Robert Schimmel, the stand-up comedian known for exploring the darker aspects of his own life and delivering sexually explicit material that resonated with "mature audiences" who packed comedy clubs and theaters to see him, died Friday after failing to recover from very serious injuries suffered in a car accident eight days earlier. Schimmel previously had overcome cancer and had been anxiously waiting for a liver transplant to combat cirrhosis. He was 60.
Schimmel's younger brother, comedy writer Jeff Schimmel, confirmed the sad news late Friday night via his Facebook status, posting: "ROBERT SCHIMMEL. Son, Brother, Father, Grandfather, Comedian, Generous Man. I have always loved you, admired you, and was proud to be your biggest fan. I will never forget a single moment. R.I.P."
A short funeral service is planned Wednesday, Sept. 8, in Scottsdale. Close friends are urged to contact his family for details. A tribute will be planned later in Los Angeles.
Robert Schimmel's site still had him performing at the Kansas City Improv this weekend, though he had canceled that date even before the Aug. 26 car accident that also injured his daughter, Aliyah, who was driving. The night before the accident, in fact, Schimmel had been up into the early hours of the morning, dealing with his health insurance company in his attempts to get a new liver.
First he posted this status update: "living donor didn't work out. on phone with with mayo and cigna for an hour. now it's up to god"
Then about 10 minutes later, he posted another update to his multiple Facebook pages: "Started writing a journal right after the call. I'll start posting it pretty soon. Got specific orders to not go on the road anymore. So, I'm going to try my hand at a video blog. Trying to figure out a way to do it live, so i can talk to you guys in real time. if not, maybe an audio podcast? looking for someone to help educated me on how to do it."
Then about 10 minutes after that: "they're going to have to knock out my immune system so i don't reject the donor organ. there goes that fantasy with two hookers at the chicken ranch."
About a half-hour later: "signing off. good night all"
Schimmel's big break came through Rodney Dangerfield's young comedians special for HBO in 1988, Nothin' Goes Right, in which he shared a bill with a soon-to-be murderers row lineup of Bill Hicks, Andrew Dice Clay, Lenny Clarke, Dom Irrera, Carol Leifer and Barry Sobel. Here's the clip from that appearance (language, obviously, is NSFW):
He released several CDs and multiple DVDs, and in 2008, wrote a book, "Cancer on Five Dollars a Day (chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life."
His final stand-up special, Life Since Then, debuted on Showtime in 2009. In it, he talked about then being 58 and having to talk to his teenage daughter about sex, and sending her to an all-girls school; about his wife wanting to do sexual role-playing; his son telling a dirty joke in school; the danger with petting dolphins; hosting the AVN porn awards; and more, including his lengthy story about getting treated for cancer. Here's a related clip from a ComedyJuice show in which he talks about waking up with a catheter, and learning new things about sex from his daughter:
Here's something even rarer: a young Robert Schimmel performing on The Gong Show in the early 1980s. His description on the video? "as a goof, i played piano on stage at improv (early eighties) and the gong show bookers were there and asked me to do the show. not only did i lose to a blind african american girl singing "am i blue?", but an old lady dressed as a dallas cheerleader had a heart attack and collapsed in my arms right before i walked out onto the stage." I think you're going to enjoy this.
His sister, Sandhi Schimmel Gold, wrote a heartfelt ode about her brother earlier this week, and included some of the things she and Jeff both hoped to see Robert get to do, if he had recovered.
Robert Schimmel, you crazy cringe-inducing sonofabitch, you shall be missed.