I'm heading to a gathering for a colleague who took his own life over the holidays. The comedy community (yes, we are a community now rather than adversaries, that's what age will do) will meet at the Pilot Tavern here in Toronto for a farewell to Joe Bodolai.
Any Canadian comic over 30 should be familiar with Joe Bodolai. A writer and producer, Joe championed comedians for most of his career in Canada. When the news came down that he committed suicide late December I was stunned. He was the most encouraging, positive, upbeat guy in the biz, the last person I thought would ever succumb to despair. Some of us used to joke about how generous he was, going to bat for comics who lacked skill and instinct. "That's SUPER," we'd say, imitating Joe. Now he's gone and we're having to say goodbye to this wonderful man.
Joe gave me a COMICS episode at a time in my life when, addled and depressed, I just struggled to get out of bed. I promised that I would do the best job I could and not disappoint him. I saw him laughing in the audience during the taping and when I came up to a signature punch line, one of the only ones where I swear, I made sure to clean it up. I can still picture the look of relief and delight on his face. This was CBC TV, the channel that brought us Wayne and Shuster for golly's sake, I wasn't about to drop the F bomb in prime time.
Joe also got me into Just For Laughs. He made one quick phone call and I was in the Home Grown Canadian Comedy Competition. Again, that was another great show, but I went over my time and was disqualified. Shaun Majumder won. Hey, I was just happy to be there.
There will be many old faces at the Pilot tonight. Ironic that we should meet there -- Joe in his last blog cited "My inability to conquer my alcoholism and the things I did because of it." I'm sober now 10 years. As Muslims say Ishallah. I wish Joe would have asked for help. Alcoholism is a disease, I don't care what anyone says otherwise. Dis - ease. It's a boomerang -- it will come back at you hard. The poor man. That's what killed him, not his bitterness toward the industry. Alcohol distorted his thinking and killed him.
I hope no one dwells on the tragedy of Joe's passing. I want to go to the Pilot and celebrate everything good he did for us, for our industry, for Canada.
You showed faith in me, Joe. You helped me achieve a dream.
That is the stuff of the good life. No small thing.
Thank you so very much.