Remembering Scott Kennedy – Mentor, Hero, Friend0
Where to start? I am still grieving over the loss of my friend, mentor, and hero, Scott Kennedy. However, I have decided to write this, because, though the pain is fresh, it needs to be done. Many comedians, from the highest ranks of the business, have weighed in, and shared their memories of Scott. My story will obviously not garner as much attention, but that’s the point of me putting them on paper. The greatest thing about Scott was his willingness to help those who couldn’t return the favor. Anyone is willing to befriend a celebrity, and a lot of people enter show business to do just that. However, character is not based on how we treat those above us on the totem pole, it’s about how we help lift up those below. Scott had more character than every comic I’ve ever met… combined.
I first met Scott at the beginning of 2005. I was 22, living in New Orleans, and I was the stereotypical aspiring comedian working at a comedy club. I had been doing comedy semi-professionally since age 18, but I was still very green. I would fill-in for comics who missed their flights, and Improv founder, and comedy godfather Budd Friedman would book me frequently as the emcee. When I wasn’t on-stage, I was the stage manager, and I had lots of time to hang out with the comics backstage during the shows. I would spend ample time asking each and every one of them about the business, begging them for tips, wisdom, and advice. Many would blow me off, many would discourage me, and many were just plain rude. There were a few exceptions, and chief among them was Scott Kennedy. I liked Scott from the moment I met him. A looming hoss of a man, who looked like a follicly-challenged offensive lineman, you quickly learned his heart was bigger than his torso. Always a huge smile, bright eyes, and a spit-cup; it was always a good day when I saw the big “00” jersey coming backstage. Scott answered my questions, encouraged me, lightened up our conversations, and reminded me to remember, comedy is about jokes. The material can be dark, but at the core, audiences have to like you to laugh at you.
In August of 2005, literal and emotional disaster struck. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and my life was turned upside down. My city was decimated, my friends were suddenly strewn all over the country, the club was shut down, and I lost everything I owned, with the exception of 3 t-shirts. I fell into a deep depression, and evacuated to Chicago, where I would spend the next 6 months trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do now. After my 6 month transplant, I decided to move back to New Orleans. The club reopened shortly after I returned, and Scott was able to bring much needed laughter back to the citizens of New Orleans. He was one of few comics we requested the Improv corporate office send to the club as often as possible. We needed his laughter, and I needed my friend.
In 2007, I finally felt like I had enough road-dog experience under my belt, and enough material to make a go of it in L.A. Before I moved, I flew to L.A. on a “scouting trip” so to speak. Scott graciously allowed me to stay at his apartment, and made me feel at home. For half of my trip, Scott was on the road, and he even upgraded me from the couch to his bedroom, after he left. His open heart was endless. After I moved, Scott took me around to the clubs, introduced me to comics, and gave me all the must-have information. He even went so far as to help me land a job as a bouncer at the House Of Blues on the Sunset Strip. In retrospect, even to this day, I am blown away by the amount of help he gave a young, green, broke straight boy from the deep south. I guess he saw a lot of himself in me, which could be wishful thinking on my part. I do know he saw something in me, enough to put his name on the line for me. It brings tears to my eyes. The shear humility, humanity, and pure love in his heart.
Over the months and years that followed, Scott and I performed many times together. I released my first album, and in the liner notes, I thanked Scott for his guidance. I wish I could have done more to repay him, but that’s the thing about Scott, he never expected to be repaid. His kindness wasn’t a loan, it was a gift.
Of the hundreds, and likely thousands of shows I’ve done in my career, I only have one poster hung in my home. It is a promo poster from a week of shows I did with Scott, and our mutual buddy Dat Phan, at the Improv at Pechanga Resort in California in 2008. Scott and Dat were my two closest buddies in comedy, and I always want to remember the week the three of us were on the same bill. It’s comforting now, to know that I will always have a picture of Scott in my home. That framed poster will never move, and if another hurricane comes, you can bet your ass that poster is coming with me. That week the three of us played a game we often played during a long string of shows. We called it “News Boos”, and the rules were simple. Prior to a show, we would flip through the day’s USA Today newspaper (complimentary at most U.S. hotels!), and find the least funny story imaginable. We would then each HAVE to do a joke about that particular story in our act. Whoever’s joke elicited the biggest groan, would be bought a drink, after the show, by the other two. It was absolutely hilarious to see the comic’s mind at work. What each of our takes on it were, what our segues into the heinous joke would be, who would bomb, how you would win the crowd back, etc. I still laugh thinking about some of those shows.
It seems like since his death, many people have posted links to Scott doing material related to his sexuality. While he was very out, and open about his homosexuality, that was like the 10th most interesting thing about Scott. Scott was not a “gay comic”. Scott was a stand-up comic, who happened to be gay. He was a professional. He didn’t need a shtick, gimmick, or label, to make it. He always knew rule number one of stand-up… know your audience. He could address his sexuality, or not, depending on the crowd. He never had any motivation to use it as a crutch, or beat people over the head with it; he didn’t preach. He made people laugh. He entertained… and he did it magnificently.
I am proud that his unwavering support of our country’s military men and women, will be Scott’s lasting legacy. His 50+ trips overseas, to war zones and battlegrounds, his commendations by top generals, and his never-ending love for those in the USA uniform, is exactly how he would want to be remembered. In addition, as if two long trips every month weren’t enough to show his love for our troops, the military branch logos tattooed on his forearm would surely do the trick.
I could talk about Scott for another 200 pages. He was, and IS, a shining example of what it means to be a good person. He selflessly gave to everyone he knew, and I was lucky enough to be counted among them. I will never forget the hand up he gave me, and I owe it to Scott to live a bit more in his light. It takes a certain type of person to be a stand-up comic. It’s hard to describe the fraternity that is comedians. Coming up, it seems like you’ll always be an outsider, and never be part of the big picture. Scott’s humanity, and loving nature, were most evident when he was able to take a person feeling that way, and say to them, “Tell ‘em you’re with me.” Somewhere out there, right this very minute, there is a killer comedy show about to take place. I hear Richard Pryor is going to be headlining. George Carlin is running a few minutes late. He had to swing by the pearly gates, and deliver a message to Scott upon his arrival. “Hey kid, tell em’ you’re with me.”
-Jonathan Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org)