Laughter And Life

Drescher Reflects On Career, Cancer Battle

Fran Drescher of “The Nanny” fame pictured at the Willow Bay Theater on Friday. Drescher spoke of how she caught “lightning in a bottle” with her show and would later battle uterine cancer. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

Fran Drescher opened up a conversation with a Willow Bay Theater audience by saying she wished she could have gotten thinner before showing up in Jamestown, a joke that got folks laughing the first of many times Friday evening.

It was Drescher’s technique to treat everything with a dash of humor and her trademark laugh with her thick Queens accent. From discussion with moderator Kelly Carlin about the success of her hit TV show “The Nanny” to reflections on her battle with uterine cancer shortly thereafter, Drescher kept her audience engaged with anecdotes and observations.

“How many times can you laugh at the audience?” she asked rhetorically while giving one of her famous giggles.

In partnership with Cozi TV, Drescher, who has often been described as a modern day Lucille Ball, talked about everything from not having known her former husband Peter Marc Jacobson was gay to living life without “The Nanny.”

After undergoing a hysterectomy to treat her cancer in 2000, Drescher said she had to get used to other people taking care of her instead of the other way around. She would eventually begin the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a nonprofit organization which underscores how important it is to get diagnosed early while cancer is still in a curable stage.

“Let’s not get cancer in the first place,” Drescher said. “How’s that for a cure?”

Her book, a New York Times bestseller also titled “Cancer Schmancer,” highlighted the importance of prevention as a means to stop cancer in its tracks. Self-care was also discussed; Drescher said that taking care of oneself should not feel selfish.

“I just turned my pain into purpose,” Drescher said.

Her experiences with cancer inspired her to teach others how to live healthier lives. She promotes a detoxification of the home that is further elaborated on in her book and the cancer schmancer website. Drescher said that refusing to buy single-use bottled water can even start to make a difference.

“Getting older is really crazy weird,” Drescher said.

She has managed to make the most of her recent years however with new stand-up routines consisting of old stories and a portrayal of the wicked stepmother Madame in the Broadway version of “Cinderella.”

Drescher joked that it was good she had a part that didn’t have her sing any of the songs.

Carlin questioned what it was like for Drescher growing up in Queens and wanting to tackle many forms of entertainment, which she would eventually do after landing roles in movies like “Saturday Night Fever” and “This Is Spinal Tap” before becoming a more prolific star on the TV screen.

Drescher cited Ball as a major inspiration as she would watch re-runs of “I Love Lucy” frequently as a child.

“It was such a brilliant show,” Drescher said.

In the same vein of Ball’s 1950s classic show, Drescher envisioned “The Nanny” as a sitcom that would “spin around a clown” but also make sure every other character was funny too, a balancing act she described as anything but easy.

“That is challenging in the writer’s room,” said Drescher, who created and wrote in the show she starred in.

She mentioned there was initial pressure from CBS to not feature the Fran Fine character as a Jewish woman, but an Italian woman instead. Drescher said she “dug her spiked heels in” and would not compromise on the character who was to be a caricature of her and other members of her family.

Drescher also brought up the negative press “The Nanny” originally received in the early 1990s for stereotyping the Jewish culture. Drescher’s response was that she only portrayed what she knew, which included the sometimes over-the-top antics of her loved ones.

“(The Nanny) is truly the gift that keeps on giving,” Drescher said.

When a member of the audience asked if a reboot was in the works, Drescher said no because she felt her show ended neatly, which wouldn’t lend itself to a revival like other recent sitcoms have.