Fizbo, aka Cam, aka Eric Stonestreet, in “Modern Family.” (Photo: ABC/Getty Images)
If you’re a fan of Modern Family, you know that Eric Stonestreet’s character Cam has an alter-ego: Fizbo the clown.
But here’s something viewers may not realize: When he was a kid, Eric actually wanted to be a clown when he grew up — and he used his desire to make people laugh to cheer up patients in the hospital.
“One of the things [I used to do] was to go visit other kids and the older people in the hospital and make balloon animals for them,” Eric tells Yahoo Health. “While I haven’t been to a hospital as a clown in a long time, I certainly had that experience as a kid and young adult.”
Those experiences growing up gave Eric his first understanding of the power of humor in helping people heal. And now, through Modern Family, he’s still able to touch people’s lives.
Eric and his TV daughter Lily on the set of “Modern Family.” (Photo: ABC)
“When someone is sick, you don’t want to feel alone. And I’ve learned that our show specifically has been that for people,” he says. A woman who survived breast cancer once told him that the show “gave her something to laugh and look forward to.” And he shares an especially poignant moment he had once after a Broadway show, when a Modern Family fan explained how the show helped her mourn a big loss:
“A woman walked up to me, and asked to give me a hug. I said, ‘Of course,’ and then she started crying, saying, ‘My daughter died last year,’” Eric says. “She said, ‘I just want you to know seeing you here tonight makes me think my daughter’s here because you provided my daughter with her last laughs on this Earth.”
And if anyone understands what it’s like to experience loss, it’s Eric. Cancer has had a huge impact on his family.
“As a kid, I lost both my grandpas to cancer,” he explains. “I was sort of denied a real grandpa experience. I have a few memories with each of them, but not the memories I wish I had.”
His uncle also passed away about 10 years ago from an aggressive cancer that killed him just 18 days after he was diagnosed. His mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer about 12 years ago, which led to doctors finding that she also had kidney cancer. Fortunately, she beat both of those, and is still alive today.
These experiences were the impetus for Eric to get involved in cancer research and advocacy organizations and campaigns, including Stand Up to Cancer and Ready. Raise. Rise. (The latter campaign aims to raise awareness of an area of cancer research called immuno-oncology. Through it, people can raise an online “flag” to support cancer patient advocacy groups, several of which will receive charitable donations from cancer drugmaker Bristol Myers-Squibb.)
Given how prevalent cancer is and how many people it affects, does Eric think there will ever be a cancer storyline on Modern Family?
“It’s like when people ask if Cam is ever going to get another baby. I can’t say ‘no’ to that question, but I can’t say ‘yes’ either,” he says. “But we are a comedy. So I can promise you that if that happens, it would be the funniest cancer story you’ve ever seen.”
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