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The DX Diabetes Dish: Bo Irvine

Headliner comedian on entertaining audiences & life with T2

As a national headliner comedian, sixty-two-year-old Honolulu, Hawaii, resident Bo Irvine often entertains audiences about his experiences of living with type 2 diabetes. Irvine has been onstage since 1987; some of his comedic accomplishments include winning NBC’s Last Comic Standing 2008 Hawaii Showcase and starring in the “Comedy Polynesia” show from March 2008 to January 2013 at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel in Waikiki. Irvine’s diabetes program, “Seriously… Living with Diabetes Can Be Funny,” nationally recognized with healthcare professionals and patients, uses humor and his personal experience to educate and entertain. Irvine also has a regular act at Sharkey’s Comedy Club in the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki. As former director of Occupational Health, Safety & Fire Protection at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base in Hawaii for twenty years, Irvine also gives “risk management” speeches and presentations for various audiences. Irvine will be speaking at a Taking Control Of Your Diabetes conference in 2013.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001.

What is your state of mind today?

I have good moments and I have bad moments. I try to be more positive.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Funny. Serious. Determined.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes changes how you think about how you should live. It hasn’t changed me as a person at all, other than being concerned about it.

What inspires you to do what you do?

That is my high in life, making people laugh.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

My close friends understand what I go through with diabetes. I appreciate their friendship more than anything.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

If I were going somewhere on the mainland, I’d pack my walking shoes. I’m walking every day now.

What is your fitness routine?

Lately, I’ve been walking for an hour to an hour-and-a-half every day. Every other day, I paddle my one-man canoe from the canal right by my home to the ocean and back for thirty minutes each way. I’ve been paddling this route for twenty years. Now, when I get to the ocean, I stop paddling and say to myself, “This is so beautiful.”

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Grapes, papaya, avocado, blueberries, soymilk, juice, carrots, and some vegetarian soup. I’m a semi-vegan. I stay away meat products. I’ve done that for the past two years, and I’ve lost about thirty-five pounds within the past few years. (Read more about understanding meatless eating plans here.)

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

Doing comedy or walking. Because of doing comedy, I haven’t stressed for a while; I make light of everything. I also meditate, paddle, walk, and have started doing restorative yoga. (Read about different types of yoga here.)

What is your idea of happiness?

There are a million things that make me happy. But seeing my grandson who is four makes me very happy. I see him every once every two weeks.

What do you most dislike?

My diabetes.

What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?

Get out and start moving. Exercise. My diabetes turned around since I started exercising and moving. And don’t dwell on “Woe is me, I have diabetes.”

My diet and lack of doing the proper things led to me being where I was [being diagnosed]. At one point many years ago, I was a marathon runner. I got very sedentary. You have to start appreciating why you’re exercising.

What words do you try to live by?

It’s going to sound corny, but I’ll say in the mirror, “I love you, Bo Irvine, just the way you are.” My encouragement is to love yourself just the way you are, so you don’t fall back into depression and diabetes. There’s a lot of depression in diabetes.

What is your greatest extravagance?

19011 shoes. I’m looking at five pairs and wearing the sixth pair.

On what occasion do you lie?

A lot of times I’ll lie about my health and how I feel. I tell my friends and family I’m doing just fine because I don’t want people worrying about me.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

I think it would be them being more understanding of my disease.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My dad.

What would you choose for your last meal?

Steak, broccoli, apple pie, and ice cream.

What are you looking forward to right now?

Another twenty years of no complications of health in my life.

Any last words of wisdom?

Diabetes is a plague here in Hawaii. People don’t talk about it here; people keep it quiet and no one gets educated. I want to change that.

I am no different than any other person living with diabetes. I have my daily challenges and I work through them every day. Do what you think is right for you.

I love myself just the way I am. I’ve had to say to myself, “I have to do this.” I can’t just depend on doctors.  I have to help myself, that’s the big change in my life. My goal is to really take control [of my blood sugar] through exercise and what I eat.

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All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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