Ron Shock, a comedian's comedian well-regarded for his blending of stand-up with storytelling, has died due to complications from urethral cancer. He was 69. Shock was a late bloomer in comedy, launching his career at the age of 40 after stints as (according to his self-penned bio) an "unsuccessful jewel thief," a prisoner, a priest in training, and an inventor with three patents in electronics. His profile got an early boost with an appearance on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson—the last new comic to be introduced on the show during Carson's tenure—and landed both his own critically acclaimed one-man show in L.A., The Storyteller, and the Showtime special Bad Gig Blues.
While Shock regularly performed the club circuit for decades, he never broke into true mainstream celebrity, though his association with Bill Hicks’ Texas Outlaw Comics made his colleagues well aware of him. Many comedians brood furiously over status in the community, but Shock had happened upon wisdom in his hard-lived life well before his first time taking the stage, and unto the end he wasted no time with self-pity, using whatever glimpses he'd had of misery as a tool for crafting lighthearted tall tales.
In the late '90s, Shock took a long hiatus to care for his dying wife Ellen, a story that made for one of the more memorable episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. Shock's own battle with cancer was aided by nationwide benefit performances to sponsor his treatment, while he chronicled the details of his treatment with typically darkly humorous stories recorded on his webcam.
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