The entire cast (minus the fabulous Caroyln Castiglia, who was capturing this joyous moment on her camera) of All the Way, For the Children, my big "Celine Dion" extravaganza at Mo Pitkin's, on January 28, 2007. This photo was taken backstage right after the show. (No, I don't normally wear eyeliner.) Front row (from L. to R.): Laura Mannino; Katina Corrao; Shawn Hollenbach; Alana Harrison (love that smile!); back row (L. to R.): Adira Amram (gettin' down!); Paul Case (looking very handsome and solemn, like an extra on Law and Order), me, and Eric Poindexter.
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In case you never knew who Greg Giraldo was, let me sum him up in a few words (which really don't do him justice): he was a supremely talented and brilliant stand-up comedian, best known for his appearances on the Comedy Central celebrity roasts, and he recently passed away as a result of a drug overdose, leaving behind three children and thousands of bereaved fans, including me. This was his New York Times obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/arts/30giraldo.html.
He was probably my favorite New York comedian of his generation: articulate, razor-quick, and with strong opinions, but never a bully, and above all, always hilarious. I remember seeing him perform live at clubs around the City when I first moved there in 2001, and I would always get so excited to hear that he was making an appearance, because you could always count on seeing something original, intelligent, and unforgettable when Greg took the stage.
I even got the chance to meet him once; it was after a show he did at the Comedy Cellar in New York City in September 2003, about a week before I would be performing stand-up comedy for the first time in my life (if you don't count the time I made that humorous speech at my sixth grade graduation ceremony). He was grace and charm personified; when I asked him if he had any advice for a first-time comedian, he said two things that I still remember and that still ring true to this day: (1) always keep your connection with the audience and focus on what you want them to experience or take from your performance--in other words, keep your consciousness (or as I have learned in my acting training--your intention) on your audience, rather than on yourself; and (2) remember that even if you suck--and, as Greg put it, "you most likely will your first time--no offense!"--you need to keep going, because you will get better.
Given the grounded, honest wisdom that he shared with me that night, this interview of his from Psychology Today that I found online while researching his life seems all the more ironic and tragic: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainstorm/200905/greg-giraldo-failure. In it, he discusses his views on failure and the demons of self-doubt and self-hatred that he wrestled with his entire life. Perhaps most poignantly, he says in the interview:
Greg Giraldo gave me some amazing advice the night I met him in 2003; but his passing has taught me an even greater lesson: success is fantastic and all, but life is made up of so many other things, things that make it rich and fulfilling--things that we must never lose sight of, including taking good care of ourselves and appreciating the love of our family and friends.
I'm a total fuckup, honestly. The reality is I'm not this person with this driving "get it done" attitude. I'm a complete fuckup and I've fucked up a lot of things in my life. I'm constantly tortured by a sense of failure. I feel like quitting all the time. I feel like hiding in drugs or alcohol. I feel like I've failed in terms of what my potential is. I don't think I've achieved my potential because I haven't worked that hard and I haven't found the right angles. The reality is, I'm not a "get knocked down and just pull myself back up by my bootstraps and come back harder" kind of guy.
So keep reaching for the stars--God knows, I will!--but don't forget about all of the precious, magical little things that make life so sweet down here on Earth.
Greg Giraldo (Dec. 10, 1965 – Sept. 29, 2010)