Timothy Omundson knows what it feels like to make something, then have well-made plans come apart after he suffered a massive stroke at the height of his acting career. Kate speaks with Tim and Joel McHale about the power of hard work and friendship.
Discussion Questions for this conversation are available, here.
Watch the trailer for Galavant. You’re going to love it. Galavant can be streamed on Netflix.
Preview the trailer for Psych: the Movie. You can stream it on Hulu.
Watch the trailer for Psych: the Movie 2. It can be streamed on NBC’s Peacock.
And perhaps the most entertaining thing you’ll watch today, here is the trailer for Spy Kids 4.
Follow Tim on Twitter or Instagram.
Follow Tim’s beard at #kingsbeard #cainsbeard.
Kate Bowler: Hi, I’m Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens.
K.B.: Look, the world loves us when we are good, better, best. But this is a podcast for when you want to stop feeling guilty that you’re not living your best life now. We’re not always doing mountaintop yoga. I used to have my own delusion of living my best life now. I’m a Duke professor, wine and cheese enthusiast, wife and mom, Instagram gold. Then I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. That was four years ago and I’m still here. And now I get it. Life is a chronic condition. The self-help and wellness industry will try to tell you that you can always fix your life. Eat this and you won’t get sick, lose this weight and you’ll never be lonely. Believe with your whole heart and God will provide. Keep this attitude and the money is yours. But I’m here to look into your gorgeous eyes and say, hey, there are some things you can fix and some things you can’t. And it’s OK that life isn’t always better. We can find beauty and meaning and truth, but there’s no cure to being human. So let’s be friends on that journey. Let’s be human together.
K.B.: Today is about work, hard work, work that you reach for, work that costs you. But man, it feels good. The feeling of good hard work is hard to duplicate. It sometimes feels like it’s just who we are. So who are we when that’s taken away? The company restructures without you. The business you started, shutter’s its doors. You submit your resumé and all you hear is crickets. Or maybe a diagnosis or injury leaves you unable to do what you once could or caring for someone is taking up all your time and energy and heart. You don’t get to tap into the magic of feeling yourself try. I’m going to be talking with two of my favorite people who love to work. One of them is Joel McHale, an actor and comedian. And I’ll tell you more about him later when he barges in and ignores every question I ask him. I am never mean to guests. So when you hear me being mean to Joel McHale, please picture someone who is like eight million feet tall and who has been making us retape this opening again and again because he’s banging on the glass of the podcast studio like a gorilla. And, we both love Timothy Omundson. You have probably seen Timothy before. He starred in shows like Judging Amy, Psych, or the musical comedy Galavant, which is like a modern day Monty Python and the greatest thing to watch with your Mennonite in-laws. Trust me, it’s hysterical. Timothy knows what it feels like to work hard to make something and then to have well-made plans come apart. Timothy, I’m so glad to be with you today.
Timothy Omundson: I bet I’m even more grateful to be here than you’re grateful for having me here.
K.B.: I plan on competing with you on that score. You’ve had a number of amazing roles. And then in April 2017, one event changed everything. If you don’t mind, would you tell me what happened?
T.O.: Sure it was super fun. And so, as you said, I had a string of great parts and was kind of the top of my career. My wife and I had just put it up an escrow on the house of our dreams. And I’d been a series regular, I think, on five different shows in a row. Which is crazy in the Hollywood land.
T.O.: And I just booked a pilot with this young up and comer named Carol Burnett. So it was me, Carol Burnett, and Amy Poehler, starring in a sitcom. It’s like jobs of lifetimes. So this guy, I mean, when I sit here and think list all the stuff, it’s like, wow, this really sucked.
T.O.: So I ended up having a massive right stroke. I’m sorry, right brain injury specifically while standing in the men’s room at the Tampa airport, because it’s I’m always glamorous. So if you’re going to fall on the floor, that’s the one you fall on. And I ended up being at the Tampa ICU for a very long time it’s been almost three years now. That’s correct. And I’ve been recovering this whole time.
T.O.: So after my stroke, initially they had a, I can’t remember the term exact- because I’m not a doctor. I’ve been just around them and played them on TV. I had a hemicraniectomy, which means because my brain was swelling, they to take off half my skull and, which is really a surgery you don’t want to have because that’s one that can kill you. But Dr. Juan Valdivia, shout out to Dr. Valdivia. Is this sizzle. Here’s a fun fact: so they got these bits of skull sitting around and in some hospitals they just put them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.
