Nationally known comedian Pat McGann is usually grateful for all the laughs and smiles he gets from fans.
Now, he and his family are the ones smiling.
The support they have received from the community as Elliot McGann, the 18-month old son of Pat and his wife, Sara, fights leukemia has made them happy and appreciative.
Elliot, Pat said, was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 28.
Since that time, the community has rallied behind the McGanns, the family said, and now, friends will be able to laugh about helping out in a dire situation.
Friends and family of the McGanns will offer their support at a sold-out fundraiser comedy show called “Stand Up for Elliot” that will be held Jan. 21 at Zanies Comedy Club, 5437 Park Place, in Rosemont.
“You know being here that you live in a great community,” said Pat, a 1990 St. Cajetan Elementary School graduate who lives in Beverly. “But something like this, you really realize how incredibly special the community is.”
Those unable to attend the sold-out show can still donate online at the Web site giveforward.com.
Comedians scheduled to appear include Jimmy Shubert, who was a finalist on the TV show “Last Comic Standing” and has also appeared on “King of Queens” and “Entourage”; Steve Cochran, a WGN Radio morning host; and Pat Tomasulo, who’s also a sports anchor for WGN.
Zanies, where Pat has performed several times, is the perfect place, the family said, for a fundraiser. Pat won’t be on stage this time, but instead, he and Sara will be in the audience, where they can talk and laugh with friends. It will be a welcomed escape from their current situation.
“It just seems to be appropriate because it’s kind of our style,” Pat said.
Officials at Zanies, according to General Manager Cyndi Nelson, immediately wanted to help upon learning about Elliot’s diagnosis. Pat was set to perform at the club on the night the family had to rush to the emergency room with Elliot.
Pat was the first comic to perform at the club’s location about three years ago, so a strong bond exists between club management and the comedian.
“Pat and Sara and their family are just amazing and loved so much by so many people that everybody has wanted to help,” Nelson said. “I have been inundated with ‘How can we help?’ requests from people.”
Like Pat, Nelson hopes the event will bring a smile to people’s faces during a tough time. She said comics around the country have called to ask how they can help.
“Any time a child is sick, it’s just so sad,” Nelson said. “This is how we help with stuff, by making people laugh at times like this.”
Elliot, who’s one of three McGann children under the age of 3, is battling T-cell acute lympocytic leukemia, the family said. Pat and Sara were blindsided by the diagnosis, but now, they said, Elliot’s become the family’s leader of sorts as he fights the disease. When Elliot’s playing and laughing, his parents feel a little bit better.
The next several months will be “grueling,” Sara said, and Elliot will have to work to “maintain” his health in future years. Sara is staying optimistic, though, noting that she and Pat are already blessed with three children, “but we truly think that life will be more beautiful on the other side coming out of this.”
Pat has risen to celebrity status with several performances in the past year. In January 2014, he appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman.” He’s also appeared on ABC’s “Windy City Live” and the “WGN Morning News.” In addition, he’s shared his talents by performing in shows to benefit local elementary schools.
The same people he’s entertained during his career are now rallying behind him. That includes on Facebook, the social media site where hundreds of people have made their profile photo a blue logo with the letter “E” that resembles the Superman logo because Elliot’s become known as “Super Elliot” to his friends and family.
“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the way people have been,” Pat said.
After Elliot’s diagnosis, the neighborhood immediately came to the McGanns’ aid, the family said. Christmas carolers sang for them outside their home. Toys have been left on the front porch. A Mass was said for Elliot at St. Cajetan Roman Catholic Church.
“It’s sort of like a marriage—in good times and in bad,” Sara said. “But in those bad times, you’re reminded of how special a place this community is.”
The family is now busy preparing for the fundraiser at Zanies. Getting ready for such an event brings forth many emotions for Pat and Sara.
Much like a good comedian, Sara’s got a good line when it comes to describing the power of laughter during tough times.
It’s a quote from the Rev. Tom Hurley, former associate pastor at St. Cajetan. He used it at the ceremony at Old St. Pat’s Church for Sara’s marriage to Beverly’s famous funny man.
“Laughter,” Hurley said, “is the undeniable presence of God.”
“And it’s so true,” Sara said. “Even in these scary times, it’s just good to laugh. It just feels good.”