Art Vieluf kept metro-east residents laughing for nearly two decades, but his life hasn't been much fun in the past six months.
In June, he closed his Fairview Heights comedy club after the Ramada Inn's new owner declined to renew his lease. In August, he suffered a stroke that landed him in the hospital for a month and a rehabilitation center for two weeks.
Then on Oct. 16, Vieluf's 25-year-old son, Andrew, was seriously injured when he lost control of his motor scooter and hit a telephone pole.
"He had broken almost every bone in his face," said Vieluf, 60, of Fairview Heights. "He broke his collarbone, three ribs and two vertebrae in his back. He couldn't talk. But with 5 1/2 hours of surgery, seven metal plates and about 30 screws, they put him back together again."
Vieluf was speaking by telephone from Las Vegas, where Andrew lives and works as a D.J. at Treasure Island and Circus Circus hotels.
Meanwhile, a regular entertainer at Comedy etc. II, Vieluf's former club, is planning a benefit to help the family cover expenses. Tony Zeigler will perform The Tony Z Hypnosis Show at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Four Points by Sheraton in Fairview Heights.
Comedians Chris Smith, of Alton, and Johnny Kavanaugh, of St. Louis, also will do stand-up, with proceeds going to the Vieluf family.
Zeigler noted that Art Vieluf hosted many benefits at his clubs, Comedy etc. and Comedy etc. II, over the years.
"He's just a really nice person," said Zeigler, 47, of Fairview Heights, who entertains but also works as a clinical hypnotherapist in Clayton, Mo. "He has a great sense of humor. He's someone you can trust. He's a good businessman and a good friend."
Another big fan is Dean Schardan, a comedian who got his start at Vieluf's first comedy club in Collinsville in the early '90s.
Schardan's life later took a turn for the worst. He landed in prison for bank robbery, served time in prison and returned to the metro-east. Vieluf was shocked by the crime but gave him a second chance on stage.
Earlier this year, Vieluf helped Schardan organize the shooting of a pilot for a proposed reality TV show called "The Long Road Home," which now is being considered by networks.
"Art was really good at nurturning talent and teaching comedians the business side of comedy," said Schardan, 41, who recently moved to Pooler, Ga., near Savannah. "And that's something you didn't get (from the national chains).
"If you talk to comics who came up at his club and cut their teeth on his stage, they'll tell you he's a friend. He's not just a business owner."
Vieluf reports feeling better two months after his stroke, but he hasn't been OK'd to drive because he still experiences dizziness, headaches and nausea.
He's bitter about the comedy club's forced closure but appreciates the support of comedians and former customers who have asked him to try another location. There's even a "Save Comedy etc." Facebook page.
Comedy etc. II was the only comedy club in the metro-east. Vieluf isn't ruling anything out, but he won't be able to attend Wednesday's benefit.
"It's out of my control," he said. "That's the day before my son's surgery, so I just can't make it. This is my job now."
At a glance
What: The Tony Z Hypnosis Show (benefit for Vieluf family)
Who: Hypnotist Tony Zeigler and comedians Chris Smith and Johnny Kavanaugh
Where: Four Points by Sheraton, 319 Fountains Parkway in Fairview Heights
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: At the door
Reservations: Not required, but can be made by calling or texting the number below
Donate: Vieluf Benefit Fund, Associated Bank, 6550 N. Illinois St., Fairview Heights, IL 62208