T.O.: In my case they put them in my abdomen.
T.O.: Which I called my tummy tupperware.
K.B.: No, they didn’t.
T.O.: They did. So it’s like, at least they attach a blood vessel to them so they stay viable and they won’t get rejected when they get put back in your head. And they put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
K.B.: Yeah, people who are listening to this podcast are going to hear your rich mellifluous voice and they are going to think you’re back to full form. So what does recovery look like for you?
T.O.: It has been a really intense daily activity of physical therapy and occupational therapy and voice therapy and lots of therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy. I’m not nearly full form. So because there’s a right brain injury, it left me paralyzed on my left side, had to relearn how to walk, my left arm is still paralyzed and unusable for the most part. And that’s been- and luckily, I mean, as devastating as my stroke was, physically, I’m really lucky in that it it didn’t affect my ability to speak and didn’t really hit my memory. And it didn’t kill me. It almost did. But luckily I had a really great neurosurgeon in Tampa, Florida.
K.B.: You had a series of serendipitous things all happen. One after the other that made you feel pretty lucky. Even though I think we both probably want to give up on the word “luck” as a category.
T.O.: I mean, I don’t know. I think I still need that category.
T.O.: And if- I was also I was about 15 minutes away from getting on a flight. So if I’d been delayed, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, I’d be buried in Georgia, I guess, because that’s- I was going to Atlanta.
K.B.: Yeah. All the worse things happen in Atlanta, that was where my chemo was, so Atlanta is an anathema to me.
T.O.: I’m sure it’s a nice place with lots of nice people, but
K.B.: They seem great.
T.O.: Rather not be buried there.
K.B.: Can you give me a sense of like what the different stages have been? There was the acute crisis stage where you’re in the hospital. And then what was the next?
T.O.: The next was I went I was medevaced out of Tampa and went to a, ah its been so many it awhile to kind of track where I was, I went to a rehab hospital here in Los Angeles. Whereas I started relearned how to walk other than that I was in a wheelchair. And it’s one of those things where when you’re in it I didn’t know what I didn’t know anymore until I was sort of trying and it suddenly dawned on me, it’s like oh I can’t use anymore.
T.O.: That’s right, I used to do things this way. How do I know- how do I tie shoes when I can’t use a hand?
T.O.: See, you figure out workarounds for that. Or you have a darling wife who does them for you. Hi, Allison, thanks. My wife is in the other room.
K.B.: And unbelievably beautiful, just for the record.
T.O.: That she is. I scored! So the rehab, I mean, the rehab is ongoing. That’s for the rest of life. And that’s something about, oh- I can’t sing anymore. How do I do that? So, I mean, it affected my lungs and my lung strength. So when you’re saying my mellifluous,.
T.O.: Mellifluous, that’s a tough word to say after you’ve had a stroke. (practices saying it).
K.B.: It’s a hard word anyway.
T.O.: Say it again.
T.O.: That’s a 50 Center, everybody. Write that one down. So that voice is not what it was. I mean my, one of my nicknames in drama scores was el voce.
T.O.: So it’s kind of a bummer that that’s not really there as much as it used to be. See, maybe you may hear me gasping for breath and then taking some time as I’m trying to really strengthen my lungs and get enough to speak.
T.O.: Words that are proper English words.
K.B.: Yeah. You have such a gorgeous voice too. That’s, I mean, I love so many of your roles, but that’s why I’m particularly obsessed with Galavant because it’s watching you be the king who wanted so much more than life gave him, but was just incredible at singing about it.
T.O.: You know Galavant was really, that role of King Richard, was the role I’d waited my entire life to play. So it was an incredible dream to get that job. And so then I had to learn how to sing, dance and the singing came much easier than the dancing.
K.B.: You’re looking at me and I’m just thinking, as a Mennonite, I have no background in dancing, so I, I offer nothing.
T.O.: So lots of just sitting in corners while music plays.
K.B.: Oh very attentively, I think, very attentively.
T.O.: Is there tapping of toes?
T.O.: Snapping fingers?
K.B.: If we’re getting a little jazzy about it.
T.O.: I imagine you could probably clap hands?
K.B.: I was actually in an all-girls a cappella group in college and I liked to make my snap, especially snappy. Because I was terrible at dancing. Yeah.
