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Longtime comic's family seeks support in treating rare spinal cancer

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The family of longtime Oklahoma City comedian Stan Silliman hopes friends, fans and the local comedy community can pitch in to get the funnyman back to performing stand-up and just standing up.

Silliman, also known by his given last name Solloway, started performing comedy in the late 1980s and continued doing stand-up gigs until this summer. He is also known for writing a humorous, nationally syndicated sports column and authoring several books.

However, Silliman’s health quickly deteriorated this summer. A tumor in his back that he has been fighting since 1999 spread into his spinal cord, making it impossible for him to stand or walk without help.

“It’s tough on him, but he’s still making us laugh,” said his daughter Sylvan Solloway. “He told us a joke today in the car.”

She launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding page Sept. 11 to help her father afford continued treatment. She set a $64,000 funding goal. More than $6,500 had been donated at press time.

Expensive medical bills have accumulated over the course of Silliman’s 17-year, on-and-off treatment.

Solloway said Medicare might not pay for her father’s chemotherapy (an estimated $18,000) because his type of cancer is so rare that the treatment could be considered uncovered.

Solloway also hopes to raise enough money for a wheelchair van and electric wheelchair that could soon help Silliman become mobile and get back into comedy. She asks everyone who has come to know the comic in the past several decades — there have been many — to help in any way they are able.

“Comedians aren’t necessarily rolling in the dough,” she said. “They’re all just trying to do what they love and enjoy their craft. Nobody’s really doing it for the money; there’s not a lot of money to be made.”

Silliman said he is grateful for the local comedy community and considers most of the city’s comics to be his friends.

“There are a lot of comedians that I’ve encouraged and mentored over the last many years, and it thrills me to see them succeeding and growing,” he said as he rested in a hospital bed. “I’m inspired by how well they’re doing.”

Silliman won a citywide comedy competition at The Loony Bin in 2015. The most recent winner traditionally hosts the following year’s contest, but his health prevented him from being able to.

He has long acted as a mentor for young acts in the city, said Terri Libby, the club’s general manager, in a statement to Oklahoma Gazette.

“Stan is and always will be the godfather of comedy to many in Oklahoma City,” she said.

Silliman joked that he was surprised to hear The Looney Bin had something nice to say about him.

“I parked my sports car in their handicap parking spot,” he said. “They weren’t always too thrilled about that.”

Community praises

Local comedian James Nghiem recalls road tripping with Silliman to perform corporate shows in small towns like Vinita. Under no condition would Silliman let Nghiem drive his sports car, despite protests about Silliman’s heavy foot.

“I just remember sitting there for like three hours terrified, watching him drive,” Nghiem said.

The two first met in 2007 at The Looney Bin. Nghiem said Silliman has a style that works well with many types of crowds.

“He doesn’t care if he makes people uncomfortable for a second,” he said. “I think he appeals to people because I don’t really think people expect his comedy to be the way that it is. It’s a lot more progressive than you’d think, too.”

Kari Grant started her comedy career in the ’80s, around the same time as Silliman. She said he was the main reason she returned to comedy after life and open-heart surgery led her in other directions.

“He really was the reason I got back in the saddle,” she said. “Seeing him still going at it and being so damn good at it was such an inspiration.”

Silliman has inspired more than longtime performers. Ebby B., who launched her comedy career just over a year ago, said Silliman is one of the first local comedians she recognized by name.

“In this comedy scene, there’s no one else like him, and I don’t think there probably ever will be,” she said. “I don’t think any of these guys will be as humble and as kind to people.”

Visit Silliman’s crowdfunding page at gofundme.com/stansilliman.

Print headline: Humorist help, A local comedian and his family battle a rare spinal cancer with laughter.

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