A man who once believed he had nothing to laugh about wants to thank the comedian who he credits with saving his life: Stephen Colbert.
Ron Blake, 48, told InsideEdition.com that he was so traumatized by a sexual assault at the hands of three men who broke into his Phoenix apartment that he tried to take his own life in May 2015.
But months after his unsuccessful attempt, he was watching one of the monologues on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert when he suddenly burst out laughing.
"I actually went to bed that night with hope for the first time in a long time," he said.
After he paused the television set, Blake realized he had a mission: To share his story with strangers and meet the man who saved his life.
“I finally just said to myself, 'I’m using this laughter and I’m gonna get on this show,'" he said.
So for the past 520 days, that’s exactly what he's been trying to do, all while spreading awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder across the country. He’s named the project “The Blake Late Show” and his goal is to appear on Colbert’s show so that he can share his story.
"I’m sure I would talk about just the power of something [laughter] that is so simplistic that so many people miss... I think I just wanna share with him that moment, but also just have a good time on the show,” he said.
Following his breakthrough in November 2015, he went to a local Staples store, bought poster boards and started interacting with strangers. He also got on the road.
He’s now shared his story with people from all 50 states and has more than 315 signed poster boards from more than 22,000 people giving their support in 83 different languages.
Strangers have filled the boards with stories, poems, bible verses, jokes and positive messages, such as, “Chase your dreams” and, “May God always bless you! Good luck!” There are also hand-drawn pictures, including sketches of Mickey Mouse and Yoda. Blake now has so many boards that he’s had to put 250 in storage.
“It’s been an amazing process so far, challenging though. I mean, I’ve put in over 4,000 hours of doing this. It’s been a lot of work,” he said.
Most incredibly, Blake said, is how people open up to him and share their own stories. Blake says it has opened up dialogue about issues surrounding PTSD and sexual assault, especially with students on their college campuses.
“As they share their stories, you know it sounds very cliché, you start realizing you're not alone,” he said.
Blake said people are fascinated by the boards and always ask to see them, so he may eventually turn his project into an art exhibit.
“If you think about meeting 22,000 people and think about meeting them on different days, different times, different events that have been taking place, I mean you get so many different perspectives on life,” he said.
Since 2015, things are looking up. Blake has married and recently filmed a TED Talk.
“It’s just great. The impact all of us can have and something as simple as just going up to a stranger... It just started this synergetic effect,” he said.
Now he hopes that his journey will take him to the man he says saved his life.
"Something as simple as laughter can be so incredibly powerful," he said, adding that he'd like Colbert to know: "You brought that into my life on that very dark night. Thank you!"