same time. They needed to give
me a knee replacement because of the infection that
settled into the bone. Funny enough, I was watching
the first season of Sopranos and I said, ‘I'm
getting on that show.’ David Chase, believe
it or not, got me motivated again. I did end up
getting on the show during the third season, was
offered lines here and there, and this last four
seasons was doing alternate stand-in work for James
Gandolfini and Steve Schirripa.”
Writing about his health episode
also helped the healing process. “I decide
to write the play when I met Valerie David at The
Casting Director Awards in 2001 in New York City.
We both found out that we had tumors, and we wanted
to tell our stories. It felt good to get it all
out of me and onto paper.”
Once the project was accepted
into the Fringe Festival, casting the show was easy.
Tooey was the ideal candidate for the male lead,
and when looking for someone to play his female
counterpart, he didn’t stray too far from
home. “My girlfriend Kelly Chippendale is
playing the female lead. She has done stand-up comedy
for the last four years and our first date was at
New York Comedy Club's open mic. She has also been
a collaborator on the play for the last two years
and also a big part of starting The Fund to help
children. With our age difference, we feel we can
relate to the masses and draw a lot of attention.
At home, some of the classic comedy characters often
come out to play! Burns and Allen, Sonny and Cher…
and now 2E [Tooey] and Chippendale!”
Tooey is honored to be working
with veteran director Charles Messina. “I
was introduced to Charles through Danny Roth of
CastingHouse, my former director from a pilot I
did called ‘Taylor Made’ that is currently
being shopped in LA and can be seen on YouTube.
Charles has a film and stage background, which was
what I was looking for to stage this multi-media
play. He is great to work with. His work is incredible!
He wrote and directed ‘Freddie Mercury’,
a one-man show about Queen's frontman, and his Jackie
Onassis one-woman show has been running for the
last five years. One thing I was really impressed
with was his reality theater experience, ‘The
Great Divide,’ a show he wrote and directed
where different endings are voted on by the audience
and then performed by the cast each night.”
Out of the 11 characters Tooey
portrays in “Two-mur Humor,” including
men and women of varying ages, he says there’s
one that stands out as being very difficult and
emotional. “I play a character named Iris.
She is the most challenging because she is suffering
with throat cancer-which is close to home as Messina’s
mother is a throat cancer survivor.”
Not content to rest upon his stage
laurels, Tooey also recently performed in a film
that enjoyed an auspicious debut in the Big Apple.
“My most recent film work was premiered at
Tribeca Film Festival called ‘The Gardener
of Eden,’ directed by Kevin Connolly and produced
by Leonardo DiCaprio.” He also had an action-packed
time working on “Running Scared” with
Paul Walker and Chazz Palminteri and directed by
Wayne Kramer. “That was my most exciting film
experience, because it was filmed in Czech Republic
and I got my head blown off with a shotgun.”
Along with the play, Tooey is
also proud of the Tumor Humor Fund he helped develop.
“We started The Tumor Humor
Fund about four years into the writing process.
I saw many plays open and close in New York and
I believed that this play had life beyond a couple
of performances. I came up with the idea of doing
it to help children and to market the Fund. It is
also educational and inspiring with hopes to start
performing arts programs.”
The actor/writer has similar goals
for both the play and The Fund. “The goal
is to inspire, make people laugh, look on the bright
side of things, and help people who are dealing
with cancer and other illnesses. I'd love to show
up at people's doorsteps with a check to pay off
their entire medical bill. Health care can be tough
these days for most. So it’s all about staying
Tooey has some straightforward
advice for other cancer survivors. “Laugh.
Be positive. Believe in tomorrow. Reach out to others.
Smile.” He also has some words of wisdom for
aspiring actors and writers in NYC. “It's
all about marketing. Market yourself and you will
stand out in the crowd.”
Armed with a new outlook on life, Tooey has some
reflective insights about working as an actor/writer
in New York City. “It is busy and can be hectic
too, but it is the greatest feeling in the world
when you are working and the most challenging feeling
in the world when you are not. One day it's chicken,
the next day, feathers.”
(Elias Stimac is a writer/performer
currently working on video productions in South
Florida. Send feedback to email@example.com)