One of the brightest lights in any comedy club over four separate decades, Kevin Meaney has died suddenly and tragically. Meaney was 60.
It’s at once both flippant and altogether appropriate to respond to the news with one of Meaney’s classic bits: “That’s not right.”
Meaney’s agent confirmed that the comedian was found dead in his home in Forestburgh, N.Y. An autopsy is pending.
Born April 23, 1956, Meaney grew up in Westchester County, originally from White Plains, then graduating from Valhalla High School, and attending SUNY Morrisville, before moving to San Francisco and later Boston, where he really became known for his stand-up comedy. Meaney had such a charismatic, energetic presence, a song-and-dance man who could do more with less than just about anyone else, who loved to take cameras out on the street outside of Stitches in Boston to talk to passersby and even cops. You may have first spotted him nationally on Star Search, but it was an HBO special in 1986, followed by his first of a dozen spots on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that really drew your attention.
A starring role in the CBS sitcom adaptation of the movie Uncle Buck only lasted one season in 1990-91, but he’d play several guest-starring roles and voiceover animation parts throughout the 1990s. It wasn’t until he rotated into the Broadway musical Hairspray in 2002 that his life really flipped. He’d come out publicly as gay on SiriusXM Radio in 2008.
All through the years, though, Meaney earned the praise, admiration and laughs of his peers and the younger generations of comedians.
Barry Crimmins, who was the godfather of the Boston comedy scene when Meaney showed up there in the 1980s, said tonight: “There was never a funnier person, bigger talent, kinder soul or dearer friend than Kevin Meaney. I shall miss him always.”
Meaney appeared in Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary about Crimmins, Call Me Lucky, which came out last year. Goldthwait said tonight: “Kevin Meaney was sweet, hilarious and courageous. A silly, wonderful, man. The best. My heart goes out to his fans, friends and family.”
Joe Rogan and I were just talking about Meaney yesterday when I asked Rogan to describe his own start in the Boston comedy scene in the late 1980s.
Meaney also wrote and produced a one-man play about his life, “Wedding Vows in Vegas,” which he took to the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and produced a Kevin Meaney Christmas Show.
Meaney was a star. “We’re Big Pants People!” “What do you do this to your father and I for?” “We’re going to lose the house!”
He should still be here. “That’s not right!”
Here are a few classic clips of Kevin Meaney to remember him by:
He most recently guest-starred in an episode of 2 Broke Girls on CBS, as well as an episode of Hidden America with Jonah Ray for Seeso. He also put together this pilot episode for a series that would have been called “Comedy AirBnB,” seeing what it’s like to spend 24 hours in the company of a comedian.