T.O.: What was the name of the group?
K.B.: Oh, obviously The Sirens.
K.B.: Thats right: “Who else will force you into the rocks.” So much has changed physically, and I imagine it had implications for every part of your life. You are an absolutely outstanding actor, and I imagine this changed a lot of what you thought might be possible in your career.
T.O.: It really did. I mean, as I was living in the ICU again with it dawning on me of what happened to my body it was like, oh, this sucks. And then, obviously it was really overwhelming of being sort of trapped in a body and I kind of thought, it literally dawned on me. I have already been a hugely, you mean huge, a really successful for me, a pretty successful actor. Like I beat Hollywood in a way. Moved down here at 18. Went to drama school and, and I’ve been living my dreams.
T.O.: So I thought if I if I already achieved that recovering from a stroke is nothing.
K.B.: That’s a super badass thing to say. I’m really struck by how badass that is. Imagine the same skill as an actor as in recovery is a very high tolerance for uncertainty.
T.O.: Yeah, not that it doesn’t get really frustrating, I get bummed out and pissed. I mean, I don’t really get angry, but I just get kind of bummed out about it.
K.B.: Yeah. But funny, I’m sure you always get funny, too, though.
T.O.: They did say, after the stroke, I got one of my friends came and saw me, James Roday from Psych, came to see me in the hospital and was like “is it just me or did him get funnier from the stroke?” And humor is kind of all I had. That thing that wasn’t taken away.
K.B.: Yeah, I’d love to talk about work and purpose for a minute. When I got sick, I felt like I was suddenly only supposed to care about the essential things. Family, love, just being alive. But the truth was almost right away I missed working and part of it, I think, was that I missed feeling good at something, especially when my life was out of control. But I think I really missed the joy and the purpose and the sense of being reconstituted by good work. Does that sound familiar to you?
T.O.: Sounds very familiar. I mean. I have wanted to be an actor since I was about 12 years old. I’ve been doing it professionally since I was 21, I think. So suddenly being doing this thing for 22 years, and then not being able to do it the way I used to do it was really off putting to me.
T.O.: And still is, as I’m getting back to work and trying to figure out how to do that thing I always did that was all muscle memory when the muscles are gone.
K.B.: Because I’ve heard about you that like, you know, where all the camera angles are, like you’re so acutely aware of your surroundings.
T.O.: Yeah. So I had this weird sort of spidey sense that I could walk onto a set and while I was in the scene I knew where every camera was and pretty much what angles they were shooting, and not necessarily, or like what lens they were using so when I would be in focus versus out-of-focus. So it was a really valuable tool, because I was a pretty technical actor, I guess you’d say.
T.O.: And that’s- that quickly disappeared because I have a vision break in my, like my peripheral vision is gone on my left side cause it effected- the stroke effected my optical nerve.
T.O.: So it’s actually walking in any space now can be really disconcerting or discombobulating.
K.B.: I have actually filled this studio with snakes. I didn’t want to tell you, but it was a surprise.
T.O.: Oh, it’s a diamondback, those are hard to find around here.
K.B.: That would be so disorienting.
T.O.: It is really weird.
K.B.: You worked on the hilarious show Psych for eight seasons where you played Detective Lassie, who did not have the time of day for the psychic antics of actors James Roday and Dulé Hill.
T.O.: (Whispers) So handsome, both those guys.
K.B.: You credit much of your recovery to your Psych family and they did something pretty remarkable. Will you tell me about it?
T.O.: I was so blessed by those guys and gals. So when I first had the stroke, they were about to start production on Psych the Movie. And then I was pretty wiped out and not knowing if I was going to- I mean at this point we know I was going to live, because I was alive- but they had no idea what my physical capabilities would be.
T.O.: So James, who’s one- who’s the lead of our show. How’s this for talent? Lead of our show, one of our main writers, most frequent directors, and executive producer.
T.O.: That’s one word for it. Annoying is another. Like pick a lane dude. So James wrote the movie with Steve Frank’s our creator. And they rewrote it in 72 hours so I could still and they rewrote it so I could appear in the movie because with the time I was really laid out.
