Comedian Greg Giraldo died on Wednesday following an accidental prescription drug overdose. He was 44.
The New York Times reports that the comedian had been in the hospital for four days after being found unconscious in his hotel room. A frequent performer on late-night television, Giraldo had performed regularly on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He was a staple on Comedy Central’s “roasts” and was often the evenings’ highlight. He performed gigs at clubs all around the country, and had performances booked at the time of his death.
Giraldo joins a sad list of comedians who have died young, just as they were getting famous or in the prime of their careers. Mitch Hedberg, an emerging king of one-liners, was just reaching the cusp of fame when he died at age 37 of cardiac arrest from a drug overdose. About.com talks about how the comedian had joked in the past about his struggles with drugs, but with his career shooting upward, friends and family hoped he was overcoming his addictions. That appeared to be the case, until he slipped up one last time. Even more people have discovered his comedy after his death, and a posthumous CD, “Do You Believe in Gosh?,” was well-received.
“Saturday Night Live” sketch comedian Gilda Radner overcame her struggles with eating disorders as an adult only to succumb to ovarian cancer at age 42. Radner and her husband, fellow comedian Gene Wilder, had, according to Biography Base, believed her to be cancer-free following a hospital misdiagnosis. When doctors finally realized that the cancer was still there, it had spread, and was terminal. “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels and that night’s host, Steve Martin, put together a special tribute that aired on the show that evening, which Martin introduced as he fought back tears.
Radner’s “SNL” castmate John Belushi never fully triumphed over his well-documented drug addictions, and despite huge success after leaving the show, died of a drug overdose at 33. Friends and family alike were devastated, and questions surrounding how he got the cocaine and heroin that killed him lingered. Belushi’s legend in passing years has only grown, with TV specials airing on channels like Biography and others decades after his death. Many “SNL” castmates past and present still list him as one of their influences.
Originally an attorney, Giraldo left law to pursue comedy. It had been a hard slog for him, and other comedians at the Comedy Central roasts liked to poke fun at him by calling him “the guy nobody knows” at the events. The hundreds of messages left by other comedians and fans on the Internet disproves that handily, and shows just how many people knew how funny this guy was, and how much he’ll be missed.
MSNBC.com, “Comedian Greg Giraldo Dies After Accidental Overdose.”
Anahad O’Connor, “Greg Giraldo, Insult-Humor Comic, Dies at 44.” NYTimes.com
Patrick Bromley, “Mitch Hedberg-Biography.” About.com
BiographyBase.com, “Gilda Radner Biography.”
Biography.com, “John Belushi Biography.”