Comedy Casualties

Thursday August 30th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   There’s sad news all over the place in the comedy world this week. I was stunned today to hear of the passing of ‘Wild Bill’ Bauer, a pillar of the Minneapolis comedy scene and someone I was extremely fond of. Our paths crossed years ago, and we stayed in touch. This is really a downer.

Bill was one of the few comedians who would just call to say hello. That’s very rare for several reasons. Most comedians are constantly trying to lock down future bookings, and having to be on the phone is a necessary evil. I’ve never been a phone person, and sometimes I’ll not even turn it on for several days because 99% of the calls that come in are leeches looking to suck out a favor.

Wild Bill Bauer was never one of those people. He would call to find out what was going on in the Chicago or Milwaukee scene, and compare notes with what was going on in Minneapolis. He was also a fan of ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show as was his wife and we’d often take a detour in that direction. He was just a laid back nice person, and I always enjoyed our exchanges.

Only a few years ago, Bill booked me for a really fun New Year’s Eve gig in Eau Claire, WI. It was very nice of him to do that, and he told me I could work for him any time I wanted. He had a list of favorites he liked to work with, and I was quite honored to be on it. He treated me great.

Unfortunately, I never got to see his act in person. We often would laugh about that, but we met in Indianapolis years ago in a situation when I was coming and he was leaving and we ended up having lunch with several other comics. Bill was a big Bob and Tom radio show favorite, and they had him stay over an extra day so they could have him on their show. I’m glad it happened.

It’s always been a random process of how comedians cross paths, and although most of us who are road comics have at least heard each other’s names there are no guarantees we’ll ever meet each other in person. Bill and I crossed paths by chance, and remained friends for twenty years.

Earlier in the week, a Milwaukee comedian named Byron Beck also passed away. I’d heard he was only 41 years old, and that makes it even sadder. I didn’t know Byron all that well, but I did cross paths with him a few times and he was always polite and friendly. He ran a showcase in the Milwaukee area, and I worked it a couple of times. It was a surprise, as I never knew he was ill.

On top of all that, a very talented Chicago comedy magician named Ken Mate had a stroke not long ago, and that shocked everyone who knew him. He wasn’t a smoker or out of shape and had no prior history of health problems. I got to know Ken through my booker friend Marc Schultz and had several lunches with him through the years. He’s a big time student of his craft just like I am.

According to Marc, Ken is out of the hospital but nobody knows the extent of his injuries. He’s a very good guy, and hearing of this combined with the passings of Bill and Byron really disturbs me and again makes me question the existence of God. How come filthy scumbags like Charles Manson and Fidel Castro and so many others get to live long healthy lives but comedians who help make life better for those who really need it drop like flies? I just can’t understand the logic.

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