Finding healing through comedy

Danielle Perez lost her feet in a tragic accident. Despite her challenges, the comedian just wants to make people laugh.

Posted: Mar 25, 2018 11:18 PM
Updated: Mar 25, 2018 11:33 PM

Danielle Perez has been carried on stage, Cleopatra-style.

"Comedy happens in very cool places. And nowhere cool is accessible," said Perez, who uses a wheelchair.

Once she's up there, though, the 33-year-old comedian feels right at home.

"It feels so powerful to be on stage," she said. "Life is hard for everyone. To participate in something that makes people laugh -- there's nothing like it."

But life for Perez wasn't always funny. Growing up in Los Angeles, she struggled with depression and eating disorders. Then, Perez moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State University, where a tragic accident changed her life.

Before that, she was living a glamorous urban lifestyle, "running around the hills of San Francisco in 3-inch-high heels and drinking cosmopolitans."

One day, Perez was crossing the street to catch a Muni streetcar. She suddenly found herself in the streetcar's path. It didn't stop.

"By the time it stopped, the wheels were above my legs," she said.

When two firefighters arrived, they started asking her questions.

" 'Can you feel your hands? Can you feel your shoulders?' Once they got to my feet, I started to freak out a little bit because I couldn't feel them," she said.

The impact also shattered her pelvis and ruptured her bladder. When she woke up in the hospital, her mother was sitting next to her.

"The first words she said to me were, 'Danielle, you don't have any feet.' "

Adjusting to life in a wheelchair

Perez was 20 years old. Her legs were amputated below the knee, and she spent the next month recovering in the hospital.

"I was in such denial about the reality. I just wanted to go and hang out with my friends. I just wanted to be normal," she recalled.

At first, that denial helped Perez move forward.

"It allowed me to get out of the house, learn how to drive," she said. "But it also delayed that healing process of knowing that people are gonna treat you differently. And some things are going to be harder."

Like wearing prosthetics. Perez had trouble using them after having skin grafts on her legs.

"I got very depressed after that, and I gained a lot of weight."

Making people laugh

But three years ago, she found healing in an unlikely place: a comedy club. Her best friend's roommate was a standup comedian. Perez and her friend started going to his shows.

"By the third one, I was like, 'I could do this,' " she said. "It's that insane hubris that every person who starts standup comedy has to have. Where you think, 'Oh, that's not hard.' "

Perez took a comedy class and started going to open mics.

"I went to my first open mic at this crappy little Hollywood coffee shop, and people laughed at my jokes. And I just fell in love with it."

Perez uses her experiences as material for her comedy routines.

"It's about my life, my family, my friends, dating," she said. "I talk about the accident. I talk about my depression. ... We are all complex people, so when people see that and relate to it, it's great."

When she performs her comedy routine, she doesn't care about what people think of her.

"When I go on stage, I'm just worried about 'are these jokes funny?' not 'what do they think about my disability?' " she said.

'The Price Is Right'

In 2015, Perez was thrust into the spotlight after she appeared on an episode of "The Price Is Right." Her prizes: a treadmill and a walk-in sauna.

"If you're having a crazy reaction to that, that's also the reaction the Internet had, because that video went viral," she said.

She was interviewed by news networks around the world and appeared as a guest on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

"People keep asking me what I'm gonna do with (the treadmill). And I said, 'I guess I'll just do what everyone else does and just use it as a piece of furniture,' " she told Kimmel.

That exposure helped Perez get her name out and build a fan base. "At shows, people are like, 'Oh, it's that girl from "The Price Is Right." ' "

Now, Perez performs in comedy clubs all over Los Angeles. She's come a long way since that accident 13 years ago.

"Standup comedy has helped me heal because it's really given me purpose," she said. "What I try to convey is that it's OK to be yourself."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 155246

Reported Deaths: 4065
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25151785
Lake13570355
St. Joseph9145161
Elkhart8759135
Allen8129228
Hamilton6117113
Vanderburgh576760
Tippecanoe369515
Hendricks3268133
Monroe325738
Porter313649
Johnson3105128
Clark293961
Delaware293274
Vigo260538
Madison235093
Cass224022
LaPorte222858
Warrick192965
Kosciusko182625
Floyd179167
Howard162466
Bartholomew141558
Dubois138626
Marshall137426
Wayne126930
Henry125429
Grant125339
Boone122250
Hancock118245
Noble115933
Jackson112915
Dearborn94928
Morgan93740
Lawrence87436
Daviess87133
Gibson87111
Clinton84716
Shelby81730
LaGrange80115
Harrison76224
Knox75610
Putnam72816
Posey7146
DeKalb71011
Fayette66618
Steuben6278
Miami6095
Jasper5945
White58515
Montgomery58322
Greene53337
Scott51813
Decatur50439
Adams4837
Whitley4556
Clay4467
Ripley4418
Sullivan43714
Wells4288
Wabash4119
Starke4077
Orange40425
Huntington3905
Spencer3906
Washington3753
Franklin37225
Jennings36713
Fulton3523
Randolph3529
Jefferson3415
Pike33018
Carroll32513
Perry31014
Jay3056
Fountain2943
Tipton27523
Vermillion2411
Parke2323
Newton22511
Rush2154
Blackford2093
Owen2051
Martin1990
Crawford1581
Pulaski1521
Brown1393
Ohio1297
Benton1100
Union1100
Switzerland920
Warren781
Unassigned0234

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 190430

Reported Deaths: 5161
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin31466640
Cuyahoga19706682
Hamilton16687343
Montgomery10377189
Lucas8285373
Butler8276129
Summit6689265
Warren420064
Stark3796181
Mahoning3709286
Marion338850
Pickaway301146
Delaware287227
Lorain272889
Fairfield264457
Licking257966
Wood249681
Clark249456
Clermont245938
Greene229242
Trumbull2270134
Allen213073
Columbiana212887
Miami199958
Lake193659
Medina185642
Portage162068
Mercer152128
Wayne140269
Ross139436
Richland132324
Tuscarawas129024
Athens12052
Erie115553
Darke114451
Madison105415
Hancock104725
Auglaize100616
Putnam97427
Lawrence93025
Shelby90914
Muskingum8884
Geauga85950
Scioto8599
Belmont78827
Union7583
Ashtabula72648
Sandusky71122
Huron70912
Preble62418
Holmes61710
Seneca60114
Ottawa58430
Fulton53711
Henry47317
Jefferson4694
Clinton46413
Defiance46013
Jackson4598
Crawford4528
Fayette4498
Highland4304
Logan4233
Ashland3986
Champaign3983
Knox38416
Brown3793
Perry36611
Washington35124
Morrow3442
Hardin33613
Williams3354
Coshocton32112
Guernsey3218
Pike3000
Wyandot29513
Gallia29113
Van Wert2633
Meigs21012
Adams2096
Paulding2012
Carroll2007
Hocking1979
Monroe16118
Noble1290
Vinton963
Harrison803
Morgan780
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 63°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 66°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Friday Afternoon Showers & Thunderstorms
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events