Andy Erikson's comedy act is all about seeing the glass half-full — then pouring in enough bubbly to reach the rim. The Minnesota native specializes in adorable puns, clever wordplay and a cheerleader's spirit. At her merchandise table after shows, she sells unicorn fishing jigs with the enthusiasm of a grade-schooler pitching lemonade.
But mortality has a funny way of testing even the most optimistic of us.
In June, Erikson felt so dizzy she couldn't respond to her husband's call to dinner. She'd faced health issues before. As a youngster, she was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a super-rare genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue.
But this was different. After arriving at a hospital by ambulance, she went into cardiac arrest. She flatlined. Heart surgery followed; a pacemaker was installed.
Because of the pandemic, her family was not allowed to be by her side. All she had was a stuffed llama doll to cling to — and the support of her loved ones who, standing in a parking structure across the street, held up signs she could see from her window.
"It was a really cool, weird, special moment," Erikson said months later as she prepared for "Andy's Unicornicomedy Holiday Show," a Zoom special streaming Sunday with a slew of special guests. "My brother is not an outwardly affectionate guy. He made a sign that said, 'Packers suck!' That made me laugh so hard."
Erikson was already facing challenges before the near-death experience.
After a fairly successful six-year run in Los Angeles — including a strong showing on NBC's "Last Comic Standing," a regular slot at the Improv comedy club and a recurring role on Fox's "Scream Queens" — she and her husband, actor Alex Stein, decided to move to her parents' home in Ham Lake.
"We were basically confined to our little apartment," said Erikson, who gave up her two-bedroom pad in North Hollywood shortly before her time in the ICU. "Now I know what it feels like in an apocalypse. I mean, it's the same everywhere, but at least here in Minnesota I have space and air. I have a yard. I've been able to quarantine on a pontoon. I feel like a person again."
She hasn't performed in clubs much since the pandemic started, although she did venture out to Acme Comedy Club in September to participate in Crash & Burn, an event in which headliners test out new material.
During her set, she didn't shy away from talking about her latest ordeal.
"I don't want to talk about a wedding I went to five years ago where somebody peed their pants," she said a few days before taking the stage. "I'm excited to share all these things I've went through. I have this opportunity to share and laugh and cry, to connect with people."
Like most stand-ups, she's relied primarily on streaming shows to keep herself sharp.
"What happened to her is kind of crazy, but I think it only made her stronger," said longtime friend Tommy Ryman, who will perform a set during Sunday's Zoom special. "I forget how strong she is. Every time life throws something at her, she approaches it like, 'I can do better than this.' When you watch her, you just feel better about yourself."
Erikson doesn't know if or when she'll give L.A. another shot, although she's itching to develop some kind of television show. She does know this: Making people laugh has never felt so important.
"I've come to terms that I could die at any minute," she said. "This is my second life. I don't have any regrets."
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