Greg Fitzsimmons first met Kevin Meaney when Fitzsimmons was just a kid, and Meaney was just a teenaged waiter at the country club the Fitzsimmons belonged to in Westchester County.
After Meaney died suddenly on Friday at the age of 60, Fitzsimmons paid tribute to his lifelong friend and mentor over the weekend, first on Facebook, and then via his podcast, FitzDog Radio.
Read it and weep, and then laugh, and then weep some more.
My friend Kevin Meaney died yesterday. I’m numb and am selfishly thinking about what will now be missing from my life. Nobody made me laugh harder on stage or off than Kevin. Being from an Irish fireman and cop family, he also had the voracious loyalty of a rescued pit bull.
To have seen him in a club is to have been part of the rapture of a crowd watching someone do what they were meant to do with pure joy and abandon. Kevin went all in. There was no irony or sarcasm, just a God given talent like very few ever had mixed with a pathological need to be loved. It was a lethal combination. Standing ovations are rare in standup comedy. It was rare when he did NOT get one. But when he didn’t his bombs could be lethal. Some nights it was so bad people squirmed at which point Kevin would break into verses of a song he called “I don’t care” where he celebrated that the audience was not laughing. This sometimes turned the crowd around but it always killed the back room of the club, which would be filled every night with comedians dying to see Kevin implode.
My relationship with him started when I was about 8 and he was 18. He was a waiter at a golf club my family belonged to in Westchester County, NY. I spent my summers at the pool ordering cokes from Kevin who then served my parents drinks in the dining room until 4:00 in the morning. It was there that he performed for my parents and their friends doing impressions and often drinking along with them.
My father was a radio personality who then helped Kevin get started in the comedy clubs in NY.
A decade later when I was in college in Boston my father told me to keep an eye out for Kevin, “You know the funny waiter from Knollwood”. I started seeing him on The Tonight Show where he would make Johnny laugh so hard he would have his head on the desk, pounding it with his fist. He came to Catch a Rising Star and after the show I waited by the bar. I put out my hand and he cut me off saying, “Fitzsimmons!” From that point he became my mentor, my friend, my family.
Moving to Los Angeles he started dating a woman who it turned out had been my next-door neighbor, Maryann. While Kevin had been over-serving my folks all night it was Maryann who was at our house babysitting. When they married later they dedicated the ceremony to my then deceased father who they credited for bringing them together.
They then had a beautiful daughter Kate who was as caught off guard as her mother when Kevin announced that he was gay ten years into the marriage. What followed was a turbulent divorce, anger and eventually a relationship between them all that you can only call profound. Maryann and Kevin ended up close friends and soul mates and Kate, now a high school senior, is applying to great colleges.
I never had a clue about this part of Kevin’s identity although there were clues. He and I did a show in Hong King many years ago and were seated in the upstairs first class of the plane. Kevin sat down, ordered a bottle of champagne and announced to the cabin that he and I had just been married and were going on our honeymoon. He went from seat to seat toasting with mostly non-English speaking passengers before passing out for the entire trip and snoring so loud it kept everyone else awake. The other clue would have been his landing a part in Hairspray on Broadway where he played several female characters. He was brilliant and actually had a great singing voice.
I’ve gotten hundreds of texts, emails and Tweets in the last 24 hours and am flying to NY tomorrow to share my pain and joyous memories with friends and family.
The greatest gift he gave me, beyond the laughs and all of the advice, was the love. He made me feel so accepted and supported that it helped me realize how deeply I could love somebody back. I guess he was just paying my Dad back for helping him get his start, but he is in my heart and I will never stop laughing at him.