R.I.P. Ricarlo Flanagan, 1981-2021

Ricarlo Flanagan was supposed to drop a new album today. But yesterday, friends and family mourned the comedian, actor and rapper, who died from COVID-19. Flanagan was 40.

Originally from Ohio, Flanagan moved to Detroit in 2006 to advance his comedy and musical aspirations. He released his debut comedy album, Man Law, in 2013. As Father Flanagn, he released three other albums: Death of Davinchi (2010); An Opus Inspired By Andre Martin (2019); and Hope Your Proud (2020).

His latest and last album, “Both Sides Of The Brain,” was due out today.

As an actor, Flanagan scored a recurring role as Davey on season 8 of Showtime’s Shameless, as well as playing a security guard on Walk The Prank. He also caught plenty of one-episode guest-starring roles as a bouncer, security guard, mover — any heavy you needed — on shows such as Room 104, Kidding, the Mad About You revival, The Neighborhood, Insecure, The Carmichael Show, The Mick.

As a stand-up comedian, Flanagan thought himself ready for his close-up in 2014. That’s when he made it to the finals of NBC’s annual Stand-Up For Diversity contest. He leveraged that into a semifinal run in 2015 on the ninth season of Last Comic Standing, a spot on the Fuse showcase series, Uproarious, the finals of the 2016 Seattle Comedy Competition (the year Preacher Lawson won it), and in 2017, a regular role on the panels of the short-lived late-night FOX comedy show, Punch Line.

From Laughs, which aired late-night Saturdays on FOX:

Here’s how Flanagan recalled the early part of that career run in a Facebook challenge post in 2019.

This is a pic of me performing on “Last Comic Standing” The journey to get here took about 7 years. I wont tell you about all 7 years but I’ll tell you about this yea specifically. 6 months prior to that I took a megabus to San Francisco to do a cattle call for NBC Stand Up for diversity. They only accepted the first 100 people so you had to get there to find a spot in line. When I got off the bus I was nowhere near downtown so I had to find my way to get to this club. Long story short I walked a loooooong ass way to get there. When I got there a bunch of people were there, but the club manager told us all to leave. So we left but snuck back up at like 1am. I found a spot in line and slept outside the club until they came the next morning giving out numbers. I got number 55. I remember Ketra Long being in line with me and Tre Stewart was there as well. Fast forward I had camped out in a Starbucks across the street once I got my number. I went across the street to perform when I walked in B.t. Kingsley was there stunting on everybody with this jacket (I’ve seen him stunt many times I’ll tell that story later) So I perform and wait around all day with Tre Stewart to find out the results, I placed in the top 3 so I had to come back and do round 2. Did round 2 placed again so I had to come back Sunday. I didnt have any money and I had to stay an extra day. I had to walk around San Fran all night I walked all thru the Tenderloin which looks like every episode of the Wire. Some dudes ran up on me, but I’m from Cleveland and I quickly let them know that. I finally found a place to stay it was some dirty motel with this loud ass fool next door. This man was happy to get that sex and I don’t blame him. Next Day I performed the showcase to a packed room. Then I had to go home and wait for results. I made it to the Finals and two weeks later Fred Striks got me an audition for Last Comic Standing. I was chosen and made it to the Semi Finals. Much Love to everyone!

With his passing, comedians are giving the love right back to Flanagan.

They quickly raised the $10,000 and more in four hours after loved ones launched a GoFundMe yesterday to cover the costs of sending his body back to Cleveland and helping the family with funeral arrangements.

Nate Fridson, a NYC-based comedian who knew Flanagan back in their Michigan days and nights, shared: “I never met anyone like Ricarlo Flanagan and I doubt I will again. The man exhaled comedy, it was so natural to him. His approach was unique, perhaps from starting later in life than others. He worked hard on his act and his craft as an actor, but you couldn’t tell unless you watched him every night. I marveled at his effortless charisma- Ric was the darling of every audience for whom I saw him perform. I loved talking about whatever controversy of the day with him. I loved talking comedy with him. And I loved talking about hip-hop with him; Ricarlo’s passions weren’t limited to comedy, he was a talented and prolific MC, as well. Please listen to and watch his comedy, and please enjoy his music. It’s a cliche that it’s never the people you want to go who pass, but it’s a cliche for a reason, and Ric was someone nobody wanted to go. I’ll miss messaging him when some comic was popping off with some racist tirade, I’ll miss talking about how underrated Redman is, and, most of all, I’ll miss watching him on stage, spinning gold out of a premise he came up with in conversation earlier that day. RIP Ricarlo Flanagan. There will never be another.”

Back in March, Flanagan shared this joke online about how none of the bad people were dying from COVID-19. Only the good ones are going? That’s extra true today.

Rest in peace, Ricarlo.

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.

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