Stand-up comedian Mike Reynolds has died at the age of 60.
Born Dec. 23, 1958, this Bayside Queens native New Yorker started in stand-up comedy while still in high school, becoming a regular at the Comic Strip on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by 1977.
You can see him in this WNBC-TV segment on NYC’s burgeoning comedy scene of 1982 at the Strip, Catch a Rising Star, and the Improv, cracking a joke about coping with the potential lack of success in this business.
But a decade later, Reynolds could count at least a couple of appearances on A&E’s An Evening at the Improv to his credits, in 1990 and 1992. And he ended the 1990s by appearing as himself in the premiere of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as one of the comedians helping Larry David navigate his way back into the comedy clubs.
Reynolds came close to “making it” in the late 1990s with a guest writing tryout on Saturday Night Live. As he would explain in 2010 to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a spinal injury he suffered at that time impeded him personally and professionally. “I was sitting there in agony, writing sketches with Chris Kattan and Tina Fey. And the next thing you know, I’m not there anymore.”
In 1992, he closed his Evening at the Improv joke with this zinger about health insurance, which still zings today: “I hate doctors. I hate everything medical. I had surgery on my knee last year. $5,000. Blue Cross, they don’t want to pay for it, they called it a pre-existing condition. So I sent Blue Cross a check that bounced, and they called me up and said, ‘What’s the story?’ I said, ‘Well, the check is from a pre-existing bank account.’”
And even though having funny famous friends could help him get gigs here and there, he found himself so far in debt he had to laugh about it.
With fellow comedian Bruce Fine executive producing, Reynolds put out a CD of reverse prank phone calls called “Mike The Deadbeat,” in which he flummoxed his debt collectors. As the liner notes read:
In 1990, Mike was a finalist in the NY Comedy Competition, making it to the top 3 out of 1200 comics. His career began to flourish, capped by a writing job on SNL. Then things went a bit sour. Unemployment, health problems, car problems, and credit card debt ensued. The harassing phone calls from debt collectors were driving him crazy, until he decided to have a little fun with them…and tape it. This is a collection of the calls, giving you a glimpse of the disastrous and hilarious life of “Mike the Deadbeat.”
Fast forward to 2010, and that Review-Journal profile on him. It’s a bit of a sad-sack portrayal, catching up with Reynolds at the craps tables at the Golden Nugget, where he worked the swing-shift 47 weeks of the year just to make ends meet. At that time, Carrot Top had him the other five weeks at the Luxor as his opening act.
“I like Mike’s style,” Carrot Top said in 2010. “He’s been doing it a long time so he has that good delivery, and it’s pretty good stuff. I always laugh out loud when I’m backstage listening.”
Reynolds, meanwhile, blamed himself for not getting farther in the business. “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough,” he told the Vegas paper in 2010. “Maybe I spread myself too thin. I definitely drank too much.”
But he didn’t give up on himself just yet.
Last year he’d updated his Facebook profile photo to show himself working at Brad Garett’s Comedy Club in Vegas. When Randy Credico’s name resurfaced in both national and international news thanks to Roger Stone and Donald Trump, Reynolds chimed in in November by responding: “I’m only connected to Credico since I paid the parking tickets he got when he would borrow my car in LA and throw them away and leave town. I don’t think that’s a political connection but the DMV was involved so in a way it’s governmental.”
Another friend said he’d just crossed paths with Reynolds a week ago, reportedly driving back to Vegas from Boston.
Whatever happened to bring him to the end of his road now, he shall be missed.
RIP “Bike Rentals.”