T.O.: So they figured out a way I could have a cameo. So I did my part in this- in Psych the Movie was a FaceTime call with Maggie Lawson who played my longtime partner on the show. And they really did it just so I could get paid to be in the movie. But in addition to that, all the actors kind of banded together and decided to take less money, go favored nations. So there would be money for me in the budget. So getting actors to give up money. What? This does not happen in Hollywood. So intensely grateful to those guys for getting me in the movie. But the biggest thing they did was the sequel Psych 2. See how’s that for math? Lassie Come Home, which comes out in April on the peacock streaming service. Thank you. That’s a freebie, by the way, I did not get paid for that, although they did pay me for the movie. So the second movie is coming out and they- my recovery was much stronger. I had gotten much stronger. But again, they tailored the movie perfectly to my physical situation. So I at the time, I’d been living in a rehab facility. So that played- spoiler alert: Lassiter gets shot and has a stroke on the operating table. So the movie’s all of Lassiter recovering from the stroke.
K.B.: Oh. That’s really beautiful. Like-
T.O.: They’re beautiful people.
K.B.: It must have been fun to be in the mix with everybody again, feeling- feeling the whole experience of it.
T.O.: I can’t even describe how overwhelmingly beautiful it was that first day on set. For some reason, we have this tradition of singing Happy Birthday it- which wasn’t Happy Birthday just means- it just meant we love you.
T.O.: And you’re one of us.
T.O.: So usually our, um, our first camera operator, Marco Ciccone would just hit a note and he was sort of hit that first note and then this crew of 80 or 100 people would hit, match the note or start harmonizing and we all knew. It’s like, oh, it’s on. Because we brought this person, we love them, and it would give this rousing, like Mormon Tabernacle Choir-worthy version of Happy Birthday with harmonies and gusto, and it was just beautiful. And a lot of times the guest stars who were new would just go like ‘what the hell is going on?’.
T.O.: And then we would applaud and they kind of realized it was like, oh, this is about love. So my first day on set of second movie to date I fly up to Vancouver with my beautiful wife and we’re in a hotel and they say, ‘hey, do you want to come out to set and say hello to everybody before we start work tomorrow?’ Say, “sure I mean I might try to sleep but okay.” So there’s this beautiful mansion where we’re shooting and they wheel me up in my wheelchair and I was actually able to walk into the foyer, foy-er? Let’s go fancy and say foyer of this mansion. And I looked around and notice that all the crew and our cast was sort of circling me.
K.B.: Mm hmm.
T.O.: And then Marco hits the note. And the tears begin.
T.O.: And I’m looking around also and it’s a lot of our original cast come back for this day. So they start singing Happy Birthday and luckily, my wife has a video this. I look at Carmen our longtime boom operator. She’s a sound person and she’s in tears, which makes Allison burst into tears and I’m almost in tears. There’s a guest star actress and she’s in tears. And I’m like, I don’t even know you, why are you crying! But it was truly a lovely experience. And while I was recovering during Psych One, they would send me videos of singing Happy Birthday to me. So this crew is really a massive part of my recovery.
K.B.: They found you a love song.
T.O.: They did. And then they- so the work was very different being back on set because I quickly realized I couldn’t memorize lines the way I used to, I used to have not quite a photographic memory, but
T.O.: I could highlight my sides once and have the lines for the scene in my head. And that really went out the window.
T.O.: Which is angering and just days prior to this Allison was really hounding me to learn my lines. And I’m like “I don’t need to learn my lines, I got them. I got- got this, yeah yeah I got this.” Also our show is so quick, we often change lines on the fly. So it’s like there’s no point memorizing these. It’s going to change anyway when we work the comedy magic and so I went home and said “Okay, that didn’t work.” And then James and Steve came to my hotel room and worked the scene with me for tomorrow’s work.
T.O.: We sort of figured out the new jokes then, so I had 24 hours to do the good- good old fashioned thing of actually memorizing your lines like a professional actor. Which helped immensely.
T.O.: And that- end of that day, they said like “whatever you did today, do it again tomorrow.”
T.O.: So I go memorize my lines like I’m supposed to.
K.B.: I’ve heard of this. I’ve heard of this process.
T.O.: I think I heard about this in theater school.
K.B.: I think it’s lovely that they found ways that worked for you that they could surround you in the way that you need.
T.O.: It was incredible. Then, because I couldn’t walk up stairs like had to build stairs for me into my trailer. With like special railings, which was amazing.
K.B.: Yeah. Yeah.
