R.I.P. Bob Smith

Just a quarter of a century ago, you could see gay comedians on TV but never really knew they were gay.

Then came Bob Smith. Smith was the first openly gay man to perform stand-up on The Tonight Show, as well as star in his own HBO half-hour comedy special. Smith died last week from ALS. He was 59.

Born Dec. 24, 1958, Smith got his start in New York City in the early 1980s. Along with Danny McWilliams and Jaffe Cohen, Smith toured as “Funny Gay Males” and scored gigs around the world into the early 1990s.

His HBO special debuted in 1994, and Smith found himself on many other TV shows, with credits including Politically IncorrectThe Late, Late Show, Entertainment Tonight. Smith also wrote for The MTV Video AwardsDennis MillerRoseanne and MADtv.


Smith won the Lambda Literary Award for humor for his essay collection, “Openly Bob.” He followed that up with a second book of essays, “Way To Go, Smith!”; two novels, “Selfish and Perverse,” and “Remembrance of Things I Forgot”; and a much more recent essay collection in 2016, “Treehab: Tales from My Natural Wild Life,” which explored his comedy career and his experiences struggling with ALS.

You also could see Smith in two documentaries, HBO’s All Aboard: Rosie’s Family Cruise (2006), and We’re Funny That Way! (1998)

Rest in peace, Bob.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →