February 28, 1994 12:00 PM

A fast fall and a long climb back

Professionally speaking, Joe Piscopo was in top form in January 1983, when he first appeared in PEOPLE. Few knew then that the comic, who had endeared himself to millions of Saturday Night Live fans with dead-on satirical send-ups of Frank Sinatra, Andy Rooney and Phil Donahue, had been told two years earlier that he had thyroid cancer. “I decided not to talk about it because I didn’t want the stigma of being ‘a sick person,’ ” says Piscopo, who heeded the advice of his doctor to get plenty of exercise. But while Piscopo beefed up spectacularly by weight lifting, both his career and his 15-year marriage fell apart. “I didn’t think I would make it to 35,” he says. “I just said, ‘Look, I’m gonna lead my life because you’re not here long enough.’ ” Though he left SNL in 1984 for the movies, he wound up in commercials for General Nutrition Centers, Bally’s Health Clubs and Miller Lite. And when he split with his wife, Nancy, in 1988, it was to take up with 18-year-old Kimberly Driscoll, his son Joey’s former baby-sitter. “Nice life, Joe!” he says in retrospect. “I was doing well, and then—boom!” Now 42, cancer-free and back on track, Piscopo is engaged to Driscoll and honing a new club act. “I’ll be indebted forever to SNL,” he says. “But you know what I like on television? I’m addicted to C-SPAN.”

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