Comedy loses another one…

On September 25th, comedian Greg Giraldo overdosed on prescription medication in a hotel room in New Jersey. Tabloids quickly posted articles about the story reporting that he was in “stable condition” and would be okay. Five days later he was dead. TMZ reported that he had been in a vegetative coma for those five days, and his family had chosen to take him off life support.

As a devoted fan of stand-up comedy, I was saddened to hear that a very underrated comedian had died so young, at only 44 years of age. Especially because I had seen Greg’s acts on tv many times in several of his half-hour and one hour specials and on the Comedy Central Roasts, for which he was known for being a staple and often one of the funniest presenters.

Giraldo’s material was different from many comics. To me, it seemed he felt a responsibility within himself to not just make his audiences laugh, but to open their eyes to some of the sad truths and hypocrisies of our society. This brought him some fame outside of the regular comedy world when in 2006 one of his bits was sampled for a track by experimental musicians Lazyboy. The ‘song’ entitled Underwear Goes Inside the Pants touched on societal issues such as the legalization of marijuana, the obesity “epidemic” and the homeless. The song was a hit in many parts of the world and even topped the iTunes download chart. It was funny and insightful, and that made it go viral, with videos of the song on youtube amassing over 300,000 views combined.

It was a running gag on the Comedy Central Roasts that Giraldo was a failure; a comedian now in his 40s, who had been telling jokes on stages nationwide for nearly twenty years, and yet most people still had never heard of him. He starred in a few TV pilots that were quickly shelved and never had any major film roles.

Yet behind the scenes he was known in the comedy world as a deeply intelligent and kind individual. Upon news of his death, many comedians expressed their greif on twitter, proving the respect and admiration that Greg really had.

“Very sad to hear the news about Greg Giraldo. One of the most respected comics I can think of. The world has lost a hysterical man. RIP.” – Aziz Ansari

Though every report I could find claimed the overdose was accidental, and was definitely NOT a suicide attempt, I have my doubts. As someone who suffers from depression, it was obvious to me that Greg did too. Behind his self-deprecating humor was a man constantly frustrated by his own inadequacies, and perhaps jealous of those who achieved more success with much less talent.

Today I came across an interview with Giraldo published last year in Psychology Today. In it Greg recounts his battles with failure and self-loathing.

I’m a total fuckup, honestly. The reality is I’m not this person with this driving “get it done” attitude. I’m a complete fuckup and I’ve fucked up a lot of things in my life. I’m constantly tortured by a sense of failure. I feel like quitting all the time. I feel like hiding in drugs or alcohol. I feel like I’ve failed in terms of what my potential is. I don’t think I’ve achieved my potential because I haven’t worked that hard and I haven’t found the right angles. The reality is, I’m not a “get knocked down and just pull myself back up by my bootstraps and come back harder” kind of guy.

Much like fellow comedian Mitch Hedberg’s death in 2005 that was initially reported as due to a heart condition but later revealed to be an overdose of coke and heroin, the interview only helps cement my belief that we’re probably not getting the full story on Giraldo’s untimely death.

On a recent Adam Carolla podcast, Adam I think said it best:

“I’ll tell you, man, the road baby…it brings out the worst in all of us. There’s really nothing to do but do drugs and beat off….it’s weird but they say the devil makes work for idle hands and nostrils and veins…you’re in a town where you don’t know anyone and you’re in a hotel room — and then, there’s this combination: there’s all the people that went to the show that want to party. It’s all “hey man want some coke? hey man want to do some shots?”…you’re fucking lonely and you’re on the road…There’s two types of brains that benefit from drugs…the low end of the spectrum and the high end of the spectrum are the ones that kinda need the drugs. The inbetweeners, I never felt like they needed the drugs…you’re sort of meth-head dirt-head guys and then there’s the guy who’s own brain sort of becomes a weapon. And this is what happens with stand up…your brain becomes your weapon, and your cash register, and your vehicle, and it becomes your everything. And your brain is constantly in motion, has trouble shutting down, realizes that your entire livelihood is generated by this thing the size of a sheep’s heart that resides inside your skull and sometimes it’s tough to get it to take a vacation…you can’t shut your brain off. Although here’s how you can shut your brain off: you can do a bunch of drugs, you can drown it in booze, or you can put a gun in your mouth.”

Rest in peace Greg.

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