The Great Terrifini

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday nights are quickly becoming my favorite night of the week. Performing at the Second City on the ETC stage is one of the most thrilling things I've done in awhile. The pitching of new ideas, the class time and rehearsals, and the excitement of putting a show on stage and not knowing the outcome is all just an amazing experience.

But one of my favorite things about all of this is hanging out in the green room back stage and thinking about all of the comedic greats who have done it before me. I've mentioned before how I'm a real loser when it comes to this sentimental shit, so I make sure and take it all in. And I mean all of it. I stare at the walls every time I enter the green room because they are full of amazing autographs and hilarious one-liners from a long list of famous comedians who all got their start at the Second City.

Last night I played homage to one of Second City's most recent famous alumni, Aidy Bryant. Don't worry, this photo was just leaning against a wall, I didn't take it down or anything. I just danced around with her face on my face for a little bit hoping some of her comedy greatness would rub off...

But sadly yesterday during our rehearsal before our show things felt different. Because around 6:00 p.m. I got a notification on my phone that Robin Williams had died. Without thinking I just blurted out what I had read. Immediately no one believed me and they were sure it had to be a hoax or something. But as everyone else got on their phones we all started to realize the painful truth.

And surrounded by a room full of comedians, it hit us all a little bit harder than we expected. It's weird how the death of someone you've never met can affect you. But I would tend to say there's not a comedian in this world who wasn't inspired by Williams at one point in their life. Every one of us at the Second City sitting in the Skybox theater yesterday had our own stories about why we loved him so much. He was just so so good.

And little by little I think we all started to think about that dark thought that Williams was a guy who seemed to have everything that every one of us want so bad. He had achieved what we are all tirelessly working for day and night. And yet. And yet that nasty disease of depression still got the best of him. In the end, making other people happy just wasn't enough to make himself happy.

Mental illness is a scary thing, especially in the world of comedy where it seems people are so good at hiding it. I read a stat somewhere that said around 65% of comedians suffer from depression or some sort of mental illness. Williams suffered from bi-polar, as do so many of my other favorite comedians. I initially thought that stat seemed a little high, but maybe it isn't.

I think we're all a little crazy, comedians and non-comedians. Comedians simply choose to funnel their madness into comedy.

So thank you Robin Williams for everything you gave this world. For me personally, I'd like to thank you for Mrs. Doubtfire. That movie made my childhood. Every time I put on Spanx I will think of you and feel like I'm my own little Mrs. Doubtfire.

The story of the great clown Terrifini-

"Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world, where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says the treatment is simple. The great clown Terrifini is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. Man bursts into tears: "But doctor . . . I am Terrifini."

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  1. I absolutely love the Terrifini story .... sometimes the loudest outward cries of happiness are from the ones who are saddest internally...I know I've tried to offset the blues by acting like everything was okay too many times to count. It has been fun to see so many of Williams' great works pop up in the childhood favorite was great.

  2. The last part about Terrifini, it's just so true. I'm still in utter shock. he impacted so many of our lives.

  3. Ooof. Terrifini. Right in the heart. :(

  4. It is so so incredibly sad. A man who so many people loved and cared about and he still felt so alone. It is such a tragic loss for everyone. :(

  5. Great post, and an interesting perspective coming from you as a comedian....Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. What an amazing man he was. It's so sad to know that so many people are fighting those inner demons. But the legacy he left and the lessons he taught will hopefully live on through people like you forever.

  7. As I've been reading posts and tweets today, I wondered what it was like for people like yourself, people that are actually in the business of making people laugh, to lose someone that mean so much to the world.

    Thank you for your post today.

  8. He truly was a legend that touched so many. I hope he knew how much joy he shared with the world. I hope you continue on your comedic journey as well.

  9. It is so surreal to see that stat. It's utterly insane how SUCH a large group is effected,but it's one of the things no one ever speaks of, until big tragedies rock the world.
    Robin Williams was such an awesome treasure to us all, and he is most defiantly gone way too soon.

  10. am still sad Robin williams died

  11. Beautifully said. Depression is SUCH a nasty disease and it makes me sad that it got him. Or anyone, for that matter.