In memory of Johnny Lee

Carl R. Rogers, one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, once said ““What is most personal is most universal.”

Most comedians would agree. The experiences I have had that can be made funny have likely happened to many others. The audience recognizes our shared experience—and laughs.

The same is true for the sad moments in life. We all lose friends and family along the way because life is fragile. One of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in comedy is because I lost a roommate in college, and realized that life is too short not to spend it doing something you love. It’s worked out for me.

My world dimmed recently when Johnny Lee, my ex-brother-in-law, passed away. I was married to his sister for almost a decade when I started comedy, so he was there for me from the beginning. He walked his sister down the aisle when I married her. He’d often pick me up from the airport when I played a few hours from where he and his family lived. When my daughter’s stepfather passed away too young, his eulogy comforted the mourners. More recently he officiated my daughter’s wedding ceremony (one of the best days of my life).

Johnny welcomed everyone into his orbit with a hearty laugh, and he added so much positivity to those around him:, his family, friends, and probably strangers, too. I could write pages about his virtues, and I’m sorry I didn’t mention them before.

I was thinking about whether it’s more important to be remembered or missed. When someone passes away, we remember them by recalling and treasuring shared moments in the past, and we miss them by regretting their absence in the present and future.

I will always remember and miss Johnny Lee. My condolences to his vast family, which includes not just relatives (and ex-relatives), but everyone lucky enough to have known him.