It was May 3, 2017, just an ordinary day for comic Jason Weems. A fully present husband and father, he was performing his daddy duty, babysitting his two, young children and waiting for his wife to come home from work so they could exchange their parental duties. He jumped into his car to drive to his next comedy gig.
At this point, Weems was at the height of his career with the buzz starting in 2014 with appearances on NBC’S “Last Comic Standing,” Fox, HBO and his online series “The Lunchtime Show” which premiered on Marlon Wayans’ comedy platform WhatTheFunny.com and the work kept coming, especially the comedy club bookings which are the lifeblood of a comic’s life.
There was nothing special about his long car drive to the city of brotherly love. For him, it was another step that was getting him closer to his goal. He arrived on time and found a parking spot close to the club. On stage, he recalls that his set was on fire with the audience providing the kind of kinetic energy that makes comics thrive. The more the crowd laughed the more elevated Weems became pushing him higher and then he stopped.
On the stage, Weems began feeling the tell-tale-signs of an asthma attack a condition that’s plagued him all of his life.
He remembers leaving the club trying to get to his car. A concerned staff member and Doctor who happened to be in the audience followed him out. He remembers people around him asking questions and the sound of the ambulance and then he remembers … nothing. He was clinically dead for five minutes before the medics got his heart beating again. He was 36.
Comedy, to put it succinctly, has a history of resilience. For people of color, like Weems, there is very little glamour when you are trying to rise above the noise. Comedy requires more than just memorizing jokes. It requires a herculean will. It requires the kind of will that brought him back from death.
Here is what comic/writer/producer Jason Weems has to share about waking up, fighting for his life and his brand new special comedy special, UNKNOWN, which drops on August 4, 2020, on 800 Pound Gorilla Pictures.
THE LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Hey, Jason Weems, I’ve never spoken to a dead man before. Well, not that I know of.
JASON WEEMS: (laughing) Me either.
LAS: Bro. Did you really die?
JW: I straight-up died.
JW: I was dead for a whole five whole minutes. My wife was a widow.
LAS: Jason, I want to live but I shouldn’t laugh. Right? This happened in a Philadelphia comedy club on May 3, 2017.
LAS: Can you take us back a little bit?
JW: Sure. I comedy [dying] is a comedy term thrown around all the time. It’s when people are “bombing” on stage. A lot of times when people hear that I’m a comedian and I died, they think that I just had a bad experience on stage. It’s the literal meaning of the word.
LAS: What happened?
JW: I had a severe asthma attack — May 3, 2017 — it took me out. I was gone for five minutes. No heartbeat. No pulse. They were afraid I had brain damage. They had me on a ventilator but I still wasn’t responsive.
LAS: Do you remember what it was like on the other side?
JW: I don’t. I don’t have a recollection. I just remember the moments leading up to the moment of not remembering if that makes sense.
LAS: It does.
JW: I was 36. I spent the night at a hospital fighting for my life, the club’s booker had no idea who to call. She didn’t have my wife’s phone number. I phone was locked. So she tweeted into the comedy void: “Does anyone know @jweemscomedy’s family?” My fellow comedians sprang into action.
LAS: And then what happened?
JW: I woke up and one of my first thoughts was, ‘I need to get the f— out of this hospital. Just put a blanket on me and roll me out like Tupac. I knew this dying s—’s gotta be expensive.
LAS: Would you say that dying inspired you somehow?
JW: Absolutely, yes. Yes, it did.
LAS: So. What’s next?
JW: My new hour comedy special UNKNOWN drops August 4 on 800 Pound Gorilla
Pictures. And there is also a comedy album of the special. https://vimeo.com/315798219
LAS: Beautiful. Hey Jason Weems, I am glad that you are alive.
JW: So am I.
UNKNOWN drops on August 4, 2020, on 800 Pound Gorilla Pictures. Available everywhere comedy is sold or streamed in both video and audio album format.
To learn more about Jason Weems: