The Best Medicine

Camarillo comedian Jason Love is fighting cancer, one joke at a time.

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

To local comedy lovers, Jason Love is no stranger. The Camarillo-based funny man has been making the rounds on the Ventura County club circuit for years, and also hosts and performs at a variety of other venues, including Comedy & Cocktails at Studio Channel Islands Art Center and the monthly Stand-Up Comedy on the Hill series at Hillcrest Center for the Arts. He’s also known for his Love & Laughter program, where he brings free comedy shows to cancer patients and their loved ones through the Cancer Support Community. Ventana Monthly caught up with Love a few days before he embarked on a Caribbean cruise gig to talk about comedy, cancer and the power of a good laugh.

How did you get into comedy? Was it a calling from a
young age, or did you find your way to it later? 

I got into comedy in 10th grade, when I was suspended by my Russian math teacher for “disruption the class.” I knew what he wanted me to say but went for the laugh. Story of my life.

How did your comedic style develop? 

That’s a tough one. Why does the caged bird sing? I think you get your voice when something inside you snaps. Like that Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, only without the sledgehammer (unless you’re Gallagher).

What brought you to Ventura County?

I grew up in Thousand Oaks and now live in Camarillo. Made it all the way down the grade. Explore the world a little. You know. The more places I go, though, the happier I am to be in Ventura County. I work on cruise ships and spend a lot of time in the Caribbean. Makes you appreciate little things like lines on the road, police, deodorant . . . Some of these ports have no roads at all. Tom Hanks comes wading out: “Wilson!”

When did you first start doing Love & Laughter, and what originally inspired you? 

I started Love & Laughter when I lost a friend to cancer. I wanted to join the fight, and comedy is all I know. I’ve always admired the Cancer Support Community for providing free services to the public at large, “So that no one goes through cancer alone.” Love & Laughter is just one program to complement their counseling, yoga, etc.

Tell us how it works. 

Love & Laughter is free for the Cancer Support Community, but I do have a few supporters on Patreon. Each show has different professional comedians who are good enough to donate their time and talent. I run monthly shows for CSC in Westlake Village, Pasadena, Redondo Beach, West L.A and Walnut Creek. Sometimes I headline the galas, like Hope’s Haven in Westlake Village or the one coming up in Knoxville, Tennessee.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. How has Love & Laughter helped the audience members? What changes do you see in the people who come to the show? 

This is the part that I wish you could see — how the members’ body language changes over the hour. We just laugh and laugh at the absurdity of it all. But yes, laughter is the best medicine. Especially when you have my health plan. I’m not going to the doctor anymore. I’m getting my eye exam at the DMV, X-rays at the airport . . .

Some people themselves benefit from helping others. Would you say that’s true of you with Love & Laughter? How has the nonprofit helped you? 

That’s a good Oprah question. Altruism, I guess, is when your selfishness benefits someone else. I get out of this the satisfaction of helping, but it’s also like flipping the bird to cancer. Feels a little Johnny Cash.

Can you share some memorable experiences you’ve had performing? 

How much time do you have? I used to do a podcast with one hell gig per week. Recently a fistfight broke out during my show on the Carnival booze cruise. Passengers got on board so drunk, they didn’t even know where we were going. It’s the world’s biggest Uber. Early on, though, I had a good experience where at a Cancer Support show this bald woman hugged me so hard, I thought I would break. She took my hand and told me that it was the first time she had laughed in weeks. That’s when I decided to launch Love & Laughter.

What plans do you have for Love & Laughter moving forward? 

I’d like to branch out to other groups like addiction facilities, clinics for depression, etc. We comedians work out on weekdays anyway; why not make it count. Ironically, cancer support audiences are 10 times warmer than what you’d face at the Comedy Store. We don’t have to unfold anyone’s arms because they’re in the business and have a thing.

Do you have any other big performances in the works?

The one show that I would like to promote is my annual New Year’s Eve comedy bash at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center (formerly Civic Arts Plaza . . . the new name just rolls off the tongue). That NYE show starts at 7 p.m. with four headliners, ending with crowd-favorite Kira Soltanovich from The Tonight Show. There is an East Coast countdown at 9 p.m. For the past eight years, I’ved produced this show at the ever-changing movie theater in the Oaks Mall. This year we needed more space.

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