Mike DeStefano (1968- March 6, 2011)
The sudden death of comic Mike DeStefano on Sunday from a massive heart attack seemed cruel and untimely. The silence left in the wake of Mike’s passing is deafening as the comedy world is left to mourn the loss of one of its most honest and frank stand-up performers.
DeStefano, a finalist on last season’s “Last Comic Standing” fought hard to overcome AIDS, an addiction to heroin and the tragic loss of his wife as he continued to make people laugh on a nightly basis. DeStefano was 44-year-old.
In a statement to the press, Mike’s brother, Joe said, “Mike was loved by so many people. It’s just amazing! I just want to say thank you to all of you. Mike went out on top! He was a big winner! Thank you all for making that possible and for all of your support.”
On Monday, friend and fellow stand-up performer Jim Norton tweeted, “In LA, just waking up to the sad news about Mike DeStefano. He helped so many people. I’m glad he was my friend.”
“Mikey D. Night after night you never held back, on and off the stage. Thanks for showing us all how it’s done. We miss you.” Comic Dave Attell posted on his Facebook page Tuesday.
The Bronx-born funnyman who was addicted to heroin at the age of 15 managed to kick his habit fifteen years later and had worked as a drug counselor before finding his comedy calling.
According to the NBC website, DeStefano would visit and perform at prisons and rehab centers for free often calling it “recovery comedy.”
“I am deeply saddened to hear about Mike. He was not only an outstanding comic but more importantly a wonderfully warm human being who deeply cared about people,” People.com quoted “Last Comic Standing” executive producer Peter Engel as saying in a statement. “We will all laugh a bit less because of losing Mike.”
During one of his sets, DeStefano is quoted as saying, “I am a standup comic. Before that, I was a drug counselor. Before that, I was a drug addict. Before that, I was 12.”
In a 2010 interview with ComedyBeat, he said, “I think people really relate on a deep level to pain and suffering. … You don’t have to be a drug addict to know what that’s like. All the suffering that everyone has — every single human being — we all get sick, we lose people, we die.”
DeStefano’s wife Fran, a recovering addict who contracted AIDS, died several years ago.
Besides DeStefano’s numerous appearances on “Late Night With Conan O Brian” and “Comedy Central Presents,” DeStefano was a featured performer at HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
DeStefano, HIV positive since the 80s was fearless in his pursuit of comedy and often dared to explore tough, cringe worthy topics that most comedians would run from.
On Wednesday, DeStefano had been scheduled to perform a preview of his one-man show “A Cherry Tree in the Bronx” at the Barrow Street Theatre; an appearance he tweeted would be his “Last NYC show for a while. Love to see u there.”
Funeral arrangements are set for Friday March 11 at St. Benedict’s Church in New York. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully asks that donations in Mike’s name be sent to The American Heart Association or The American Cancer Society.Tags: comedian, death, heart attack, Mike DeStefano, N.Y., New York, RIP