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Celebrating the Energy of Mel Kohl

mel-kohlWhen comedy is done the way I like it best, the way I like to see it best, or when I feel I’ve done it best, there’s a palpable energy in the  room. (And yes, I did have to look up palpable to make sure I used it right.)

And when it happens, that energy—you don’t have to worry if the material is going to fly right, or land right, or that you’re going to get the right laughs in the right places—means the show is going to be fun, not just funny.

That energy is one of the most alive parts of this thing I get to do for a living. It’s a feeling about the show above the planned or practiced or choreographed parts of the performance. I haven’t had it as much as I’ve wanted, it ebbs and flows for me, but I know it when it’s there in the room, and enough to recognize it when someone else has it, brings it, shares it. When the energy happens, it lifts an entire room to the benefit of everyone: those waiting to go on, those unsure if they’re staying, and those waiting to be entertained.

Recently the comedy community lost some of that wonderful energy in the form of a good-nice-solid-funny friend named Mel Kohl.

Whether silly or serious, Mel’s comedy and characters, observations and wit, personality and presentation were full of energy. His “act outs” had something new each time, or something I’d missed, even if it was a bit I’d seen many times. Kudos to him that he was never fearful of going first, happy to warm up the room with his personality and material, something that many times made him a quiet hero at open mics where “breaking the ice” is almost literal. Many comedians view getting a show rolling as a chore, but Mel would simply make it easy work.

Mel’s comedy was at times broad, but also specific, he could observe what was happening in the world, in his life, or at the venue. His experience was vast, so vast I didn’t know about how long he had been a part of the giant comedy world until he was gone. He could advertise about sets he’s done and gigs he’d recently had, but instead of boasting or bragging, he’d be more likely to share info. of where you could pick up a show for some work or some stage time to work out. And when he was talking about writing, he wanted to discuss bits and material, not a whole chunk, but the use or change of a single word that might make that one joke better. He worked hard at what he loved, and more often than not he brought that special energy. An energy anybody that knew him, will miss.

Note: Mel’s obituary was published in the Los Angeles Times.

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