They make us laugh. Watching their performances either on film, television, or in a live theater give us the sense of knowing them; like they are friends or part of the family. That being said, it comes as no surprise that when they die unexpectedly, we feel a sense of loss and sadness; like losing a member of the family. We take comfort in re-watching their performances, and think to ourselves “what a shame.” Who are we talking about? The funny people, the comedians, entertainers, and all around silly people who light up our lives, making us roar with laughter over the most crazy and obscene things.
When the news of losing a beloved comedian is splashed over the news and social media, the shockwaves of the loss are felt for days, weeks, and even months. Yes, the fact that these people are famous does contribute to the media frenzy that occurs following their death, but it is that sense of familiarity and comfort that these funny people provide us with that leaves many asking “why?”
Unlike the famous “27 Club” of musicians who died at the age of 27, funny people who have died often drift onto the sidelines after the shock has worn off. It is important to remember these entertainers, because after all, they were people too. Here is our list of the 10 funniest people who died tragically before their time.
10. Robin Williams
Robin Williams is a prime example that mental illness can stretch its fingers and affect anyone, regardless of who they are and what they do. The list of films and appearances where Williams can be found is long. His unique ability of voice imitation is what Williams was famous for and what he will forever be remembered for. By simply opening his mouth, Williams could grasp the attention of his audience immediately. Although he could make the world laugh, Williams had demons of his own that he could not overcome. On August 11, 2014, much to the shock of the world, Williams committed suicide, sending shockwaves across the globe.
9. John Ritter
John Ritter, best known for his breakout role as Jack Tripper in Three’s Company, became a household name in the late seventies and early eighties. When the show was cancelled in 1984, Ritter appeared in various movies and television shows, and was nominated for many different awards, including four Emmy Awards. In 2002, Ritter burst back into our living rooms as Paul Hennessey in 8 Simple Rules. While filming an episode of the show, Ritter was taken to the hospital, where they thought he was having a heart attack. In fact, he was suffering from aortic dissection. One September 11, 2013, after surgery, Ritter died from this undiagnosed condition.
8. Chris Farley
Chris Farley, a product of Saturday Night Live, had a loud sense of humour and the ability to make you crack a smile by being downright clumsy. Farley found fame in 1995 with the release of Tommy Boy, the story of a young, not so intelligent man who was trying to prove that he could run the family business. With the fame came the alcohol, drugs and weight gain, and it would only be a matter of time before it all caught up with him. On December 18, 1997, at the young age of 33, Farley died from a drug overdose, cutting his large and promising career short.
7. John Belushi
Like many famous comedians, John Belushi began his career on Second City, with his big break coming in 1975 when he appeared on the newly created Saturday Night Live. Belushi became an instant star. With his rise to stardom came movie roles, including his limited, but most recognizable role in National Lampoon’s Animal House. This movie was a smash hit, and in 1979 Belushi decided to leave Saturday Night Live to pursue his movie career. As his stardom continued to grow and grow, Belushi fell victim to the addictive qualities of drugs. On March 5, 1982, Belushi was found dead at the age of 33. His death was caused by a cocaine and heroin overdose, which would be the same fate of Chris Farley 15 years later.
6. Bernie Mac
Best known for not changing his image for anyone, Bernie Mac’s rise to fame was long and drawn out. During the 1990s, Mac appeared in many small movie and television roles alongside many of the greats, but it wasn’t until 1999 when Mac appeared in the movie Life alongside Eddie Murphy that his career blew up. Mac began to appear in major roles, and even landed his own television show, The Bernie Mac Show, in 2001. Unfortunately, his success would be short lived. Mac suffered from an autoimmune disease, and on August 9, 2008, he died as a result of complications from pneumonia.
5. Andy Kaufman
Andy Kaufman began his entertainment career at the age of 8, when he started preforming at children’s birthday parties. When he was finished college, he began to do stand up at various clubs, and it was here that he would be discovered and asked to appear on the first episode of Saturday Night Live. From there, he landed a role in the 1978 television show Taxi, and would remain on the show until it was canceled in 1983. Following this, Kaufman became a professional wrestler, where he would only wrestle women. Shortly after becoming a professional wrestler, Kaufman was diagnosed with lung cancer, and on May 16, 1984, at the age of 35 he died of the disease.
4. Phil Hartman
Phil Hartman was more than just a comedian, he was also a brilliant writer. Hartman got his break with his co-creation of the Pee Wee Herman character. In 1986, he appeared on Saturday Night Live, and would remain a fixture of the show for eight seasons. Following SNL, Hartman joined the cast of NewsRadio, and would remain on the show until his death, all the while providing the voices for various characters in The Simpsons. On May 28, 1998, while he slept, Hartman was shot by his wife, who shortly after shot herself.
3. Sam Kinison
Commonly referred to as the “Rock Star of Comedy” due to his long hair and intense partying, Sam Kinison was best known for his “Oh Ohhh” scream which would follow each joke. Although Kinison was a preacher before he became a stand-up comic, he did have his demons to contend with. A heavy alcohol and drug user, Kinison looked like he was heading towards an early grave. Kinison managed to kick the habit, but this would not extend his life as much as we hoped. On April 10, 1992, Kinison was killed in a car accident, by a drunk driver.
2. Greg Giraldo
Not every comedian knows they are going to be a comedian. This was true for Greg Giraldo, who before becoming a comedian, was a lawyer. Although he only practiced law for a short year, he would take what he learned at law school, and use it to his advantage as a comic. Giraldo is best down as a roaster on Comedy Central Roasts, taking part in many celebrity roasts, including the roast of Larry The Cable Guy. On September 29, 2010, Giraldo died. The cause of death, accidental drug overdose.
1. John Candy
With a sense of humour anyone could appreciate, John Candy is arguably one of Canada’s funniest people ever. Candy’s break came with the creation of SCTV, along with other great Canadian comedians including Eugene Levy. Following the finish of SCTV in 1981, Candy went on to appear in various movies, but it would be his role in the 1989 movie Uncle Buck that he would be remembered for most. Candy struggled with his weight all his life, so it came as no surprise when he passed away on March 4, 1994 from a heart attack at the age of 43.