2022 has been a great year for Comedy. With that, sadly, comes the fact that it has been a not-so-great year when it comes to how many comedians passed away. On average, maybe we’ll expect to see a handful of comedians – namely those in their 70’s and up – pass away. But this year seemed to hit the community harder than most.
We’re going to take a look back at all the great comics we’ve lost in 2022, and remember those who have passed on.
The year started with a low blow when we found out the shocking news that Bob Saget passed away at the age of 65. There’s a lot of mystery that still remains about his death, as he was discovered in a Florida hotel room, with abrasions to his head as a result of head trauma. However, nobody is too sure of what occurred. What we do know is he left behind a lengthy body of work, remembered fondly for Full House, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, and of course, his stand-up.
A month after we learned of Saget’s death, we found out that Louie Anderson was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, about a week later, Anderson passed away of cancer. Anderson, of course, broke out during the 1980s comedy boom and made a huge name for himself in stand-up, TV, and films. He eventually garnered a resurgence in the mid-2010s when he was cast on Baskets as Zach Galifianakis’ mother, which won him an Emmy Award.
This year also saw the tragic loss of one of the most prominent directors of comedies in the 1980’s. Reitman first worked as a writer on Animal House before transitioning to directing the films Ghostbusters, Twins, Meatballs, Stripes, Kindergarten Cop, among countless others. Shortly before he died, Reitman produced Ghostbusters Afterlife, which saw his son Jason taking over the reins and directing the film.
At the top of the year we lost one of the best satirists to come along in the last few decades. O’Rourke was probably best known as a writer for National Lampoon magazine. O’Rourke’s career is chock full of biting political satire that drifted from the sound of the counter-culture, gonzo-journalism loving, left-leaning voices in his generation to sharp satire from a more conservative libertarian point of view. In the 80s, he was a fixture at publications like Playboy, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone. O’Rourke passed away at 74 from lung cancer.
The Amazing Johnathan
The Amazing Johnathan was one of those performers you just had to see to believe. His blend of comedy and magic put him in a class all his own. Johnathan – who broke out in the 80s – had been experiencing heart issues since 2007, and held on for another 10 years before he finally retired in 2017. He was the subject of two documentaries that were made simultaneously that he may or may not have pitted against each other.
Arguably Gilbert Gottfried was one of the most unique – and recognizable – voices the comedy world has ever seen. His penchant for dirty jokes and saying anything to get a laugh were just as known as his distinctive voice and closed eyes. Gottfried passed away in April from complications of type II myotonic dystrophy. Gottfried had one of those careers similar to Saget where he was known to kids for his work in Aladdin and in various cartoons as well as his work as an incredibly blue stand-up comic.
George Shapiro was never a comedian, however, he was a legendary manager/producer in the comedy world. He is best known for managing such comedians as Andy Kaufman, Jerry Seinfeld, Carl Reiner, Marty Feldman, and countless others. Shapiro also executive produced Seinfeld, and was played by Danny DeVito in the film Man on the Moon.
Stewie Stone was one of the last relics of the bygone borscht belt era of comedy. During his impressive 60+ year career, Stone opened for everyone from Katy Perry, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Frankie Valli, Barry Manilow, Paul Anka, Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, The Village People, and Sonny and Cher. He passed away at 88.
The emerging Canadian comedian passed away suddenly at the young age of 32. Nemeroff was just starting to make a name for himself with appearances at Just For Laughs nominations for breakout artists in Canada and a participant of the Canadian Roast Battle. While it’s sad when anyone passes away, it’s even more of a tragedy when they leave us way too early. One day you’re doing spots at the Comedy Store, the next you pass away quietly in your sleep.
Freddie Roman was the second of the Borscht Belt comics to die this year. He was in a class of comics who never quite broke out on TV or in films, but worked steadily in the clubs and certain theaters for years. While you may not have known his name, he surely made an impact on comedy over his long-spanning career.
Larry Storch was one of the longest working comedians in show business, having gotten his start in 1940s as a stand-up impressionist that was discovered by Lucille Ball, and performed up until the mid-2010s. Storch is best known for his role as Argan on F Troop, and voicing the Joker on a 1970s cartoon iteration of Batman.
Knight’s passing at the age of 28 shocked many, as he was on the upswing, taping specials for Netflix, writing on many TV shows like Pause with Sam Jay and The Bust Down in addition to starring in the critically acclaimed Big Mouth. The future looked bright for Knight, so when the LA Medical Examiner declared Knight died by suicide, it was a stark reminder for us all take care of your mental health and check in on your loved ones.
David A. Arnold
David A. Arnold was a comedian that was quickly on the rise in the comedy community. When we talked to him a month before his death about his second Netflix special, It Ain’t For the Weak, Arnold talked about finally feeling like he was where he wanted to be. He had a new amount of fame due to his viral videos online due to the pandemic, and was just about to embark on his first theater tour. We can only imagine what could’ve been.
Like Gottfried, Judy Tenuta was a very unique and undeniably hilarious voice who broke out of the 1980s comedy scene. She was known as the Goddess of Love, as well as her impressive and bizarre songs she played on the accordion. Tenuta never quite achieved fame via TV or films, but if you were a comedy fan in the 80s or 90s, you couldn’t miss her. She was everywhere.
Leslie Jordan is another case of someone who was just starting to have a second wave of a career shortly before he died. Jordan was already well known for his work on Will and Grace by the time he started making silly Instagram videos that quickly caught traction and made him a viral star overnight. In the two years that followed, Jordan was on every show you could think of, often as himself. He even booked a role on Call Me Kat, before he died tragically in a car accident back in October.
While it may be cool to diss on Gallagher, writing him off as a prop comic or the “watermelon guy,” he was actually so much more of a tried and true comic than people realize. Gallagher had an insane 24 cable specials during his career, and was an early adapter of the stand-up special format as we now know it. His act also featured more than just the Sledge-O-Magic he was known for. He was known for his clever wordplay and also inventive props, particularly at his height.
If you’ve ever been to a comedy club, Budd Friedman is partially to thank in a big way. When he opened up the Improvisation in New York in the late 1950s, he set the mold for what a comedy club could be. Every comic that’s emerged in the last 50 years basically went through those doors and stood in front of that brick wall. Friedman was the face of it all, like Mitzi Shore. With his passing came the end of an era.