'I've always loved making people laugh'
Filip Swiergul’s life has always been about making the most of the situation. That, and keeping things light.
“I’ve always loved making people laugh,” he said.
He’s pretty good at it, too.
Swiergul, a local comedian raised in Rochester, has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder commonly known as 'brittle bone disease.' He was born with 26 fractures that had already healed in the womb, causing deformities that confined him to a wheelchair for life.
“Growing up with difficulties, you make light of the situation and it’s almost like a coping mechanism,” said Swiergul. “My family’s pretty funny, and we would make jokes about my situation. Stand-up came pretty natural, because whenever I made friends at school, [comedy] was usually the main way I could do that — defuse the situation, make fun of it and let everyone’s guard down.”
After a chance encounter with some comics in downtown Rochester, Swiergul made friends with them — and eventually, they convinced him to give stand-up his own shot.
“I never thought I would get into stand-up,” said Swiergul. “I’ve done a lot of public speaking before and I didn’t really enjoy it … but one of them said, ‘You’re really funny, why don’t you give it a shot?’ I knew that I didn’t want to back down, so I posted on Facebook that I was going to do it the next week. When I did it, the owner [of Goonie’s] happened to be bartending, and it went really well.”
Since then, Swiergul has become a regular in Rochester’s comedy scene, performing at open mics at Goonie’s and, on occasion, in the Twin Cities (he took third place in the 2014 Twin Cities Funniest Person Contest at Acme Comedy Club). Recently, though, excursions north have become more difficult thanks to a malfunctioning transport van.
That’s where the comics come back in.
On June 1, Goonie’s hosted “Funny for Filip,” a comedy show fundraiser with proceeds going towards Swiergul’s search for a new lift van. Throw in the $2,500 currently sitting in a GoFundMe for Filip, and the total outpouring of support has humbled him.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “Half of the donations have come from people that I don’t know at all, and another quarter’s from people I haven’t talked to in years. It was really hard for me to ask for help in the first place, but it was my friends who set this whole thing up, and I’m really happy with how it’s going.”
With more fundraisers coming in the future and a solid group of comedians spearheading the GoFundMe campaign — now with over 50 separate donors — Swiergul wants to keep it all in perspective.
“I just hope that I can continue to be a good person overall, to deserve what I’m getting, and to pay it forward.”
In the meantime between now and when the $10,000 GoFundMe goal is hit, Swiergul will remain a regular face at open mics at Goonie’s — with an army of Rochester’s funniest at his side.
Isaac Jahns is a 2015 graduate of Mayo High School and a current journalism student at the University of Missouri. His main passions are writing music and telling people’s stories. Follow Isaac on Twitter.
Cover photo: Filip Swiergul / Submitted