JACKSON, Miss (WJTV) – The morning was almost over when Joseph “JoJo” Dodd woke up about 1,900 miles from home and thought, “who would notice if I never got up?”
He was 19, a down comedian, living alone on a boat with an engine as broken as his career. “I was literally adrift in LA,” he said.
But this awakening on the boat, this moment of truth, will eventually bring him back to his moorings in the Mississippi.
“To explain who I am now,” he said, “I can draw a line to Los Angeles, where my life imploded.”
On his ensuing 10-year journey of discovery, he found himself, and did so exploring many other exotic ports of call – political campaign consultant, football teacher/coach, medical technician student from emergency, eight foot dog, etc. – and is ready to sail in the berth that suits him now: doctor.
Dodd is one of more than 150 medical students who will graduate on May 27, the day the medical center begins, but he’s almost certainly one of the few with such a nimble resume.
By the way, he’s also a naval officer.
“JoJo is kind of a Renaissance man,” said Dr. Jerry Clark, student liaison officer for student affairs at the School of Medicine. “I love spending time with him. He’s had so many different experiences; he always has a good story to tell.
The story begins 29 years ago when Dodd was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, about 600 miles from Picayune, the town where he would grow up. As their son matured, Sherman and Becky Dodd didn’t always like his decisions, “but they were always supportive of me,” Dodd said.
One decision was to drop out of college after his freshman year and move to California to become a comedian/comedy writer.
“‘Saturday Night Live’ was my dream,” Dodd said. “I remember watching ‘SNL’ with my dad, listening to his easy laugh.
“Chicago, New York and Los Angeles are the main places to go for stand-up, and LA has the best weather, so I went there.”
He packed up his clothes and the $10,000 he had saved waxing the floors of the Dollar General Store and drove to California, where there was no job or housing waiting for him. “What my mother didn’t know,” he said.
Then he spent nearly a third of his savings — $3,200 — on a boat. “I figured I could buy a sailboat for about 3.5 months rent and live off it.” So he did.
The 27-footer, with its idle engine, was “disgusting,” Dodd said. “But it was at home.” The dockmaster let him live in the marina illegally.
Beyond his stand-up gigs, Dodd has made money “teaching YouTube” to small business owners. And the actors and writers he met taught him something.
“A lot of them were 10 or 15 years ahead of me, doing what I wanted to do, but the ones I knew were miserable people,” he said. “Many were in their third marriage or drank too much. Every 19-year-old should be going through an existential crisis. I realized that what made me go to LA was just my ego.
After struggling for a while in acting, he gave up the dream, but landed a job during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, after going through similar experiences in Mississippi for gubernatorial and congressional running. .
The job was in Boston. He accepted it, after the wharfmaster told him he could leave his car at the marina – in exchange for an autographed photo of Romney.
For two nights, the ex-comedian slept at Boston airport before finding accommodation where planes do not land. Then he went to work.
“Obviously he [Romney] lost,” he said, “but the experience was great. This led to working in U.S. Senator Roger Wicker’s office in Washington, DC in the spring of 2013.
Soon, however, Dodd left the nation’s capital for the county capital of Oktibbeha, enrolling at Mississippi State University in Starkville, where he dressed as a bulldog in a football jersey. chestnut.
“I’ve always loved Bully,” Dodd said of MSU’s mascot, a role he’s shared with four others.
“I miss Mississippi State a lot, but what I miss the most is being Bully. You can make a kid’s day just by paying attention to them. And it costs you nothing.
One of his favorite places to be Bully was Mississippi children, where patients love a visiting dog, even with a man inside. Despite the joy he made and found there, he was not interested in a career in healthcare. Until boredom sets in.
At MSU, he was an economics student determined to be a Marine, like many parents.
“I was a bit bored at the time, so I took an EMT course at night,” he said. He jumped into an ambulance and followed paramedics.
“That’s when I fell in love with it – when I had my first real patient. An engaged couple had an accident and the woman was thrown from the car.
“While the paramedics were doing their job, I took the woman’s hand and spoke to her. I was struck by the fact that she didn’t care who I was: were my teeth straight? Was my hair combed? And I didn’t have time to judge her: is she a good mom? She just needed care.
“I had never experienced this kind of genuine, genuine interaction with a stranger before. I thought, ‘If that’s the kind of experience I can have in a career, then that’s what I want.’
“But without that experience in Los Angeles, I don’t think that crash on the freeway would have had the impact on me that it did.” The dream that had been crushed gave way to a new one. He was going to become a doctor.