T.O.: That at the end of, when they wrapped me, I think they sang Happy Birthday again and I gave a little speech. And I literally said “if I ever get to call myself an actor again, it’s because of what you guys did for me here this week.”
K.B.: Oh, Timothy.
T.O.: No more tears, lots of tears on our comedy.
K.B.: Well, it’s funny because like, and what you’re describing too, and I think so much of good work is this weird process of trust where if you- especially if you’re not exactly sure what you’re capable of- then you need all that feeling of like leaning into others until you know that they can let go.
T.O.: 100 percent. And I was so lucky, I mean, I’d been on it- done 100 episodes, 120 episodes with these people. And we knew each other’s acting rhythms so well, that I don’t think I could’ve done it with another group.
K.B.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. That’s way more intimate even then the falling off the picnic bench trust falls that they try to institute as a corporate exercise. That really is like such a trust fall. One of the great myths of this culture is that we have to be invincible. I think it is especially in a place like Hollywood with all of its beauty and perfection and glamor. You and I are no longer in a position where we get to pretend to be invincible. Do you find that it helps other people to stop pretending too?
T.O.: The fact that I can’t be as handsome as I used to be?
K.B.: I mean, handsome was- is always still on the table.
T.O.: Thank you. I would hope it does. One of the funny side effects of this current physical situation is my egos really kind of gone out the window quite a bit. I was a very, I’ll say natty dandy dresser.
T.O.: Really fastidious about my epic beard and fantastic hair from Galavant. Had this sort of long mane of hair that made my horse jealous. My beard had a hashtag, by the way.
K.B.: Stop it.
T.O.: #Kingsbeard. Actually, every show I would do, it had a hashtag. When I was playing Cain on Supernatural, it was #Cainsbeard. So King’s beard, Cain’s beard, and now it’s- because I’ve only got one hand. I can’t add my vision so that I can’t trim it the way I used to and I can’t- I dye my beard because it’s gray.
T.O.: It’s like an old sooty ashy campfire two days after a really rip-roaring camp out.
K.B.: It’s hard being changed. It is, I feel that way about the weirdest things. I feel that way about the fact that I’m on my fifth belly button.
T.O.: I don’t know what that means.
K.B.: They just keep giving me new ones every surgery.
T.O.: Oh right.
T.O.: Got it now.
K.B.: I am hopeful, though, that I am pretending a little bit less than I did before, that I have it together. I think I was- tried to be a little more polished than maybe I am today.
K.B.: I’d like to introduce someone else to the conversation, someone you and I find deeply-.
T.O.: Because they’re so bored by me.
K.B.: And deeply entertaining and disorienting.
T.O.: There’s a door right there, Joel! You can just come through it.
K.B.: Now I have to retape it.
T.O.: You don’t have to climb through the window.
K.B.: Sorry. He just hit himself in the face.
T.O.: Hey, everybody, Joel McHale just walked in the room.
Joel Mchale: You guys remember me? I was in Spy Kids. Four.
T.O.: You were so good.
J.M.: Welcome to everything that happens.
K.B.: No, no.
J.M.: Welcome to-
J.M.: Holy spouses.
K.B.: Okay, that’s, you’re done.
J.M.: The ladies of-
K.B.: You’re done. Tell me something you love about Timothy.
J.M.: I can’t really say that on a podcast.
T.O.: I’m going to stare right into your eyes as you do it, too. I’m not breaking that eye contact.
J.M.: I like all his cardigans that he’s been- and flannels. I’m wearing a flannel that I wore on- in the Psych Two movie.
K.B.: Why don’t you tell that story?
J.M.: They gave me this shirt to wear in the Psych Two movie and I wore it.
T.O.: You weren’t supposed to take it.
J.M.: Ah I told them I was taking it. Actually, they were like, “well, we’re not gonna use again so go ahead.” I’m like, thanks! It’s a nice shirt. It’s Pendleton, Oregon. So Tim and I met when we were doing, we were both in the Rockettes and this is the 40’s when they still mattered. And look, Tim and I are both from the greatest state in the union. Really on the, in the solar system Washington state. So he, he was kind of the the North Star of what actors wanted in Seattle. And so I just knew him from afar. And, and then when The Soup got going is when our love affair began, because Tim would regularly appear.
K.B.: Oh fun.
