Ardie Fuqua is a survivor. More than you may know, maybe; certainly more than he lets on. From the sometimes mean streets of Jersey City where he grew up, through the black circuit of comedy clubs up to the heights of the Comedy Cellar. From his 19-year-old son dying in an accident playing basketball in 2012, to Ardie himself almost dying two years later in the Jersey Turnpike crash in June 2014 that killed comedian Jimmy Mack and put both Ardie and Tracy Morgan in comas.
Ardie had traveled around the world as Tracy Morgan’s opening act to hype his crowds as energetically as he does most nights at the Comedy Cellar.
In June 2014, Dave Chappelle got up at the Cellar and said this about Ardie:
“I think we’re all eagerly anticipating the ovation he gets when he walks back up on this stage, and he’s healthy, and he’s well, and he does one more of them shitty sets he does. We really — I believe that he’s gonna be alright. But, I don’t know.”
Now we know that it took 16 months of intensive and lonely rehab before we could see Ardie onstage and applaud him once more.
In 2016 you’ll see him with Big Jay Oakerson fronting a new stand-up showcase for Seeso called What’s Your F-ing Deal? that’s all about crowd work. And in between working the crowds at the Cellar and the Olive Tree Cafe, I managed to grab and hold Ardie’s attention just long enough to find out how he not only survives, but manages to still thrive so long into the game. So let’s get to it.