After my leg injury, I quit stand-up. Then I realized acting was my pain relief

This first-person article is by Andie Hong, a comedian from Toronto. For more information on CBC’s First Person Stories, please see frequently asked questions.

In August 2020, I went biking with a friend in Toronto. He suggested a route with a steep downward slope. I was scared but we didn’t think anything bad would happen.

Guess what? It made.

I lost control, fell off the bike and broke my right leg. My surgeon said it was one of the worst leg injuries he had seen in his entire professional career.

From there, the life I had known ended.

I was completely immobile for three months and spent a year in physiotherapy. Today I can’t walk without a cane.

Questioning my choices

When I told my family about my injury, they asked me, “What were you doing there?

Hong performed onstage at the Bad Dog Theater in Toronto in 2016 before a biking accident that would affect her mobility. (Submitted by Andie Hong)

What was I doing here in Canada?

I don’t know, break my leg and go broke?

Before my injury, acting was all I wanted to do. I had a monthly show and started open mics in Toronto. I had been invited to audition for the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival.

Live comedy was dead during the first months of the pandemic, but I found different outlets for my passion by writing humorous articles and making humorous videos.

However, after my injury, my perspective changed. I envied my sister and brother because they felt like they were more settled and had an age-appropriate life. During this time, I was still living with roommates. I had no money saved. Hell, I didn’t even have a job.

But the biggest difference was that they were valid, and suddenly I wasn’t.

A woman wearing a hospital gown poses with a man wearing a face mask.
Hong, left, poses with her friend, Ben Sosa Wright, after injuring her leg. (Submitted by Andie Hong)

I stopped being interested in comedy. All I could think about was whether or not I would walk again. I wallowed and spent a lot of time sleeping and playing video games.

I had a lot of ridiculous thoughts. If I had never left Korea to come to Canada, would I have been injured? Would I have had a “successful life” like my sister and my brother: married, child, at home?

I had moved to Canada because I wanted to improve my English and I like western culture.

But after my injury, moving to Canada was the biggest mistake I ever made. I wanted to reverse everything. I wanted to fix it. I went back to Korea last summer for a few weeks to take care of my sick father and thought about staying permanently.

Two young women are in a dark cave.
Hong, left, poses with his sister Su Min Hong during his visit to South Korea in 2021. (Submitted by Andie Hong)

Clean break from comedy?

My dad said he would cook for me if I stayed. My brother said I should think more about staying. My sister asked me what I would do if I stayed. I suggested maybe working in a call center?

But I wanted to go home to Toronto and find my adorable cat. Oh, my dear Krampus!

A satisfied orange cat is lounging on a bed covered with pillows.
Andie Hong adores her cat, Krampus. (Submitted by Andie Hong)

I also wanted a fresh start, so I enrolled in business school, and it was easier to do that in Canada as a mature student. I started imagining my future as an accountant. More comedy. I was convinced that I had wasted my life when I could have had a secure, well-paying job.

But even as I moved on with my new life as an accountant, I found I had a ton to say about my injury. I started writing short snippets on Facebook about my hospital stay and, to my surprise, people responded positively to it.

Then in December, a friend asked me if I wanted to do a 10-minute spot on his show.

Many people asked me if I had been hit by a car. But let me tell you… If I got hit by a car, I wouldn’t be here to tell you that story. I would be lying in my mansion, smoking a cigar because I would have chased that person. I don’t have time to get run over by a KIA, only Mercedes. It was a bicycle accident. That’s why I’m in… a bar.

I did well enough that I wanted to do more. I joined a sketch troupe and performed in a revue. I did a Just for Laughs showcase in April. People said it was good to see me on stage, but I would reject it.

Do not say that ! I have a bright future as an accountant. It is temporary.

But the truth is that I love to make people laugh on stage. It’s so addictive: I’ve created a monthly comedy show and I’m recording my album later this year.

My injury and seeing my family in Korea made me quit acting. But it turned out that comedy couldn’t get rid of me.

I still envy my siblings, I’m still in accounting, and my leg still hurts badly. But on stage, I forget all those things. Acting is my pain relief. I really wanted to get the comedy out of my life. Because tragedy can be funny, right?

Andie Hong is a comedian and screenwriter. She writes and performs in a sketch troupe Don Valley Girls and hosts a monthly show Laugh at Me, Baby at Comedy Bar.

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