GEORGE CARLIN: 1937-2008
I cannot have a website dedicated to my comedy journey without having a page dedicated to two of my major influences. First and foremost the G.O.A.T! This was a man that I distinctly recall watching as a preteen. (yes my mother let me watch HBO then) I specifically remember the special “Back in Town” when I heard the most amazing bit that made me fall in love with comedy. In it he explained why we didn’t need four rectangular states in middle america and why we should put all of the criminals in them for television entertainment. It was a social commentary that at age 15 I couldn’t have agreed with more. It sparked a flame in me I wouldn’t know existed for another decade. I was shown the ability of a consummate performer. However, I never thought I’d be able to enter a profession for which I had such respect (and not enough balls). I almost met him. The month before he passed he was due to perform at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA. I purchased my tickets a month in advance. I’d only been doing comedy a year and I knew that night was going to be the night that I’d meet the man that planted the comedy seed in my teenage brain. The day of the show I got a call from the club that he had to cancel because he was sick. I cried like a baby. When my sister text me at 5:30 am PST a month later with a simple “Sorry to hear about Carlin” I cried like a bitch. Such is life. I’m proud to be in the profession that he perfected for 50 years. And its only my hope that I do it justice. Additionally, it’s one of my comedic goals to have a bit that’s worthy of a bow:
PATRICE O’NEAL: 1969-2011
I don’t take insults well. I’m a hyper-sensitive crybaby. When comics go into the snapping/hiking/jonesing/dozens cyphers I avoid attention like the plague. However, I can’t help but hover in the vicinity because brilliance always abounds. There was no one wittier or more acerbic with an insult than Patrice O’Neal. Not to mention relentless. He could spend an hour telling me what he thought was wrong with me and I’d be in a tear stained laughter jag by the end of his monologue. It was an honor for me to be insulted by him, if only because the man chose carefully who he’d deign himself to talk at… (s/o to the grammar police: yes i know you aren’t supposed to end a sentence w/ a preposition.) I met him in LA my first year in comedy. Some of his most memorable quotes were: “Joyelle you’re pretty, but thats not to your advantage, especially in this game.” “What LIBRARY are you performing in tonight?” “Why are you acting like you have dignity? Your self esteem is in the dumps!” and “Do you know why I’ll always be superior to you? Because you sit down to pee.” I flocked to his foul mouth like a bee to honey. In 2011 I made sure to see him every time he made a public appearance (which he didn’t do often). I adored watching his hour consecutively if only to glean the difference between actual bits and crowd work. He bounced between the two effortlessly. Once at a show he was chastising my manlessness in the green room during the opening set of the host, and throughout the entire feature act. Just as the host was bringing him up, “Coming to the stage…” he was still going in on me… “Patrice O’Neal…” He turns to me and says wryly, “Hold that thought.” and took a casual constitutional to the mic and KILLED for almost 2 hours. Just as he comes off and sees me sitting in the back of the room, mouth ajar, in amazement he continues, “Now where was I?” I was in awe of this man.
Even more because he considered me a friend. He did not throw that word around lightly. Mid June, 2011, he called me to help him plan his annual 4th of July BBQ. He needed a list of open mic-ers (read: anyone he viewed beneath his level of comedic prison time served and ability aka 95% of comics) that he might consider inviting to his party. Like an eager gopher I compiled a list of 20 comics in between our levels of comedy (which was a 15+ year gap) and submitted it to his email (sneakersotoole 🙂 with pride. His response was a phone call, “You think I’m inviting any of these hacks to my house?!?” he barked incredulously. And with a powerful boom of laughter he dismissed my vain attempt but confirmed that my blunder hadn’t rescinded my invitation; I could even bring one friend (of his choosing). Needless to say, being at his home for the first time was one of the personal highlights of my career. I was simultaneously fed and criticized by a man I had loved and respected since I’d watch him on Tough Crowd when I was at Boston College (Go Eagles!).
The last night I saw him turned out to be his final performance. In true Patrice form he admitted to the audience that he didn’t even want to be there. It was just one of those lazy Sundays. And still he was stellar. The energy of the set was placidly hilarious and afterwards I gave him a huge hug. If I had known it was the last time I would’ve stayed and watched Paul Mooney’s set with him as he’d allowed in the past. Two days later he slipped into a coma.
I found out he passed via FB status update (boooo) and the news broke my heart. The world lost a comedic icon, the game lost one of its top soldiers, and I lost a megalomaniacal mentor and friend. Subsequently, his funeral was one of the most inspirational experiences of my life. Having known him I aspire to be the type of comic of which he’d approve. The pressure is immense, but I know where to start: HONESTY. A concept that scares most he couldn’t help but be, fully. And when honesty meets insults well, you have this…