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There’s nothing off limits for comedian Joe Minjares since his lung transplant

December 5, 2018

Joe Minjares is starting to feel normal more than a year after his lung transplant.

I just celebrated one year from that transplant, brought on by debilitating pulmonary fibrosis, the comedian, actor and playwright told me. They told me it was going to be a year before I felt like myself and they were absolutely right, said Minjares, I feel depressed and [lets say poopy].

We both laughed at his joke. Im guessing he told that joke last week when he performed with comedian Kristin Andersen-Anderson in a show at the New Hope Cinema Grill the called A Lung Transplant and an Aortic Aneurysm Walk into a Bar. Andersen-Anderson survived an aortic aneurysm in August.

Ive been doing more on stage stuff, Minjares said. Its been good for me. This whole year has been pretty depressing.

Q: How painful was the transplant?

A: Painful. My surgeon told me its the most painful operation you can get. They gave me a heart-shaped pillow. I said What is this for, just give me more pain pills. She said, Naw, youll need this. I tell you. I started coughing some of that stuff up from the operation and the first thing I did was grab that pillow because I thought I was breaking apart.

Q: Where do you put the pillow?

A: You clutch it, you hold it. It felt like my chest was breaking. You squeeze it.

Q: On whom would you wish this surgery?

A: Anyone who has COPD because its a miracle. I went from doing 20 liters of air a minute, which is a lot, to breathing on my own. When I woke up I had tubes in me and a breathing apparatus on; it was within the next day they took it off and said Youre on your own, pal. It worked.

Q: How are you spiritually?

A: Ive had a spiritual reawakening. Im not Bible-thumping or anything like that, but I tell you I am looking at humans differently. They mean more to me. Ive been driving Lyft to get out of the house and do something [now that he has sold Pepitos on Chicago]. Meeting people when I am driving is just spectacular. So then I thought Why dont I try stand-up again? And its been great, fun, scary. I dont remember a damn thing, so I am not sure how much time I can do anymore.

Q: How will your approach to stand-up be different?

A: Its pretty disjointed because I cant remember everything. At the same time, Im more comfortable just talking to the audience, taking my time. Ill slip a little story in there here and now, not just jokes. Im basing a lot of stuff on truth. I exaggerate. Theres really nothing off limits for me.

Q: Before the lung transplant, there were subjects that were off limits?

A: Yeah. I was real protective of certain things, sexuality. What Im saying is Im more willing to talk about my inner secrets than I was. Ill talk about what its like to make love at 70 years old, my memory, I cant multi-task anymore, and being afraid how this whole thing has affected me. I know its affected me mentally and physically but also Im afraid of talking about how its made me take a second look at God and able to joke about it. I wasnt able to do that.

Q: You didnt believe in God before but now you do?

A: I believed in God before, but this time I saw him. Hes Mexican. I didnt know that. Hes got a taco stand. His son, Jesus, works with him. I guess theres a third son but nobodys ever seen him. [He laughs]. That is based on a true thing. I remember waking up [two days after surgery] and seeing my best buddy Lenny, sitting on the floor next to me in this darkened room. Keeping vigil. Then I went back out again. Somewhere in the mix I saw my parents. You know they talk about theres a light and people walk toward the light? My parents were standing in that light, I could see their silhouettes. I could tell its them but it was almost like they were saying, Not yet. It was wonderful.

Q: What was the funniest thing that happened in the hospital?

A: When I was out, I was full of drugs. I was in a color cartoon with Anthony Bourdain fleeing from the police. I dont know what the hell he did. I dont know what I did.

Q: Did you know Anthony Bourdain?

A: I did in the dream. I was a good buddy of his.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on FOX 9s Buzz. E-mailers, please state a subject; Hello does not count.

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