I’m very saddened to read that an old friend, comedian Will Durst, suffered a stroke last month, causing him to cancel performances for the first time in his career.
I’ve known Will for over 30 years. He has long been one of America’s top political comics, was a money-in-the-bank guest on my radio show more often than I could count, appeared (gratis) at one of my Comedy Concerts For Children’s Hospital in Washington in the 1990s, and allowed me to reprint his humorous columns many times on this site.
When Martha and I were in Paris in September, I was happily surprised to see a poster promoting his October 11th appearance in that city. When I emailed it to him, Will replied, “You never know where I’ll show up!”
Unfortunately, since the stroke hit on October 7th (backstage at a gig, naturally), he wasn’t able to show up in Paris — or anywhere else except a hospital since. That means, for the first time in 27 years, Will won’t be able to appear at the annual end-of-year series of comedy shows he produces with wife Debi (guest comedians will fill the roster for the eleven shows in ten cities).
Hopefully, he’ll recuperate quickly and get back to a world that needs his satirical voice — now more than ever.
According to Sam Whiting in the San Francisco Chronicle, where Will has been a contributor:
On the night he was stricken, Durst was waiting to take the stage as part of the 60th anniversary celebration for the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Another performer noticed Durst having trouble moving and suggested he go to the emergency room.
“I can’t,” he said. “I need to tell my jokes.”
A few minutes later he collapsed, bringing to mind “the old vaudeville line, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’” says Debi.
Luckily there was, the mother of one of the Mime Troupe performers. She rushed backstage to find Durst on the floor, took his vitals and called for an ambulance.
Durst had not been hospitalized since the day he was born, his wife said. The stroke was hemorrhagic, meaning a blood vessel was broken in the brain, causing a buildup of cerebral spinal fluid. That has required a hole to be drilled in his skull to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure. After three weeks in the ICU, Durst was transferred to another unit for rehab, but the fluid persisted and he developed an infection, requiring a return to the ICU two weeks ago.
Throughout this six-week ordeal, Durst has never lost consciousness. He can read but cannot write, which is a struggle because he would write every day for his website or his weekly newsletter “Burst of Durst.”