And while most comedians on the deius – Jim Norton, the Reverend Bob Levy, Don Jamieson were a few – hurled crass but loving insults toward Florentine and the other comics onstage throughout the night, there was great care at insuring Giraldo’s spirit was present.
Toward the start of the show, host Rich Vos threw to a video tribute to the late comedian. It showed clips from one of his performances at Comix, the very place we were sitting, as well as his hour special from Comedy Central, Midlife Vices and, of course, the Comedy Central roasts. By the way, Greg was originally booked to roast at the event.
To say the least, it was bittersweet to watch Greg perform onscreen.
Vos did a masterful job not only as the roastmaster but as the tone setter. Early in the show he said this: “I wasn’t the first choice to host. Greg Giraldo was asked, but he said he’d rather be dead than host this.”
And from that moment on, it seemed ok to joke about Giraldo’s untimely passing. I suppose that’s what he’d want. Though I have to say, I was a bit reticent at first.
But when comedian Jesse Joyce took the stage, my mind changed. If you don’t know, Joyce was Giraldo’s frequent opener on the road as well as his writing partner for a lot of the roasts. Together, in friendship, they struggled through a lot of similar problems.
Joyce opened like this, referring to Florentine’s Crank Yankers character Special Ed:
Thanks for having me… I know a lot of you guys don’t know me… and it’s kinda bittersweet to be here, cause this was gonna be the next project Greg and I worked on together. I remember when he asked me to help him with this roast before he died… I asked him what do you wanna do for this thing? And he said to me… ideally I’d love to take an entire bag of pharmaceuticals and stop my own heart so I don’t have to roast The Sebastian Bach of Retard Jokes.
He followed up later in his rapid-fire joke storm with this, referring, in part, to Vos’ cartoonishly white teeth.
It was really tragic when Greg passed away… and when that happened, I think we all thought why? Why couldn’t it have been Vos? And the answer is because you can’t overdose on Extenze and Crest White Strips.
Later in the show, Vos’s wife comedian Bonnie McFarlane took to the podium and pointed out that there was an empty chair onstage. “It’s a great gesture,” she said, explaining that it symbolizes Giraldo’s absence. McFarlane went on to say that Vos has been keeping 150 seats empty for every show he does in order to pay tribute to Giraldo. “In fact, he was doing it even before Greg died.”
Funny stuff, for sure. But it was all in the proper context. And that’s what made it great and completely permissible. These were Greg’s friends doing what they’ve dedicated their lives to— making people laugh. But it was also his friends healing. And it was something special to see that happen.