It’s hard to accept that Greg Giraldo is dead. An accidental overdose on pain killers was his cause of death, dying in a hospital four days after he had been found passed out in a hotel room before a show.
Giraldo was a recovering alcoholic, but he wasn’t a junkie. He was a Harvard graduate and a lawyer before he turned to comedy, where he became the industry standard for roasts and all other forms of personal mockery. And while his successes in standup never translated to more mainstream accolades like movies or sitcoms, the niche he did carve out, he owned.
So how he was able to perform scalpel-precise cuts into other people’s lives yet not realize that his own problems would lead to his eventual downfall still confuses me. This was supposed to be someone who had figured it out. He had seemingly already been down that path and come out the other side better from it, but as we all learned last week, that wasn’t the case.
What I’ve come to understand, through watching interviews with other comics or re-watching Giraldo’s old performances, is most comedians use their shows as an escape from their daily torments. The hour they get on stage, venting out their frustrations over whatever’s on their mind, is an hour that most closely mimics the high they get from recreational drugs.
It’s the reaction from the audience, having the control over total strangers to the point that your thoughts become theirs that drives them on to the next show in the next town. And for most, it’s this persistent drive towards immediate gratification that careens them into addiction. Comedy is a drug just like any other. The high of the performance is always met with the hangover of going back to your hotel room with only your demons to keep you company. This is where alcohol, cigarettes, pills, anything they can get their hands on to stave off a few more hours of cold reality come into play.
Not a single one of us can say they are without temptation. And when let loose to run your life, those temptations become addictions. There are a few of us who have the will power to delve into all types of vice without drowning in them, and to those, I say God bless. You’re among the few people that don’t have to deal with the sliding feeling of lost control to something so seemingly innocent as the occasional high. Consider yourself lucky, because most don’t have it like you.
I’m going to miss Greg Giraldo. At 44-years-old he still had plenty of comedy left in him, and as a fan of his work I selfishly wanted to keep him around. Anyone can call David Hasselhoff a hack, but nobody else could compare his drunken cheeseburger-eating internet video to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I’ll always remember him for his roasts, but the reality of a man so gifted succumbing to a high is, at the very least, sobering.
Austen Gregerson is a junior majoring in print journalism and political science. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.