As an IC patient, Ashley Corby can spend a lot of time in the bathroom. And that’s exactly where she was back in 2010 when a friend signed her up for open mic night. While she had been told she ought to try doing stand-up comedy, she hadn’t actually tried it before. That night changed everything. Corby said it went OK, but in her mind it went great and she was hooked.
Corby had read a book by British comedian Russell Brand, related to it and thought if he could do it, then she could do it. Her second show went badly. The third one went a bit better.
“I’ve never wanted something so badly before,” Corby said.
The Tennessee native headed north and spent a couple of years in Chicago to take classes at comedy’s well-known Second City.
“I just kept really practicing at it and then here I am,” she said.
However, life hasn’t been all blue skies and rainbows for the comedian. Corby said her IC symptoms first started when she was 4. She went through some periods of remission, but as a young woman, her symptoms returned full force when she became sexually active. She said fear has played a huge role in her IC symptoms. When they first started at age 4, she was afraid of being abandoned by her father. As a young woman, that fear followed her.
“As I got involved with men sexually, I had the same fears with them,” she said. “That grew. The symptoms grew, and they grew. With each sexual partner they grew bigger and bigger.”
With her symptoms being such a part of her life, it made sense that’d she would work them into her comedy. The jokes have been well-received because, as Corby said, people like bathroom humor. The story behind the jokes, though, was coming to a head.
“My life was hell with IC,” Corby said. “I was in the ER all the time.”
She found help through Vanderbilt Medical Center and over the years tried pretty much every treatment for IC from oral medications to physical therapy to Interstim. But last year her symptoms started improving and her comedy started changing. The once self-described edgy and raunchy comedian gave her life to the Lord and isn’t looking back.
“It really wasn’t until I gave my life to the Lord and made some huge changes that I started to see the most benefit,” Corby said.
She still avoids things like alcohol and caffeine. She’s also decided to be celibate, which risks her relationship with her boyfriend, but she said her health is important.
“For me, it was a huge spiritual component to [IC],” she said. “It was mind-opening to me when I was able to work with my church and figure out I had some deep-seated issues with abandonment and rejection. I feel like I’m getting better, but I’ve got a lot of faith.”
Her symptoms improving isn’t the only change. Corby said she is re-branding herself as a comedian. She has kept the IC jokes but hasn’t used them as much and figured out a way to incorporate them into her new material.
“I’m starting over,” she said. “I had this huge change in my life last year. It’s changed my relationship, and it’s changed my comedy. I’m a lot better. And my jokes are way more appropriate.”
While Corby is feeling better physically and emotionally, she still has struggles. Last year, for example, she needed to use a catheter for a while and had to cancel some shows. Driving to different cities to perform is also a challenge with her IC.
“My reputation has taken a hit,” she said. “I don’t think I’m seen as a reliable performer any more. IC has been a real burden on comedy for me.”
But she certainly isn’t throwing in the towel. In juggling her IC, comedy and work as a waitress, Corby has learned to keep a sense of humor and focus on what is going well instead of what she is missing out on because of IC.
“I have to keep a sense of humor about [IC],” Corby said. “And that has been hard. It was one of the most depressing things in my life for so long.”
These days when she is flaring, she reaches out to others. She has a strong desire to help other IC patients feel more hopeful and remember to find humor through the pain.
“Laughter is the best medicine; they say that because it’s true,” Corby said. “When we’re sad and our houses can get kind of dark and everything feels dark, just turn on something funny and get out of it for a minute. The best thing you can do is get out of your own head.”
Corby plans to continue in her comedy journey with cleaner comedy, but she also has another passion now.
“I want to share my story with as many people as I can,” she said. “I want women to know that it’s going to be OK. It’s going to get better. Just have faith that it’s going to get better. Every day is a new day. Just trust in God and that He is taking care of you, even when it feels like He is not taking care of you, He is [still] taking care of you.”
To connect with Ashley Corby, send her an email to ashleysgotjokes[at]gmail.com.