Happy 10th Anniversary, Life at the Curb!

Happy 10th anniversary to Stroke Connection's humor column, Life at the Curb by comedian and stroke survivor, John Kawie.

Many of our readers think the only reason we publish Stroke Connection is so they can read John Kawie’s column, "Life at the Curb." This issue marks 10 years that John has succeeded at what seems impossible — making stroke funny. And it’s not just our readers who think so, his live show, Brain Freeze, won Best Solo Show at the NYC Fringe Festival in 2003 and in 2010 was produced as a DVD.

In observance of his 10th anniversary we asked John and his wife, Marilyn, to reflect on the past decade.

SC: What does writing the column mean to you?

JK: Since I was a kid I’ve always loved making people laugh. But face it, stroke is no laughing matter. However, my mantra has always been "humor is empowering." If you can laugh at the stroke, it doesn’t own you and that’s a big win. Writing LATC sort of exorcises my own stroke stuff. When something negative happens to me, I now think, "Hey wait, this would make a good story." It works for me and I hope my column does that for other survivors.

SC: Your email address is on every column, how does it feel to hear from readers?

JK: Coming from a standup background I was used to a live audience where you get an immediate response — laughter, heckles, whatever. But when I write my column it’s just me and my notebook, so getting feedback never grows old. Getting an email from a total stranger in another part of the country — or in some cases the world — is amazing. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing I’ve connected with someone. So keep it coming, I really appreciate knowing you’re out there.

SC: From onstage at the Fringe Festival in New York to stroke support groups in hospitals, you’ve performed Brain Freeze more than a hundred times, were there any memorable moments?

JK: One high point was when Brain Freeze was not only accepted into the Fringe Festival but won "Best Solo Show." I think my personal best was a glowing review by the theater critic of The New York Times. Imagine me opening the morning paper and there it was, a two-column shot of me in full performance mode on the cover of the Arts Section. It’s any performer’s dream, let alone a stroke survivor’s. I remember thinking ‘It wasn’t that long ago I was in a hospital bed."

I’ve experienced many touching moments, but this is one of my favorites. The first time I performed Brain Freeze was at the Mt. Sinai Stroke Group in NYC. There was an elderly survivor named Valerie who was keeling over in her wheelchair with hysterical laughter. A few months later I booked a downtown gig at the Bowery Poetry Club and stopped by the same support group to hand out flyers. Valerie said she would love to go but didn’t think she could manage the trip. So the night of the show I’m on stage, and right in the middle of one of the most poignant moments, where the audience is so still you can hear a pin drop, from the back of the room I hear a woman’s voice screeching, "John I’m here! I made it!" At first, because of the glaring lights I couldn’t tell who it was. Then I see Valerie slowly rolling down the middle aisle, her unaffected hand frantically waving, "I made it, I made it John!" I wanted to jump off the stage and hug her, but I had to finish the show.

Now, how many performers have fans like that? That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

SC: Your wife Marilyn has often figured prominently in LATC. How does she feel about that?

JK: I think of us as a team so I hope she enjoys it. In a way she’s been thrown into the line of fire. She’s in the foxhole with me and witnesses everything that happens — the good, the bad and the ugly. On the business side, an article doesn’t get submitted until she’s laughing.

SC: Last year Stroke Connection was in the running for an EDDIE Award for editorial excellence from FOLIO Magazine. Our editor asked if you would do the honor of accepting the award on Stroke Connection’s behalf. How was that experience?

JK: In its first-time entry, Stroke Connection won. When I was onstage the emcee spontaneously asked me what our mission was. At first I was thrown by the question, then I said, "Personally, my mission is to try to make stroke funny. But the magazine’s mission is to remind stroke survivors that we are people, too." This seemed to move the 400 editors and creatives in the room because they gave Stroke Connection a standing ovation. Pretty cool.

SC: Do you have a favorite column?

JK: That’s a tough question as they’re all my babies. But I’m especially fond of "Tracks of My Tears," which tells the story of when I worked with Robert DeNiro.

SC: What about you, Marilyn, any favorites?

MK: It’s hard to pick just one since they’re based on individual situations, each with its own particular humorous viewpoint, but these three stand out: "Only The Lonely" was visually fun with John surrounded by confused manicurists dying to apply nail polish; "Ticket To Ride" when we felt we had hit the parking jackpot; "Camarillo Brillo" was one of his earliest experiences in the hospital — another favorite.

John and Marilyn have been part of the Stroke Connection family since we first published his personal stroke story in 2003. And our team, the magazine and all of our readers are all the better for it. Happy Anniversary, John! Here’s to many, many more to come!

Celebrate with us! Send a happy anniversary message to John and tell us which Life at the Curb columns are your favorites. On September 10, 2015, five random messages will be selected and the senders of those will receive a free DVD of Brain Freeze, John’s one-man show. Need a refresher to remember your favorite columns? Wondering why we call it "life at the curb"? Visit Life at the Curb on the web for more about John and an archive of past columns.

Marilyn and John at home in Manhattan

Stroke Connection. Get the app for free.


- Advertisement -

This link is provided for convenience only and is not an endorsement or recommendation of either the linked-to entity or any product or service.

AD. Amramp Making Life Accessible. 20 years. Be accessible to everyone. Protect your clients & their caregivers from slip and fall accidents. 888-715-7599. Click here for more info.

AD: American Stroke Association-American Heart Association logo. Did you know that about 1 in 4 stroke survivors have a second stroke? Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association logo. American Diabetes Associaiton logo. Know diabetes by heart logo. Living with diabetes? Inspire others. Submit story button.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control.  Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association Support Network. Facing recovery after a stroke or heart disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. You are not alone. Our community is here for you. Join us today. heart.org/SupportNetwork.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!