Friday, November 18, 2011

Death Doesn't Take A Holiday

The phone rings at 10:15pm. I'm watching something on TV. I forgot to put the short ring on the phone, so I have to get up and answer.
It's comedian Darren Frost. He has his sombre voice on.
"You've got bad news."
"Awww Who died? Wait -- let me guess."
I go through a list of  prime candidates for an untimely passing.
"All right, who then?"
"Stewart Silver."
Disbelief floods my body. Shock is a marvellous thing. It is like Teflon coursing through the bloodstream, coating nerve endings, buffering reality. It is always the same physiological reaction. I have experienced it before with the sudden death of my father.

"Stewart Silver?"

"Yeah -- I just had lunch with him on Friday. He was moving to New York. He just got his papers ..."

Stewart Silver was a Yuk Yuks stalwart, a solid emcee and host, a career stand up, a writer, an entrepreneur. The kind of guy you take for granted. Any time I was on a show and he was hosting I knew I was in good hands. He was reliable -- not flashy, not a star. He got the job done, went on the road, worked his craft. He wrote because most comics eventually want to do that to make more money.

He could take a joke, I used to insult him, no holds barred, go after him like everyone else. That's what comics sometimes do in the green room -- it's ritual. Blow off steam on the next guy. Kibitz.

Stewart Silver was Jewish. Me, I love the Jewish guys. Jewish guys are some of my best friends. The first guy I ever went out with in Toronto was a Jew. Is a Jew -- he is still one of my closest friends 26 years later. In my experience Jewish guys treat women well. They love shikas, probably because there's no pressure to marry us. Being around Jewish guys has always made me feel special, part of an in-crowd. I grew up in Cote St. Luc Quebec, where we were one of the only Christian families for miles. I had proximity to a different culture and faith, something exotic. It could be lonely for us goyim, but it gave me a good excuse to be insular and imaginative.

There will be a Shiva in Toronto next week for Stewart. It's still hard to believe this staple of the club is gone. I wasn't close to him, but I certainly had respect and affection for him.

I haven't actively worked for Yuk Yuks in 15 years, but I still consider myself a Yuks comic, even thought I do independent shows.  My years at Yuk Yuks have trained me  for just about anything -- combat, search and rescue, counter-terrorism operations. They call comics over 40 veterans for a reason. It's only now, years later, that I realize how unique stand up comedy is. I held down a day job for three and a half years recently. I could not get used to the glacial pace. The pay was great, the people pleasant, but the routine was deadening. I need the explosions, threat and danger of the imagination, of active creativity   I need the assurance that there are others like me out there -- risk takers. There are. Stewart was a great example.

There is plenty of time to be dead. I won't do it while I'm alive.

Thanks Stewart, for living the life you wanted.

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