Monty Hoffman, one of the funny people gathered for a roundtable pep talk about comedy with Adam Sandler’s fictional alter-ego in Judd Apatow’s Funny People, has died. Hoffman was 60.
About getting Hoffman at the table with Carol Leifer, George Wallace, Paul Reiser and Mark Schiff for a “Broadway Danny Rose” kind of scene, Apatow said in a making-of feature for his film: “That was very exciting. Especially for me and Adam, who dreamed of being like those guys.”
Hoffman, born Dec. 15, 1952, and raised in New York with eight siblings, had lived with diabetes in his later years and was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002.
No word yet on a cause of death.
His stand-up credits on TV go back as early as A&E’s An Evening in the Improv in 1989 up to and through Last Comic Standing in 2004.
Here is a reel he uploaded in 2008 with bits from road gigs he was doing then.
Monty Hoffman reportedly grew up with Lou Costello as his first big idol as a child. “I loved those movies and I was always telling jokes to make my mother laugh. Sure, I can take out the garbage and mow the lawn, but I felt laughter was the one special thing of my own that I could give her,” Hoffman said in a bio written for The Laugh Factory. He also counted Lenny Bruce as an inspiration.
He spent two years in the Army between high school and college, and it was at San Francisco State University where he studied acting and joined an improvisational comedy group, Papaya Juice, whose members included Robin Williams.
If Williams could do stand-up, so too could Hoffman.
He performed in the 1984 San Francisco Comedy Competition, and eventually made the move to Los Angeles before landing his first big break five years later with A&E’s An Evening at the Improv. In that episode airing March 1989, Hoffman opened by joking that a kid thought he was the guy from the “Operation” board game.
Hoffman’s first onscreen role actually happened earlier, but you’re forgiven if you don’t remember him as “club bouncer” in the infamous 1986 movie, Howard The Duck. Hoffman would go on to co-star in the short-lived 1994 NBC sitcom, The Good Life, with John Caponera and Drew Carey. Before and after that, however, he had better luck with guest-starring roles, supporting episodes of Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Drew Carey Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, among others.
Since rebounding from throat cancer, he mostly worked gigs in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the road; aside from Funny People, he also appeared in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Nick Swardson movie, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star.
Here’s an older clip of Hoffman from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco:
Jack Herrguth, a development executive for the JASH YouTube network, wrote his remembrances on Hoffman’s Facebook wall today: “When I was growing up in the Bay Area in the ’80s I used to listen to Monty on the Alex Bennett Show. I was a huge fan. A few years ago, he and I became friends and it was a surreal experience. He liked to play the tough guy, but he was a softy at heart. I remember when my twins were born a few years ago, he came to visit them in the hospital and brought gifts. Of course, they were the wrong size, but the gift was generous just the same. Monty was also one of the funniest people I knew. One time we were at the Improv, and Chappelle was performing. Monty said “Hey, I want to introduce you to Dave”. I said that would be great, but I was working at Comedy Central at the time, and thought it might be a little awkward if Chappelle knew I worked at Comedy Central, considering all the hoopla that had happened after he left his show and split for Africa. Monty said, “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything”. So, after Chappelle’s set we walk into back room (before it was the Improv Lab) and Dave Chappelle is there sitting in a chair, and Monty walks over to him and says, “Hey, Dave. This is my friend Jack. He works at Comedy Central.” Thanks for the laughs Monty and thanks for your friendship and generosity. You will be missed.”
And from his brother, Glenn Hoffman, via Facebook today: “For all of you hecklers out there here’s MONTY HOFFMAN!!” Brother I will miss You.. I don’t do much of this social media thing but after reading all of his friends comments. I have a story I would like to share. When I was in my teens Monty would take myself and my brother Derrick to his gigs in Long Island,NYC & New Jersey “Only because we had a car and paid for the gas”. We had seen a lot of shows so we knew his material. We walked into this big place in NJ that had these two hecklers that got to the MC and the other comics. Derrick said to me “No way is Monty going to get theses guys…” Well Monty came out and these guys attacked like sharks. Monty didn’t say a word,didn’t look at them, just held his middle finger up at them til they shut up and the crowd went wild!!”
In March 2004, he told the Las Vegas Sun about coming back to stand-up comedy after his cancer treatment, and also having four years clean and sober at the time.
“I’m content with who I am and what I am right now, and I can make fun of myself … I still talk about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — well, not the rock ‘n’ roll anymore; I think I’m more into classical. I’ve slowed down…I’m not out to change the world. When I was an addict, nobody could tell me nothing. But I know the dangers and the insanity and the real horrors of it, so if you can’t learn from me — I have the scars to show it. If I could save a kid of a life of misery, of what I had, then God can take me.”
He added later in that interview: “I’ve really had a wonderful life, when you look through all the hell. Sure, I get depressed about certain things, but I move forward everyday. You know what I think, when you get all these curves and you survive, you kind of feel better about yourself. You didn’t eat the bullet.”