J.M.: And he was, he was one of those guys that- sometimes people came on The Soup and they were fine. I’m not going to name names- Kirk Douglas- and too soon? No. And- and he always brought it. And then he’s as you know, Tim is a very kind person. And having and, you know, when the crew and and the writers were like, hey, that Tim Omundson is remarkably nice and he’s not kidding. And because there were people that would come on that were monsters and they would treat the crew like hell. And- and then, and then they’d be super nice on camera and then they would be monsters off camera. So that’s- that’s how we got to know each other. And then he came for the final show and- and then they live in our neighborhood. And Allison and I dated Prince in the 80s.
J.M.: And yeah.
T.O.: I knew she did.
J.M.: Yeah. No, I did too. And I did, too! And when we ran this club on La Cienega, that’ll all make sense when for-to your listeners later, Kate, they- the Psych Movie asked me to appear in the movie. And I did dressed like this, ah similar. And it was one of the most like rewarding experiences like of my professional life. It was so much fun and it was so cool. And to have Tim there acting with him and he was- the fight scenes were really crazy.
T.O.: Because I did all of them standing on one leg.
J.M.: It’s a lot like John Wick, except you’re just throwing one half of his body around. It’s really crazy.
T.O.: A lot more hopping.
J.M.: And I am also on my fifth bellybutton.
K.B.: You know what’s so funny about that question though? I wrote the question “how did you guys meet?” Because I knew you’d answer it no matter what.
J.M.: In a very long way.
K.B.: And then I ended up writing “tell me something you love about Timothy” knowing that you’d answer, you’d only answer with how you met. Because men can’t be sincere.
J.M.: Oh, I didn’t say that I ever loved him.
K.B.: Of course you love him.
J.M.: And I don’t like anything about him. But I met him.
K.B.: Which I’ve documented here today.
J.M.: So technically, I’m correct. I love his hair. I wish I had that hair, I could’ve been a movie star. I was in Spy Kids.
T.O.: So good in Spy Kids.
T.O.: How do you fit in those dresses, I don’t know?
J.M.: How dare you. That Jessica Alba makeup took forever.
K.B.: When you were in recovery, Joel significantly upped his friendship game. What did he do and why do you think it worked?
T.O.: Now you’re gonna make me cry.
J.M.: Do it!
T.O.: The history of Joel and my stroke. That momentous day that it happened, my beautiful, darling wife sitting right there, superhot, beautiful wife.
J.M.: Agreed! High-fives everyone!
T.O.: High-fives. So much better that high-five was than ours.
K.B.: I’ll high-five Allison later, I feel like that would be more appropriate.
T.O.: So she ran, she and her best friend Jensen rushed to the airport to come and see me in the hospital in Tampa, Florida.
T.O.: Turned the corner, literally bumped into Joel.
J.M.: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. I was, I was taking a 6 a.m. flight to the East Coast, as was Allison, obviously. And she looked like a very- was greatly distraught. And it was, it was one of those things where you think I’m going to the airport to get on a plane. You do not expect to see a friend in great distress in the security line. And we walked all the way through the security line together. And then you went your separate way. And I went mine. And it was such- and I immediately, of course, texted Sarah. But it was, that was traumatic. That was-
T.O.: Sarah, his beautiful wife, everybody.
J.M.: Yes. Not an imaginary, friend.
T.O.: Context, she’s great.
J.M.: So, yeah, that was very traumatic. I mean, Allison was obviously very upset and it was that, that’s that was- I’ll never forget that.
T.O.: In addition to texting your beautiful, Sarah, you also text my wife Allison and or me something to the effect of. “Tim, you don’t know this, but you’re fucked you had a stroke.” so I woke up-
J.M.: No, I said a lot of that. Yes. Yeah.
J.M.: Yeah. No, I think I think that one of them was that. Yeah, I think so.
T.O.: And then throughout the week, the weeks in the ICU, he would send videos which were funny as hell. And Allison and my friends, would hold them up to me in the ICU and just entertain me.
K.B.: What were the videos?
J.M.: They were irreverent digs at his current- at his, at his situation.
K.B.: Like what?
J.M.: I’ll be like, ‘Hey, Tim, you want to go for a jog?’ Oh, there was a lot of that. ‘Oh, that’s right. You had a stroke bye!’ There was a lot of that. I think there was one where I would like invite you to workout. And then there was one where I complained about my trailer. I was like, ‘Tim, I know that you’re in a hospital bed and can’t move and they’re taking out part of your skull. But look at the size of this trailer. What has happened to my career? It’s a half banger.’ For those of you out there, the full bangers is just a full on regular trailer, a half banger, obviously is divided. There’s even quarter bangers which are for whew that’s- if that ever happens, I don’t know what I might do. But, no so I would complain about stupid things in a joking way, obviously, because his plight was so dire.
