Todd Lynn passed away this week. He suffered two strokes and a heart attack. Some people thought of Todd as a “divisive” comedian. I’m not really sure why, but I judge people on how they act towards me, not by what people tell me, so I thought Todd Lynn was a great guy.
He didn’t grow up in the hood. He grew up in the burbs, and had to earn his street cred the hard way. I think I first met him through my good friend Patrice O’neal. I found a rare photo of them together in my archives.
I think I actually recall Todd wearing a sweater over his shoulders, long before he kind of went “gangsta” in an attempt to be more “street”!
I hadn’t seen Todd in a while, and when I saw him this past July in Montreal, he had already lost his sight from his battle with Pancreatic cancer.
I felt very awkward approaching him for the interview. I almost didn’t do it, but I’m so glad I did. I remember the feeling so clearly. I stepped out of the elevator in the Hyatt hotel, which is the home ground for the Just For Laughs Festival, the most prestigious comedy festival in the world. I saw Todd sitting on a couch, holding a white cane, the kind that sight-impaired people use to get around, and he was just sitting there by himself.
He was waiting to be taken to his show, as he was performing in the festival. I thought about what courage it took for him to fly up to Canada sightless, to perform in a show where he couldn’t even see his audience, and it gave me the courage to approach him.
I had heard he was battling cancer, and was talking about it in his act, but I didn’t know he had lost his sight. When I told him it was me, he gave me a big hug and immediately agreed to do the interview. I had no idea it would be the last time I’d see him.
I asked him how he knew he was sick in the first place and he laughingly told me about how he suddenly needed Viagra, due to a case of erectile dysfunction. He was very open about it and laughed a lot. He said the need for Viagra saved his life because in trying to find the reason for his ED they discovered the cancer.
His battle was made more difficult because he had no insurance. He was under the impression that he was insured with SAG, but it turned out that they had canceled it and he didn’t know.
He described his ordeal in the heart-warming video below, and he showed his courage in the face of such serious illness. He used his illness as a source for material, and spoke of things most comedians wouldn’t think to mention. The difference is that Todd made them funny.
Patrice Oneal and Todd Lynn in happier days, at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2002.
I’m writing this piece to honor his courage in the face of such tremendous adversity. My experience has been that sometimes going through a life-threatening illness changes a person for the better. Only a true comedian, and someone who loves people, could go out on a stage and make other people laugh when their own lives are in such disarray. It’s a selfless thing that they do!
RIP Todd Lynn. You will be missed!
Please watch the video interview with Todd Lynn below.
Article by Jeffrey Gurian
For more on Jeffrey Gurian, go to his site at http://www.jeffreygurian.com or the Comedy Matters Vlog at http://www.jeffreygurian.com/comedymatters , or you can e-mail him directly at Jeffrey@jeffreyguurian.com .
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