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Improv group surprises patron at hospital after she goes unconscious at show

Elise Fellows, 85, was celebrating her birthday at Irvine Improve when she lost consciousness and slumped over before the show began

By Fred Swegles
The Orange County Register

IRVINE, Calif. — Stand-up comics Jim Taylor of San Juan Capistrano and Richard Daryl Osborn of Long Beach had a special comedy routine ready for one of their biggest fans on Jan. 3 at the Irvine Improv.

But Elise Fellows, the 85-year-old birthday girl from Lake Forest who was sitting in the audience among a party of 18, never got to see the show.

As the comedy night was about to begin, she lost consciousness and slumped over.

Kathleen Hoff, a trauma nurse who has worked at UCI Medical Center for 33 years, was at the comedy club for the birthday bash and took charge.

Assisted by Fellows’ granddaughter, Shaelyn Blaney, of Lake Forest, Hoff began CPR on Fellows who had stopped breathing and had no pulse, reviving her before the paramedics arrived.

“I believe there are guardian angels so you’re there at the right time for the right reason,” Hoff said. “I was maybe not even going to go that night.”

Fellows was transported away from the comedy club by paramedics. All the comedians could do that night was dedicate the evening in her honor and get the audience of 350 to deliver a rousing birthday greeting to her via cell-phone video.

Fellows was taken to Hoag Hospital Irvine, where she was still recuperating on Friday, Jan. 5, when her two favorite comics showed up with a little bedside improv for her.

“I’m wonderful now!” Fellows told Taylor and Osborn who delivered some hugs with their jokes.

“Look what you did to me!” Fellows teased Osborn about her incident at the comedy club. “If I had known you were going to do that, I wouldn’t have spent the money to go see you!”

He responded by delivering a President Obama impersonation that turned the patient giddy with laughter.

Laughter is the best medicine, Fellows told visitors in her room at Hoag. Taylor replied wryly: “Insurance doesn’t cover it!”

For five years, Taylor has hosted a night at the Irvine Improv on the first Wednesday of the month.

Fellows is at nearly every show, he said. When he asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said for Osborn to appear. So, Taylor asked the fellow comedian to join him for the Jan. 3 show in advance of Fellows’ 86th birthday.

“This has made my year,” Taylor said of getting to deliver some laughter bedside for Fellows.

At the hospital, the two comedians told their fan they want to see her back at the Improv.

“I wouldn’t miss it!” Fellows said.

“We’re going to hold you to it,” Taylor responded.

Taylor is known around Orange County as president of the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association, chairman of Laguna Niguel’s Holiday Parade and chairman of Orange County’s American Foundation for Suicide Prevention chapter.

He said such a close call with a patron was a first for him at any of his comedy shows.

“One time in Temecula a guy in the front row, right in the middle of my show, had an asthma attack and we had to stop the show,” he said. “He was laughing and laughing. In fairness, he’d been laughing at all the other comics before me, so it wasn’t just me.”

Fellows said she’ll be back laughing in the audience at the Irvine Improv as soon as she is able.

“We are Jim Taylor groupies,” her daughter, Ann-Marie Blaney, added.

“We don’t have groupies,” Taylor riffed. “We have stalkers!”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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