T.O.: And you would narrate your breakfast.
J.M.: I’d be like, ‘well today.’ Yes, it would be a lot of that. I’d be like, ‘it’s another scoop of powder for breakfast.’.
K.B.: Timothy, why do you think that worked? Honestly, don’t let him talk. Why do you think it worked?
T.O.: It’s because it made me laugh. First and foremost. And made me feel loved.
T.O.: Now I’m gonna cry. I mean I am being serious, it made me feel like somebody gave a crap.
T.O.: Let alone from someone as handsome as Joel, who I greatly admire. And still don’t really understand why we’re friends or that he’s friends with me.
K.B.: I have that feeling a lot.
T.O.: It’s weird.
K.B.: It’s easy to feel forgotten, especially the second you’re kind of tucked away in a hospital.
T.O.: Yeah, not so fun. The ones that really kept me going were after I left, I was medevaced back to Los Angeles.
T.O.: I went to a sort of a halfway house for people with brain injuries.
T.O.: Where they technically taught you independent living skills. Well, in a wheelchair like how to do wheel- how to do laundry in a wheelchair.
K.B.: Ah, that’s fun.
T.O.: So it’s kind of crappy house in the valley.
T.O.: It was sort of Ohio grandparents chic, lots of overstuffed leather.
J.M.: I didn’t realize how fancy it was.
T.O.: It was really nice. So I was bored out of my skull there.
T.O.: Then to make myself laugh and have fun, I don’t if you’d find this amusing, I would roll through this house and just kind of narrate the house.
J.M.: It was hilarious.
T.O.: Thank you. “There’s a bowl of wax fruit. Don’t eat that apple.” And I also I would narrate my breakfast outside in the morning.
J.M.: Yeah. Tim never lost his sense of humor.
K.B.: Cause I think part of why this similar approach, right now I’m just gesturing at Joel, this whatever whatever Joel is.
J.M.: Mhm keep going.
K.B.: Worked for- worked for my situation was that I knew he didn’t pity me. And I loved that so much because I didn’t want to feel tragic. I just wanted to feel like I was still myself. The absurdity and the possibility and it was nice to have somebody.
T.O.: And your five belly buttons.
K.B.: My five belly buttons. It was nice to have somebody else see that too.
J.M.: I was like, what would happen, what would I want if I was in this situation, other than cash? And I was like, I would want to, my relationships to continue the way that I have them. That’s what I always thought in my head so.
K.B.: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
T.O.: I really love the fact you got my face tattooed across your chest.
K.B.: That was the sweetest thing.
J.M.: Yeah. It’s, the thing is though, my chest has gotten so much bigger. And now your face look, it looks like you gained a lot of weight.
T.O.: Well, it’s- I mean, I have so it’s all fits.
J.M.: I might have to slim, to you know cut weight for the wrestling match I have later this week. So it might go back to normal.
K.B.: Gentlemen, thank you for being uncharacteristically sincere.
J.M.: You think we’re done?
K.B.: One thing that really strikes me about your friendship with Joel is that you both got to be genuine even when the circumstances were completely insane. Timothy, you were still sardonic and totally unvarnished, as far as I can tell. And Joel, you didn’t want to make people feel pitied. What advice would you have for people who want to be a better friend to someone who’s struggling?
T.O.: I think the most basic piece of advice is just reach out.
T.O.: You don’t have to have all the answers. Just letting someone know that you’re thinking about them. And I mean it’s like any kind of friendship, any bit of friendship, whether it’s someone who’s struggling or,
T.O.: Or whose brain tried to kill him like me or you suddenly have five belly buttons because of various cancer parties you’ve had in your stomach.
K.B.: I do, I’m a full five belly buttons in.
T.O.: I think the most basic thing is just reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them.
T.O.: And that they’re loved. And if you could be super funny and send funny videos, that helps, too.
K.B.: Yeah, even better.
T.O.: That is just a plus for everybody.
K.B.: I don’t think you and I would have been great with just Hallmark cards. We needed a terrifying Rottweiler of sarcasm.
