Posts Tagged ‘Seinfeld’

John Pinette

April 7, 2014

Sunday April 6th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

As if I wasn’t feeling low enough already, I got a phone call from a friend asking if I had heard John Pinette was found dead in his hotel room today. I hadn’t, and it struck a painful nerve in my heart. I have known, liked and respected John for many years, and while I won’t lie and try to claim we were close friends he was a comedy peer and we shared a stage on many occasions.

What freaked me out deeply was that I had just thought of him yesterday. I was between shows in the green room at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago last night, and happened to run across one of John’s DVDs laying around. John was a regular at Zanies, and that’s how we hooked up years ago. The owner of Zanies Rick Uchwat acted as John’s manager, and they were extremely close.

I’m not sure exactly what their professional relationship was, but John and Rick were a hell of a team. Both were loaded with natural charisma, and they could always be seen together when he worked at Zanies – which was often. I loved them both, and always looked forward to when they would both be around. John was a world class comedian, and I never met a kinder human being.

John had a March birthday like I do, and I tried to at least contact him on his birthday if I’d not seen him in a while. Rick had a March birthday too. I’d accidentally overlooked John’s birthday this year, and seeing that DVD last night jarred my memory. I made a mental note to get in touch.

Unfortunately, now I’ve missed my chance forever and I feel horrible. John was a super gentle soul, but did have some vicious demons. I could see he was in pain, and we talked about it often. It was hard not to like the guy, and I felt very sad for him when he’d tell me about his life story.

He was from Boston originally, and totally a dented can. Like me, he was a big time giver and those are the people that get screwed over the hardest. He told me of many instances where he’d gotten the shaft, and I know it hurt him. It should have, because he had a mammoth heart of gold.

Whenever he would play a Zanies, he was famous for buying food for everyone from comics to staff and even fans. One time I saw him spend $100 at Taco Bell, and that’s not easy to do. There was a lot of pain inside him, but he always tried to make others happy instead of wallowing in it.

I hadn’t seen John a lot in the last few years, but the last time we did cross paths I thought he’d looked as good as I’d ever seen him. He had an operation to keep his weight down and it worked. He was in great spirits, and we had a lot of laughs. I always felt relaxed and at home around him.

He possessed an off the charts level of likeability onstage and off that few if any ever begin to approach. He had ‘it’, and then some. He even opened for Frank Sinatra for a while, and that’s a powerhouse credit all by itself. He was an amazing talent, and I am lucky to have crossed paths.

His main credit was being the guy that was car jacked on the final episode of “Seinfeld”, but he was so much more than that. I salute his life and accomplishments, and I hope he is finally at peace. If anyone deserves it, it’s him. He had a heart bigger than he was, and everyone that ever met him adored him. I know I did – and still do.

There has never been a funnier - or kinder - comedian than John Pinette. He was beloved by all who knew him. I am one. SO sad to hear of his passing today.

There has never been a funnier – or kinder – comedian than John Pinette. He was beloved by all who knew him, and I am one. He was a giant talent with an even bigger heart.

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Viva Ritch Shydner

March 12, 2014

Sunday March 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from the big meet up with my siblings yesterday, but I’m not going to make the mistake of assuming “it’s all better now”. It’s never going to be “all better”, but what we did yesterday was an enormous leap forward and I couldn’t be any more delighted. It was an event I won’t forget, and I hope it can be built on. I really did feel a positive vibe from every one of us.

All I can do is keep my end open, and the rest can decide if they want to continue. They all said they’d like to do it again, but who knows? Putting pressure on anyone is the last thing we need so I’m going to enjoy the moment we had, and let the healing vibes flow. There’s a whole lot to do.

After dinner last night it was early enough that I could still make it to the Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL to see the great Ritch Shydner perform. I wasn’t aware he was in town until late this week, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see him.

Ritch is a major favorite of mine on stage and off. He’s from the generation just before me, and was one of the first true headliners I saw when I was just starting. I watched him work a bunch of times, and he was always unbelievably gracious to sit around and talk after the show. He’s one of the nicest and funniest guys I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know anyone in comedy that won’t agree.

I didn’t expect Ritch to remember me from those very early days, but we crossed paths later on a book he co-authored with another great comedian named Mark Schiff called “I Killed”. It’s the compilation of road stories submitted by comedians of all levels from the Seinfelds and Lenos to road warriors like me. I’ve got a story in the book, and it’s actually quite a popular one at that.

I had always been big fans of both Mark and Ritch, and I got to know them both through being part of their book so it was a double score in my world. They’ve both been very supportive of me and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with one of my comedy heroes. I was still in a great mood from my meeting, and I made it to the club in plenty of time to catch his late show.

As I’ve come to expect, Ritch couldn’t have been any genuinely nicer or more supportive. He’s in the highest class of standup comedy royalty, and here he was treating me like a peer. That took my mood even higher, and I didn’t think that was possible. Days like this make life worth living.

We talked at length about how flat out difficult it is to be a comedian in general, and how as we age our needs sometimes change. Ritch has three kids, and agrees the road doesn’t come with the spirit of adventure it once did. He doesn’t have the same desire just as I don’t, and it was great to have someone to talk about it with that understood. He is one of few with the same perspective.

I really enjoyed watching him work, as his act has continued to evolve just as he has. He jokes about getting older and technology, and that’s the sign of a true comic and true artist. He keeps it fresh and growing. I laughed out loud several times, and it was a real treat to hang with a master.

He co-wrote and narrated a tremendous documentary called “I Am Comic” that is an absolute must see in my opinion. Ritch is one of the greats of the modern era, and I am delighted to have been able to meet him in person. Be sure and see him live if you can. http://www.ritchshydner.com.

Ritch Shydner is one of my all time favorite comedians, and also happens to be a very nice person off stage.

Ritch Shydner is one of my all time favorite comedians, and happens to also be a very nice person off stage.

He has appeared on Letterman and The Tonight Show with both Johnny AND Jay. Very impressive. www.ritchshydner.com

He has appeared on Letterman and The Tonight Show with both Johnny AND Jay. How impressive – and very well deserved. http://www.ritchshydner.com

He also co-wrote 'I Killed' - a book of comedians' road stories of which I have one.

He also co-wrote ‘I Killed’ – a book of comedians’ road stories of which I have one. People still ask me to sign their copy to this day.

He is also co-write and narrator of the documentary "I Am Comic" - a must see for fans and comics alike. I'm telling you, the man is impressive. I've been a fan for years.

He is also co-writer and narrator of the brilliant documentary “I Am Comic” – a must see for fans and comics alike. I’m telling you, the man is a Hall of Famer. I’ve been a fan for years, and I highly recommend you check him out.