Growing up in a small town in WV, I always wanted to be like Johnny Carson or David Letterman. I don’t want to even begin to calculate the late fees my parents spent on VHS rentals of Beverly Hills Cop or Fletch. Characters with a quick wit who were able to handle a tough moment or awkward situation with a funny line were always my heroes. It got me in a lot of timeouts in school for talking too much. But I quickly learned how powerful a sense of humor could be. I have needed it now more than ever.
I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry right after college. After about 5 years of minimal success I had to take full time work that took me away from my dream. On June 10 2015, I was on top of the world as far as I knew. I had been back to acting full time for about 3 years, and after some solid years of amassing quite a few credits, I had just shot a significant part in a feature film The Midnight Man. The future looked bright. I was even driving to an audition on the 405 that day at 3:30pm.
Then my accident happened.
I won’t go into all the injuries I suffered. Those are listed on my Rich v Honda video. But the injury to my psyche and my hope of making something good out of what happened to me was pretty dim. Then during my recovery, which is ongoing, I would go back and watch Eddie, Chevy, or Arsenio and their effortless quick wits and just smile. Old Carson and Letterman videos uploaded to YouTube would remind me of the power of a sense of humor to diffuse an uncomfortable moment. And with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver, I was overwhelmed by how through comedy there’s always an opportunity for a message, hope, and heart. That’s how my video Rich v Honda came together.
I have a literal reminder every second of every day that I’m not right due to my permanent triple vision. And the treatment by Honda and their self-aggrandizing “Helpful Honda People” left me feeling powerless. It’s a life I wouldn’t wish on anybody.But then I remembered how important it is to laugh. And to find joy and humor and light in the darkness. Even in my own situation. I have my challenges, sure, but so does everybody. You wouldn’t look at me and know I have triple vision. And that dynamic taught me that you never know what is truly going on in someone’s mind, in someone’s view of the world, and in someone’s life. And that’s why giving people empathy and compassion is so important.
When you live like that, you tend to focus on what you have left vs what you’ve lost.
And that’s a perspective and a life that I can wish for everybody.
-Rich Finley Shumate