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Crohn’s Disease: Finding Humour in the Horror

Ben Morrison
Ben Morrison

Mediaplanet had the pleasure of speaking with actor/comedian and Crohn’s disease advocate, Ben Morrison. We asked the Punk’d star about his personal battle with the condition and how it has shaped his career.

Mediaplanet: How old were you when you first noticed something may be off with your digestion?

Ben Morrison: I was 17 when Crohn’s decided to crash on my couch for the rest of my life. I wasn’t asking for a roommate, but somehow it had the keys and the only thing getting evicted was my sense of normalcy. I even remember the day I first felt symptoms. I was going rock climbing on a school trip and when my teacher pulled the harness tight around my belly, it felt like the rocks were in my small intestine. My ileum had seized up. There was a traffic jam in my guts, and it was rush-hour. While diagnosing Crohn’s is generally a drawn out process for me it was mercifully quick due to the severe localization. After a couple tests they finally got a look at it and said “Yep, that’s Crohn’s. Ben, your rock-climbing days are over.” And so I became a comedian instead.

Take your experience, your pain, and your triumphs, and make something from them.

What was the largest mental hurdle you had to overcome after you were diagnosed with Crohn’s?

That food would forever be a crap-shoot, pun intended. I am a big fan of eating whatever the heck I feel like and the toughest pill to digest when getting diagnosed with Crohn’s was that there would never be any certainty when it came to consumables. There would be best-guesses, for sure, guesses I still largely live my life in accordance with, but even still sometimes I’m eating organic and green and the old Crohn will rocket it out of my posterior. Because of that all food must be looked at suspiciously and it can get really tiring. Sometimes it’d be nice to just go out to eat and not have to imagine what the food is going to do to me on it’s way out. It’s not food’s fault, it’s just being food. Sittin’ there all delicious.

Who do you lean on the most when having a set back and how do they help?

Although he and I aren’t as close as I’d like anymore, my cousin Jesse would definitely be my Crohn’s confidant. He got diagnosed not long after I did. Having someone with a similar sense of humor and identical disease made it easy to find the haha in the horror. In fact, those laughs eventually turned into the early versions of A Comedian’s Guide To Crohn’s, my comedy show about getting diagnosed with, and living with Crohn’s. Having someone close who I could be completely honest, scared and humorous with was invaluable, and I’d advise everyone reading this to make sure you have a Crohn’s confidant of your own. It’s a scary disease, find someone to talk poop with.

Take your experience, your pain, and your triumphs, and make something from them. Show Crohn’s that you’ll make a show of it.

What advice would you give to young actors and comedians who have just been diagnosed with Crohn’s?

Use it. Great art is made through pain and suffering and you friend, just hit the artistic jackpot. A lifetime supply of something to fight against. Take your experience, your pain, and your triumphs, and make something from them. Show Crohn’s that you’ll make a show of it. Be good to your body as it’s your instrument, but not too good, and dig into why you wanted to be an artist in the first place using this amazing cosmic challenge as your fuel. Write. Make short-films. Paint-it-out, doesn’t matter. You’re an artist make art.

Most recently you were involved in Telethon for America, a celebrity telethon that encouraged Americans to get out and vote! What is your next endeavor that we have the pleasure of looking forward to?

I’m currently enjoying the creative process writing, developing and producing projects of my own here in LA. I’m lucky that I get to be a writer one day, a stand-up the next day and a producer in between. My most recent project is Superfunny!, a monthly live comedy show at the Hollywood Improv and if you know anyone in LA they should really check it out. Additionally, I continue to perform A Comedians Guide to Crohn’s for patients and medical professionals alike. Even in the bathroom, it’s a good life.

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