Not many entertainers seem to have overcome the odds in quite the same way Mike DeStefano did. The Bronx-born comic was HIV positive, a former heroin addict, and endured the death of his wife—yet he was gaining success in his standup career, and was one of the 5 finalists on last season's Last Comic Standing.
Today, it's been confirmed that he passed away last night after suffering a heart attack.
DeStefano began his comedy career about a decade ago after overcoming drug addiction, and was set to perform his one-man show A Cherry Tree in the Bronx this Wednesday in New York City. He had just finished a run of sold-out shows, as he performed a similar show under the title Drugs, Disease, and Death: A Comedy.
DeStefano was well respected for his brutally honest approach to comedy, since his material often centered around the tragic elements of his past. His career as a drug counselor was what eventually led him to standup when he discovered he could make his patients laugh.
He told the Back Stage blog,
I wanted to be somebody who can talk about really terrible personal experiences, and make people laugh at it so that they feel better ... You tell the truth and people will see that they’re not alone. What’s hard to do is to really be vulnerable as myself and make that funny. I want to take the darkest parts of my life and try to make people laugh with it.
I'm incredibly moved by DeStefano's story and how he used his talent to share the truth of his experiences, no matter how difficult it may have been to do so. Who knows how many people struggling with similar problems he helped, even if he was just able to put a smile on their face for a while.
R.I.P., Mike. Another great comic lost.
Here's a clip from one of his live performances at The Comic Strip (warning: language isn't work- or kid-friendly):
Image via YouTube