It was pretty shocking and weird to be watching the Daily Show last night and hear Jon Stewart mention the death of comedian Greg Giraldo at the end of the show. Giraldo died yesterday, four days after an accidental drug overdose, possibly from prescription medication.
Giraldo was a great comedian, and in my opinion, may have been the best in the world. I’m not just saying that because he’s dead.
I’m a good judge of comics. In the early 80s I thought the best comedians who regularly went on the David Letterman show were Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Lewis, Jay Leno, and Dennis Miller. All of them made it big, though Miller became a political commentator — very boring, Leno became vanilla, and Seinfeld had one of the greatest shows ever, though I like Curb Your Enthusiasm better now. Lewis had the least commercial fame, but continued to be one of the best comics in the business. A little like Giraldo.
I first saw Giraldo about ten years ago on Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd,” a show in which comedians would sit around a table and talk about issues of the day. The show was hosted by Colin Quinn. Of course, it was one of the best shows ever so they had to take it off the air.
I saw Giraldo perform at the Improv in Washington, D.C. five years ago. It was overall a decent performance, but disappointing because expectations were so high. He was clearly drunk or high during the set. It always struck me as odd because he didn’t seem like the type of comedian who would need to do that.
In the last several years Giraldo came to prominence because of his spectacular performances on Comedy Central roasts. His delivery, material, and ability to trash people in a good natured way was legendary. A running joke was that comedians like Larry the Cable Guy were millionaires while truly great ones like Giraldo were relatively unknown and probably not making a lot of money.
It’s not good to be so much smarter than most people like Giraldo was. I just read tonight that he was a graduate of Harvard Law. His honesty was like that of another great, late comic, Robert Schimmel, who also died recently although Schimmel had cancer.