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Good morning, John.

There was a little   moment on my cancer journey that I have not talked about. When I had gotten my ultrasound and my lymph nodes looked the   way that lymph nodes look when there's cancer in them.

Well, I had an appointment with my, like, normal doctor before I got my   biopsy results back. And there wasn't very   much that she could tell me. But I had a big question,  and I figured I was just being silly, so asked the question.

I said, my big concern is  that I'm gonna be dead in,  like, a month. But I'm not gonna be dead in, like, a month, right?  Cause if I am, then I need to, like, do stuff.  And she said, at this point, we can't really say anything for sure.  So that day, I went home,  and I did a bunch of stuff. I wrote some letters.  I recorded some of the bedtime  stories that I tell to Orin.  I made sure that Katherine had all my passwords.

Honestly, handling practicalities  was a lot more comfortable than  just staring into the abyss. Now, after that first ultrasound  where I probably had cancer,  I only ever got good news. It turned out it wasn't, like,  metastatic from somewhere else.  It turned out further to be  one of the most treatable  kinds of lymphomas, and at a  fairly early stage as well.

Then, as I started taking the chemo,  I could feel with my fingers the tumors getting smaller and softer. One weird thing about cancer treatment is  that it made it pretty hard  for me to enjoy anything. Part of that's just, like, the nausea and fatigue and constant discomfort.

But also there is the brain fog, which is a powerful thing,  and kind of made it hard to focus on anything enough to enjoy it. And then with mortality tossed out  to the potentially near future,  rather in the immediate future,  there was a bit where, like, it wasn't clear to me entirely what the point of anything was. That's not a problem I've ever really had before.

Like, I just stopped being interested in much, and that was very unpleasant for me. My, like, first solutions to that problem  were just, like, stay in the  structures that you already have.  Make the Vlogbrothers videos. Tweet about science.  Try to get excited about whatever interesting science things are going on.

And that was good. But it was work, because there  was this undercurrent of,  like, why to everything I was doing.  Like, being sick is depressing. Not in the, like, colloquial sense.  It literally is depressing.

There were, however, things I could enjoy first.  Marvel Snap, which is a  mobile phone based card game.  That happens in roughly five minute intervals where you, if you are me,  get to completely trounce upon your opponent, who I assume is a child. Also, music retained its beauty for me, one of the most beautiful things that people do.  I was able to just, like, put  on nice headphones and be like,  this is art. I love this.  But third thing, when I first got sick, I asked folks to send me ideas for media that  I could enjoy while I was, like, down and out and exhausted.

And I got podcasts and tv  and video games and movies.  But when I was doing bad, which was most of the time,  I was generally too foggy to  enjoy any of those things. Like, I just could not keep my attention on them.  But the people who sent me  stand up comedians saved me.  Stand up comedy is always, like, less than 15 seconds away from a joke,  and everything is encapsulated  so that the bit usually  doesn't last for more than a few minutes. It was the thing that got me out of just the scrolling through TikTok,  which was like an emotional minefield, and also not as rewarding as, like,  a thing that a person put  together into 60 or 90 minutes  that actually tells a little bit of a story.

I watched maybe an unhealthy amount of stand up.  I started watching stand up that I did not like just because I was interested in it. Like, why is this working on  the people who it is working on?  And, yeah, after a while,  I just started to get really interested  in how the comedians were doing it. Like, it started to look like a magic act to me,  where it was all about, like, misdirection and how do you bring someone along?  What are they doing to my brain to grab me and pull me through   this entire experience of a joke or a bit?  And the tools they used to keep control of me the whole time and never lose me.  Like, the silence and the sound and the stillness and the movement,  what they're doing with the microphone, how they're standing on the stage,  all of the jokes that they have to tell on the way to the joke.

I started to get obsessed with it, and then I started to write in my  cancer journal as if things were bits from a comedy show. I found myself being interested, and I didn't have to work to be interested.  I didn't need, like, some  kind of external structure  to get me interested. I just was interested.

And I was, like, maybe a little  terrified of going back to  the part where I didn't have  that interestedness again,  that I just held on as tight as I could to that thread and as I was finishing chemo,  I was working with my friend Sarah Aswell on some stand up comedy,  and then we worked together to  book out one of theaters in,  like, the three screen  theater in Missoula, the Roxy. And then I started out with, like, ten minutes, and then I did 20, and then I did 30.  And by the end of it, I had, like, the  bones of a 60 minutes comedy special.  And people kept telling me that it was good, but I did not trust them. So I sent a video recording  of one of the later ones.

It was like a 50 minutes version of it to a bunch of my friends who are comedians  or who work with comedians, and they said that it was good. And one of those friends was Sam Reich, who was also the CEO of Dropout TV.  And he gave me a ton of amazing feedback on, like,  his favorite parts and, like, things that I could fix, etcetera.  But then he finished off his email with Hank. This is wildly refined for your first time out.

Should we produce this for you as  a special and put it on Dropout?  I just stared at that email  like giddy for a whole minute.  I could not believe that he was offering that. But there was a moment when I was thinking,  I would say, Sam, actually, I am honored, but I think that you should start   doing standup comedy on Dropout with somebody more experienced.  I'm a science guy. I am not a comedian.

When I brought up that concern,   Sam was like, Hank, I know what I'm doing. You doing this, first, will help us bring attention   to less well known comics when we do stuff with them. I don't know if that's  true, but it was convincing.  It's the kind of thing you'd say to me if you wanted to convince me to do it.

But I think the two biggest reasons I decided to actually buckle down  and do the thing,  because I was still a pretty  long way away from it. Being, like, ready to happen is first,  I think we need more people to be talking openly and honestly about cancer. I think that would better, and I am  glad to be a person who is doing it.  But second, because when I  first thought I might die,  I wanted to make sure I got some stuff done.

But then after a while, I didn't  really want to do anything.  I want to want things, and if I constantly   question whether its okay to want them, Im kind of just driving myself back down   toward that bad place, and I don't think any   good was being done by me in that place. So I kept working on the special for a few months. I kept working with Sarah Aswell, who was my original comedy coach here in Missoula.

And I also hired Ben Acker  to help me with some parts  I was having a hard time with. And then I just freaking did it.  And I can't believe that I did it.  And I equally cannot believe that  the special is out on Dropout today. You could go watch it right now, and I'm not terrified at all.

And now for some logistics. Dropout TV is a streaming service.  If you want to sign up for it's $6 per month. I know that you already have too many   subscriptions, but honestly,   Dropout is the best content subscription I have outside of YouTube Premium.

I do not make any extra money if you sign up, but it is the only way to watch the special. And I think they did an amazing job producing it, and I think that you should sign   up once you watch my thing. There's so much other good stuff.

I'd suggest watching the last  two seasons of Game Changer,  watching the first season  of very important people.  You can also watch Dimension 20, which is like comedians   playing Dungeons and Dragons, except that also you cry a bunch. And I am in Mentopolis, which is a short season if you want to try that out. Also, if you want something like quick,  that's very funny Breaking News is always there to fill in any ten minutes you have before bed.

It's like a streaming service if everything  on it were designed specifically for me,  it's really good. You should check it out.  Again $6 a month and they are just really great people and it's fun. Also, if you can let me know  what you think about the show,  you could do that in the  comments here or on Twitter  or threads or wherever I am in places because I'm not used to there not  being comments and there  are no comments on Dropout,  and that's gonna be disorienting for me.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.