The tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has me thinking of a talented comedian who died of a drug overdose in his mid-forties. Greg Giraldo never achieved the level of success equal to his immense talent, but anyone who saw him perform appreciates his impact on the comedy world.
Giraldo was a regular on the Comedy Central Roasts and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. If you’ve never seen Tough Crowd before, get on Youtube and watch as many episodes as possible. The show really deserves its own article, so stay tuned. Even with the shitty sound quality it is worth it. The concept of the show was comedians discussing hot topics in the news with biting humor. It was honest, open conversation, which demonstrated the intelligence comedians can pack into the laughs they provide. It featured great talents, such as, Louis C.K., Stephen Colbert, Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, Lewis Black, and Dave Chappelle. But more often than not it was Giraldo who stood out as the star. His most famous moment on the show came when he verbally bitch slapped Dennis Leary.
Comedians still wax poetic about this moment. Leary represents the sell out comedian. The guy more worried about achieving fame than anything else. To be fair to Leary, almost all comedians would want to be in his position and hate directed towards “sell outs” is wrapped in indelible envy.
Giraldo, on the other hand, represent the stage comedian. The guy who slaves away for the jokes and grinds it out on the road. He didn’t care about pleasing the general public. All he wanted to do was tell his jokes, audience reaction be damned. This quote from him summarizes what it means to be a comedian. “Most comedians are people who couldn’t really work in the real world, they’re too disorganized, too lazy, too fucked up, too erratic, too unstable. If you could work in the real world you would have stayed there because it is so many years of misery in comedy before you really start popping.”
There are a lot of similarities between Giraldo and our first comedian, Bill Hicks. Both were very intelligent guys filled with a lot of anger towards how the world worked. However, Giraldo took a “fuck it” stance on these issues. He wasn’t interested in trying to open people’s minds or starting a revolution in the way Hicks was. Instead, he focused on shitting on things in the funniest way possible. I respect this approach, as it wasn’t like Hicks or the master, George Carlin, really made much of an impact on changing the world.
Giraldo died on September 29, 2010 due to prescription drug overdose, at the age of 44. Similar to Hoffman’s death, it was a talented performer, who tapped into the darker thoughts within himself in order to deliver a better performance, needing something to anesthetize himself from the pain. It is sad to see these talented performers unable to cope with daily life, but as long as we’re still here we should try to admire the brilliant work they did while taking a lesson away from their tragic deaths.
Take the time to skim through this over 50 minute video of all Giraldo’s Roast performances, but below that is my favorite, Larry the Cable Guy.