It’s been just over two months since Ellen DeGeneres helped terminally-ill aspiring comedian Quincy Jones land an HBO special – and now, he’s just one day away from having his story hit the small screen.
In anticipation of Thursday’s Quincy Jones: Burning the Light premiere, Jones, 32, opened up to Entertainment Weekly about his cancer battle, his comedy special and his perspective on life after being diagnosed with stage-4 mesothelioma cancer last year and was told that he has only a year to live.
Of his diagnosis, Jones explained he went through months of testing before his official diagnosis.
“I went in at the end of 2014. My stomach is filled up with ascites, which is fluid in the body,” he said. “It’s supposed to be circulating to organs but it was backed up in my belly and we didn’t know why. After about six or seven months of testing, that’s when we came up with the diagnosis that I had cancer. A few months later, they gave me the prognosis of a year.”
“That’s when I was like, ‘Nah, I think I’m going ignore that. I don’t think I’m going to die in a year. I can’t see myself withering away on August 6, 2016,’ ” he continued. “So, when I got out of the hospital, I did what I needed to do to fight the cancer, which is chemotherapy. Changing my diet. Like, there was almost a desperation for me to survive. And that’s what I did.”
A friend helped setup a Kickstarter campaign to help Jones realize his dream of starring in a stand-up special, which ended up raising more than $50,000 and catching DeGeneres’ eye.
DeGeneres invited Jones on her show twice in one week, and during his second appearance, surprised him with the news that HBO had agreed to air his hour-long special.
“My initial thought was shock because at first I didn’t believe it was the segment producer saying those things,” Jones recalled.
“I thought it was like a friend or something playing a prank on me. [On the show], [DeGeneres] turned to the camera and said, ‘Hey HBO, Netflix. You guys are watching this. Please do something for this guy,’ ” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that was nice,’ because that wasn’t what they prepared me for in the interviews. That was off the script. A week later, HBO wants to do it. I was like, ‘What? Are you serious?’ ”
“I was hoping Netflix or Comedy Central,” Jones added. “HBO was like the Holy Grail.”
Of his illness, Jones says he doesn’t “even really acknowledge my cancer.”
“I know sometimes my energy drops, sometimes I’ll get really tired or sad,” he said. “I’ll know that it’s because of the cancer. But other than that I just don’t.”
And since his diagnosis, Jones is “a little more grateful.”
“It makes me a little less judgmental of comedy,” he said. “People are just trying. Everyone’s just trying to get by out there.”
Quincy Jones: Burning the Light premieres Thursday (10 p.m. ET) on HBO.