Comedian shares story on struggling to success

Comedic actor and writer, Erik Stolhanske, tells his story about living with one leg and struggling to success. Stolhanske has been in several major motion pictures including “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest.” || Brian Barron/The News

Comedic actor and writer, Erik Stolhanske, tells his story about living with one leg and struggling to success. Stolhanske has been in several major motion pictures including “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest.” || Brian Barron/The News

Comedic actor, writer and producer Erik Stolhanske visited campus Monday as a part of the 2012-13 University Lecture Series.

The actor, known best for his role of Rabbit in the movie “Super Troopers,” wants to promote his movement for “Irrational Determination and Foolish Perseverance” on campus and throughout the nation.

When he began on the Lovett Auditorium stage Monday evening, he told the audience he was missing something.

“I was born without a fibula in my right leg,” he said. “I have a fake leg.”

As a child, Stolhanske said he was often called names from his peers because of his wooden leg. More than anything, he wanted to be normal and do things that normal kids did without his leg being an issue.

“My parents always thought the best way for me to be like everybody else was to go out and do what other kids did,” he said. “And because I grew up in Minnesota, we saw a lot of snow on the ground and so I always wanted to go skating and play hockey and ski.”

Stolhanske said it wasn’t easy doing those things with one real leg but he would do it anyway.

“My mom would always say, ‘Don’t worry if you fall down, just get back up and keep on going,’” he said. “My mom would remind me that I was just like everybody else that when it became summer time, I really believed her.”

Because he was a huge fan of Rod Carew, a Minnesota Twins hall of fame pitcher, Stolhanske would play baseball in the summer. Often times when he would run, his skin on his leg would tear and cause him injuries but the inspiration from Carew’s success kept him in the games.

“I never remember Rod Carew missing a game because of injury so I would just rub some ointment on it, put a band aid on it and take some Tylenol and get back in the game,” he said.

Stolhanske shared his first cast and one of his wooden legs from childhood with the audience and demonstrated how, when he would grow, doctors would add another centimeter or inch of wood to the leg.

When Stolhanske moved away for college across the county at Colgate University, he knew that no one would know who he was and that he was missing a leg. So, when Stolhanske began dating and hanging out with friends, he didn’t tell anyone about his handicap. When someone did find out about his leg, he would tell different stories for how he got his wooden leg to save himself from embarrassment. Soon, word got around that he was making the stories up about his leg.

“I learned a very important lesson in college, probably one of the most important lessons in life,” he said, “Women talk to each other. No one had ever told me that before.”

After recollecting himself and thinking about what his mother had always told him about not worrying about falling down, he made new friends and told them the truth about his leg. He also realized that comedic acting was where his passions lie.

When he graduated, he had little support from his family and moved into the city with friends from his comedy group, Broken Lizard. The group worked hard to pay rent and get comedy gigs on the weekends.

After getting a speeding ticket from a cop, the group was inspired to create a film that would eventually become “Super Troopers.”

Stolhanske’s hope and inspiration stems from a speaker who visited his high school when he was a teenager. The speaker was a woman named Ivy who had lost her leg to cancer but became a successful model.

“I thought (she) was really cool and (she) gave me a lot of hope and inspirations and gave me a reason to believe that I could go do anything,” he said.

Since “Super Troopers,” Stolhanske has been featured in “The Sweetest Thing,” “Beerfest” and “The Onion Movie,” along with several other movies and television shows.

Stolhanske is currently working on several projects and continues to be a part of the Broken Lizard comedy group. He also travels to schools to share his story and motivate students to achieve their goals and never give up, even when obstacles are in the way.

Said Stolhanske: “Even though you might not have prosthetic body parts, I believe that everybody has a wooden leg of some sort or another. I’m living proof that everyone should realize that your wooden leg is really all in your head and you can pursue your dreams.”

Story by Anna Taylor, Features Editor.