Amy Donohue: Owner of The Fab Social, Kidney Donor, Comedian

Amy Donohue

Amy Donohue, photographed at Windsor in central Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Amy Donohue 

You’ve probably heard of Amy Donohue if you’ve lived in the Valley the past couple years. The self-proclaimed shameless self-promoter, 41, has not only turned her passion and savvy for social media into her own business (The Fab Social), but she’s also garnered national attention for her donation of her kidney in 2011, which came about through Twitter. Donohue, who has lived in the Valley for 10 years, has also been a strong female force in the local stand-up comedy scene, as well as a radio personality on local station KWSS 106.7-FM. Read on for what brought her to the Valley and how her organ donation has changed her life — including more on her documentary that’s currently in the works — and scroll down to hear Amy tell you five reasons why she loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here on vacation in July 2002 to visit my best friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in like 10 years. I was here during a monsoon, and I was like, ‘This is the greatest thing ever.’ I was living in upstate New York at the time in Saranac Lake, 5 hours north of New York City. I thought Phoenix was just sand and cactus. I didn’t know there was so much to do in the city, and I was going through a divorce and needed a new start. Before I went to the airport, I put a deposit down for an apartment and moved here 6 weeks later. I sold everything I owned–I fell in love with it!

What do you like about living here?

Everything that I have in my life right now, I have because of Phoenix–the community here, the people I’ve met. It’s just really an amazing place, and when I hear people say that there’s nothing going on here, I want to punch them in the face.

We’re doing your interview at Windsor in central Phoenix. Why’d you choose here?

I love the vibe here. It’s a mix of old and young people. I also like Churn next door because it’s homemade ice cream, and I can walk here.

You’ve been a stand-up comedian in the Valley since you moved here. What is your favorite venue for stand-up?

I like Stand Up Live! downtown. Besides the national headlining acts that come through there, they’ve got a good local showcase that showcases the good people that are doing well with comedy.

What inspires your stand-up act?

The two jokes that are crowd favorites, I wrote in the bathroom. Most of them are about life experiences—they’re funny because they’re real, and they’re true. I’ve lived a pretty crazy life.

Is there anything that’s off-limits in your act?

I refuse to edit myself while I’m on stage. If the audience members can forget their crappy day for 20 minutes, I’ve done my job — that’s why I’m there. If I’ve told a crappy joke a couple times, and it didn’t work, it’s gone. 9 times out of 10, though, people can relate to dating a loser.

How do you feel about interacting with the audience when you’re on stage?

I think it depends on the crowd. If they’re completely with me, then I’m just going to do my act. I don’t like being thrown off by what I’m doing. But one of the shows I did last week, it was a smaller crowd and a little dead, and it was late at night, and there was some kid in front who was laughing his ass off at me, so I’m like, ‘This guy’s going to be my savior tonight.’ If there is a heckler, 99 percent of the time, I ignore them because I have a job to do, and I don’t think they deserve the attention they’re wanting. Too many comics will respond, and I don’t think that’s professional.

What advice would you give to aspiring comics here?

The only reason I’ve made it as long as I have is because I have bigger balls than most of the guys here. You’ve got to be kind of tough, you’ve got to be aggressive as far as getting booked. You have to go to a lot of shows and watch shows.

Is there anything you’d specifically say to female comics here?

You can never expect that people are just going to say, ‘Oh, she’s pretty, we’re going to put her on stage.’ You’ve got to be funny, because a lot of guys think that female comics are not funny. Look at a crowd: it’s half-female and half-male, so we need more female comics out here because the females in the crowd will relate. Being a female comic, you have to be tough, because there’s a lot of sexual harassment.

One of the things you’re known for in the Valley is your kidney donation that saved a woman’s life. How did that come about?

I saw a Tweet from someone I had been following for about a year whose mom needed a kidney. I met her about 6 months before. I just responded, ‘I’ll do it. What do I need to do?’ My father died of oral cancer, and there was absolutely nothing I could do for him –given him blood, anything, because he had cancer. So I was like, ‘You know what, if I can help this lady…’

Had you ever considered donating a body part before?

I never knew you could donate a kidney. I never knew anything about it until I had saw that Tweet. I didn’t think I could donate to her because she’s a different race, but it all starts with your blood type. Then your whole body is tested–different blood tests, urine tests. I had to have mammograms, and you have to have the same veins and arteries. I had to meet with social workers, I had to get a psych test. Everything in my body had to be tested, and they needed to make sure I had the best one.

Here’s the kicker: They cut me open to take my kidney out, and they’re like, ‘Ohmigod, she’s got a renal vein that didn’t show up on her CT scan.’ They ran across the hall to her surgery, the surgeon said, ‘Hey, she’s got this extra vein, what do we do?’ and you’re not going to believe this, but she had the same one that didn’t show up in her CT scan! I still get chills telling the story.

