A few months ago, comedian Andy Ritchie discovered he had a brain tumor.
“It was a horrible call,” says longtime friend, comedian Nick Swardson. “For what he had and how young Andy was it was scary. I’ve lost a lot of friends to drugs and suicide. Mainly comedians. But this was different. This was a card dealt to a guy who didn’t fucking deserve that shit.”
“Andy has a GBM grade 4,” explains Andy’s fiancé Ruby Collins. “That’s not great. He’s had 2 surgeries to remove it, and at this moment it’s gone. It will come back if we don’t fight it. I think the most upsetting part of all this for him is that the surgery and now the bleeding has made it impossible to speak normally, write more than a few words, read, and memorize. Pretty much everything a comic lives for,” she explains.
“Andy had moved to LA not too long ago and was starting to develop some projects,” Swardson recalls. “He had a great concept about a show focusing on the Real Husbands of the WNBA. I was interested in helping him with it. After some time went by and I got off tour and that’s when I got the call from Colton [Dunn] that Andy was sick.”
In the wake of his diagnosis, fellow former Funniest Person in Austin winner Brendon Walsh along with old friends Nick Swardson and Colton Dunn started “Andy Ritchie’s Big Headache,” a GoFundMe to help Andy defray some of the living expenses he faces while he is unable to work. “It’s one of the great things about the internet, being able to help people,” says Swardson. “I pray every night for Andy’s return to 100% health. People don’t believe in prayer but fuck you it’s not going to hurt him.”
Andy Ritchie won Funniest Person in Austin in 2011. Pictured with Lucas Molandes.
Swardson reflected on their early days in Minneapolis. “I started doing improv in Minnesota. Comedy Sportz to be specific. Me and my friend Colton Dunn. We were from St. Paul and we joined a high school league in Minneapolis. That’s when we first met Andy Ritchie. He played for Holy Angels. He was hilarious. He stood out above everyone. We both admired him and wanted to be his friend. And we did. We are all still friends. Andy is one of the funniest but more importantly one of the nicest dudes. We all graduated and our lives scattered. He and Colton went on to do more improv. I started stand up. Andy later did both.”
Swardson continues, “Colton and I traveled a lot and lived all over. Andy did the same but because of family health issues he had to stay close to home. Which was frustrating for him but that’s the kind of person he is. He stayed home to help.”
Throughout all of this, Andy has kept his sense of humor. When I spoke with him on the phone he was upbeat and animated. He had recently been to the movies with Brendon and spoke fondly of the old days. He was genuinely touched by the support he has received thus far. When not at the hospital, he and Ruby spend a lot of time at home. They watch Netflix, cook dinner, and plan their future. The two met in Austin several years ago where they were fixtures of the burgeoning comedy scene. At some point, they decided it was time to move out west and things were just starting to pick up steam. “He had just gotten a job writing for a TV show two weeks before he was diagnosed.”
Andy and Ruby in Cozumel in 2014
During the course of our correspondence, Andy returned to the hospital. “He started an IV med that’s worked for some, but it caused bleeding in his brain which is why we’re here again. He’s stable and will be fine, but we don’t know if we can continue this med. There are others, of course very expensive, but we now have this opportunity to try them.”
Ruby recently told me that they have an opportunity to work with a new memory and speech therapist. “The ‘speech therapist’ we got for free tried to hypnotize him with a pocket watch and sell him workbooks from the Internet,” Ruby says. She has hopes that the therapist will help give way to what she calls “a new and improved Andy Ritchie.”
“I say ‘new and improved,’ because bravely, through all of this, Andy keeps talking about how this has changed his values, changed his attitude,” she explains. “He can’t wait to feel better and get back to writing, going to shows, enjoying the company of friends, and simply living in appreciation of each moment.”
“That’s something I need to practice as well. Just notice this moment. Man, I love him so much,” she says in closing. “And he has to get better so we can get married!”
Read more about Andy and check out his GoFundMe here.