In the end, the details of his death are unimportant. What’s important is that we remember what he contributed to the art of comedy. Schimmel was a fearless performer, constantly challenging his audience with honest and many times x-rated bits on sex; the awkwardness of parenting and later on in his career, the battle with cancer he fought and won.
The last time I wrote a tribute like this, George Carlin had died. I’m not going to pretend that Schimmel meant as much to me as Carlin did in developing my love for stand-up comedy, but there was one huge difference between the two. I never met or spoke to Carlin. But I was lucky enough to interview Schimmel once on the phone and meet him two other times in person, once for the interview you’re about to watch below.
Each time I met him — the first was at his book party for his memoir Cancer on $5 a Day, at Carolines comedy club in New York — I was amazed by how frail-looking and diminutive he was. But he had this Zen-like presence. He was incredibly soft spoken, polite and quite serious about looking you in the eye when engaged in conversation. He made me, a generally nervous person, feel at ease. When you read a book, wherein someone tells you the story of how they beat an aggressive and very late-stage cancer and then you meet that person, you tend to believe he has magic powers. Or, at least, in the one case that happened to me, that’s what I believed.
At the end of our interview (below), I kept thinking to myself, “After the cameras are off and he’s about to leave the showroom, instead of shaking his hand, I’m going in for a hug. I bet you he’d be down with that.”
Selfishly and childishly I was thinking, that maybe if I made that physical contact with him, his powers would rub off on me. I never hugged him. In the end, I guess I was just grateful this iconic performer sat down with me for 25 minutes to talk about comedy.
So, as a tribute to him and as a gift to his fans, I’m posting this totally unedited interview. It was shot in early January of last year at Comix comedy club in New York for Punchline Magazine‘s web series A Tight Five, wherein raw footage is packaged into a neat, five minute chunk. This version has 20 minutes never before seen. We talk at length about his children, his late blooming friendship with Dane Cook and tons more. Enjoy.