Experiencing Interruptions?

To Laugh, To Live

Comedian David Downs was told he’d be dead within months, so he turned to pioneering science - and humour - to survive.
David is a stand-up comedian, co-founder of Auckland’s The Classic Comedy & Bar, public servant, author, husband of 21 years and father of three teenage boys.

At 45 years old, he was diagnosed with advanced non Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. Twelve rounds of chemotherapy failed and he was told to prepare for palliative care. He was expected to be dead within the year.

Instead, David put himself forward to be trialled for a pioneering cancer treatment, called CAR-T, being led out of Boston. He was told it would cost $1.5 million to participate, so he and his wife Katherine put their house on the market. The trial was completed, and was successful. David is in complete remission.

The Malaghan Institute in Wellington is now preparing to do clinical trials of the treatment. It is one of the first institutions in the world to do so. David is its ambassador, raising funds, support - and taking to the comedy stage.

From his perspective, none of this would have been possible without an open attitude and a sense of humour. His love of a laugh got him through.

  • Irene Chapple
  • Irene Chapple
  • Irene Chapple
  • David Downs
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    12 minutes 46 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 22, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Irene Chapple

Irene Chapple is a senior multimedia journalist and communications professional, with experience in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Formerly at CNN International in London, she is now based in New Zealand where she works as a television producer / director, and a strategic communications consultant. This is her first short film.

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