The recipient and I did a photo shoot for the Mayo Clinic for their newsletter, and after taking all these pictures, she’s like, ‘I never told you this before, but the only reason I made it is because of you.’ She would have died without me, and that’s the first time it hit me what I did.

Was there a long recovery process after the surgery?

The first day, I slept a lot, but I went off my painkillers in a week. I was up and walking within 24 hours, and that’s why I want to talk about it so much because it was so easy. I was out of the hospital in 48 hours, and 5 days after my surgery, I was out having brunch with my family on Easter Sunday.

You’re planning a documentary about kidney donations. What’s the goal with the film?

I want more people to donate, but I also want to be an advocate and mentor for other donors, because I had nobody. On Facebook, I’m in a group now for recovering donors. I wouldn’t have known the recovery process without other donors. The documentary is me driving across the country meeting other donors I’ve met through social media because it all ties in. I lost my kidney because of social media.

What goes into planning the documentary?

First, I have to make sure I’ve built the website. I made sure the filmmaker James Pietragallo’s IMDB page is updated. I’m trying to get all the basics done before I start promoting because I need to get sponsorship, and during this process, I’m going to start a foundation for donor advocacy and mentorship.

We’re going to start shooting in May and go up the West coast to talk with other kidney donors in Colorado, a couple in California, one in Arkansas, a couple in New York City, one in Alberta (Canada) and a couple in Baltimore. By this time next year, it will be released. We’re going for Cannes and Sundance. There’s no way that anybody would see this and not want to show it. It’s going to be amazing.

For people who are interested in donating a kidney themselves, what should they know?

If you want to donate a kidney, I have a Facebook page called Social Media Stole My Kidney, and I’m posting on there other pages of people looking for kidneys. You can also contact The National Kidney Foundation or The Living Kidney Donor Network. And I’m always willing to answer questions.

Typically, the recipient’s insurance pays for everything. I’ve never paid a penny, not even for a pill. You just have to worry about your recovery, and within a few days you feel better. You have to sleep and walk and eat, that’s it! Who doesn’t want to do that? You get to nap, and you’re saving a life, and many bosses are very supportive of that, so if you have a desk job, you could be back at work within 2 weeks. If you have a more physical job, it will be a little more difficult. Everybody’s different.

Now you have a full-time job as founder of The Fab Social, a local social media service. How did you get started in social media?

I got started in social media on MySpace, and I was a radio DJ at KWSS for 4 years. I saw when I promoted the show on MySpace, people would tune in and message us while they listened live, and then of course when Facebook and Twitter came along, I would be on all three while I was on the air. I was like, ‘Oh! I’m good at this!’

Why’d you decide to start your own company in April?

Social media for businesses is about branding and showing you’re a real person running a real business. I know I can get a job doing social media at a million places around the Valley, but are they going to have the same philosophy? Are they going to know I don’t work 9-5, because you can’t do social media 9-5? Are they going to know that I’m not going to broadcast, I’m going to talk, I’m going to jump in on conversations? I spend 6 or 7 hours a day looking for stuff, reading, finding content for everyone. I’ve never advertised –everything is word-of-mouth.

How do you balance your social media life with your offline life, and do you think social media can have a negative effect on human interaction?

I don’t go out with a guy unless I’ve talked to him on the phone. You can’t text and message people and expect a relationship. On the other hand, once you know someone on Twitter or Facebook, you’re more likely to want to get to know them in person — the line of communication is open. A lot of Twitter people are awkward and didn’t have a lot of friends before, but now they’ve got this great way to meet people, so now they’re doing social stuff. I think there are too many people who are very negative online, and they’re not like that in person. I don’t know what brings that out — maybe they feel more confident because they’re behind a screen. And then there are people who are online so much, they don’t know how to have relationships face-to-face. You’ve got to mix it up.

7 thoughts on “Amy Donohue: Owner of The Fab Social, Kidney Donor, Comedian

  1. U R Hot and look like my ex girlfriend …well how she used to look. Now shes in an urn so she doesn’t look all that great, but I guess that’s what aging a few years doe to you. Anyway, want to go out sometime? We can get gelatinos and go termite watching? I like bugs do you? Ok….u r fine! Bye.

  2. Amy,

    I think it is a fabulous thing your doing and did. Having just received a kidney myself you truly did save a life. Besides the fact that I will never know my donor, and that is another gift you received for you to help educate the world is the most important. Saving one life is like saving the world.

    Suki Schmelzer

  3. Amy..I have been interested for some time in trying to get the US to adopt the European way…that is, unless you aggressively opt out by signing a document, then at death, you automatically become become an organ donor.
    I have contacted a few US congresspeople, but to no avail. Maybe you could spur on the cause?

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