Cape Girardeau comedy club owner serves on coronavirus frontlines

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 9:42 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - There's no laughter inside Cape Girardeau's comedy club right now. The ongoing pandemic closed the doors at Laughing Gas in March.

“To have the emergency brake pulled on with no notice at all, it’s devastating,” Laughing Gas owner Jeff Johnson said.

Empty chairs and no acts on stage means no money for Johnson to support a wife and daughter.

“Only choice I had as a father, as a husband, and as a person is to step up for my family and I still have this skill, I have this ability,” Johnson said.

Now, Johnson is serving on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

He is a trained respiratory therapist, an occupation heavily relied on during this pandemic.

“That skillset allowed me to go into a career that is going to be not just beneficial financially for my family but I can still feel like I am a part of this battle with the COVID,” Johnson said.

He now spends most of his time in St. Louis working for a hospital where he cares for patients who are having trouble breathing.

“I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of things where I’ve saved people’s lives on the flip side, respiratory therapy does have to do a lot of helping of people transition and so we see the sad side of that too...of being there for the family member, you know staying there until the end,” Johnson explained. “We make sure if they need someone to help them or just to cry on their shoulder you know we’re there for them.”

Johnson acknowledged it’s not easy being on the frontlines. He said he sees a lot of sick people in the hospital, though not all are related to coronavirus.

He also admitted it’s lonesome spending most nights in a hotel away from his family.

However, he’s on a mission to do his part.

“By me being able to step outside my home and be here 100 miles away, it’s worth it,” Johnson said. “I have the opportunity to do both things I get to help with people who are sick, and hopefully see them walk out the door and I also get to see my wife be a little more at ease.”

Johnson hopes to return home soon and get back to making people smile.

“We’re going to do everything we can do to keep Cape Girardeau and the area laughing,” Johnson said.

He knows laughter is the best medicine, which is why he set out to open Laughing Gas in the first place.

“Our whole idea of bringing Laughing Gas to Cape Girardeau was to make it a better place for the community, give the community somewhere to go where they could forget their trouble for an hour,” Johnson said.

For safety reasons, shows at Laughing Gas are postponed and set to be rescheduled for a later date.

Johnson said they are still trying to find the best way to reopen while following social distance guidelines.

“We’re going to do everything we can do to keep Cape Girardeau and the area laughing,” Johnson said.

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