T.O.: Yes, that did help.
K.B.: To show up at our door.
T.O.: I mean, Hallmark cards are nice.
T.O.: Except when you have vision loss and you can’t really read. Unless you’re having a nurse come and read them for you, which is not as fun.
K.B.: Yeah. Who you kind of hate and you wish she would use a different voice at least.
T.O.: Like come on, mix it up, for God’s sake I almost died. At least vary the timbre.
K.B.: Timothy I love you, you’re so great. You should absolutely heckle your nurses till the end of time.
T.O.: Depends on what they’re in charge of. You don’t heckle the catheter nurses. You want them to be very calm and gentle, gen-teel.
K.B.: That’s perfect. I have no more questions.
J.M.: I will say how happy I am that Tim is on this planet and still making jokes and being a very good person because the world is better with a Tim Omundson in it.
K.B.: Timothy, Joel, it’s so great to have you on the podcast today.
J.M.: It is?! Tim, I know I, look I know that tens of people download this, Kate. So they will hear it, but I just want the world to know Tim Omundson, man, that’s, that’s that’s the stuff, that’s the, that’s what we know there’s a God. Good people are put on this planet sometimes. Because there’s a lot of dicks.
T.O.: Joel, you kind of a reputation of being a bit of an asshole.
J.M.: I know.
T.O.: So I just want to set the record straight.
J.M.: It’s been very hard to create that over the years.
T.O.: People, Joel McHale is one of the sweetest, nicest men you would ever hope to meet.
K.B.: Deep down.
T.O.: Deep down.
K.B.: Super deep.
T.O.: Once you scratch that pasty white Seattle veneer off.
J.M.: It’s not pasty anymore, it’s tanned.
T.O.: Because you’ve been laying out.
J.M.: Waxed. Oh yeah, I gotta
T.O.: Next to your Koi Pond.
J.M.: Sarah and I sleep in a tanning bed.
T.O.: Makes sense, it’s probably not healthy.
J.M.: Okay, I don’t think you should be telling me what’s healthy.
T.O.: This is the guy who’s had a stroke drinking bourbon.
K.B.: Thanks so much for doing this with me. This was perfect.
T.O.: Thanks for having me. I hope I didn’t bore the hell out of your six listeners.
J.M.: I love Tim Omundson.
T.O.: Not as much as I love Joel McHale.
J.M.: We love each other cause we’re from Seattle and we’re men.
K.B.: Wow, it took you a long time to answer that question directly.
J.M.: Weed is legal there. We don’t partake in that.
T.O.: Because it would hurt my brain.
J.M.: Even more.
T.O.: And my lungs are already bad enough.
K.B: I have this theory that I called the flying buttress theory. In Gothic architecture, flying buttresses are engineered to provide lateral support for a fragile wall. So medieval architects understood that you need big, thick walls to build a tall building. But then they started playing around with it. What if you could build taller, thinner walls, walls with gorgeous stained glass and larger windows that let in the light? Well, you’d need some external support, flying buttresses, those tall support beams that usually have a lot of extra doodley dads on them. So when you’re not able to be quite so tall and strong, maybe you need some flying buttresses, pillars that hold you up, who remind you of who you are and that you’re loved. The people that look at you and see you exactly for who you are, not what happened to you. Friends who write you love songs in the form of Happy Birthday, who put you back to work, who send you funny videos and cards and allow you to talk about whatever you want. Thank you to all the flying buttresses in my life. I don’t deserve you. Now dear listeners, tell me who are yours? I’d love to hear. Find me online at Katecbowler. And in the meantime, happy birthday. This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation. Huge. Thank you to my team. Jessica Richie, Keith Weston, Harriet Putman and J.J. Dickinson. OK, but for real. Come be human with me. Find me on Instagram or Twitter at Katecbowler. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.
3 thoughts on “Flying Buttresses”
The Jason Rosenthal podcast made me cry (I mean really cry) and the Timothy Omundson/Joel McHale one made me smile and laugh. It’s an honor to be one of your six listeners. ;0)
I was a little disappointed that Timothy’s role on “This Is Us” wasn’t mentioned.
Alas. We had some questions prepped on that lovely role, but our time was so limited! Highly recommend everyone watch Timothy on THIS IS US. The way they have woven in his physical limitations into his role on the show is gorgeous. Thanks for reminding us of this, Kathy!