Friend of late comedian Angelo Bowers recounts the last days they spent together

ed note: We reported last night that comedian Angelo Bowers had passed away when he was involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. His friend and fellow comedian Josh Adam Meyers was in the same car and remains in critical condition; he’s expected to make a full recovery, though he’s sustained many broken bones. You can read the full story here. The below tribute was written by another one of Angelo’s close friends, comedian Matty Goldberg.

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The first time I ever saw Angelo Bowers perform was in the Belly Room at the Comedy Store. With each punch line, the crowd came along for the ride with such joy and exuberance. There was no neediness in his approach— just one great joke after the next. I was in awe. This was the best comic I had seen in LA. He was so funny I assumed he had to be a dick.

Lets face it; comedy is a tough game. I started in New York City and some of the funniest guys I ever saw and the ones I admired most also seemed to be the most ruthless, bitter dudes on the planet. I never understood this. How could telling jokes to a roaring crowd make one so miserable? And then the longer I did comedy and the more I dealt with the craziness of offstage BS and crazy comics, it can really harden your soul. I was turning into that “bitter guy” and I didn’t even realize it.

The second time I saw Angelo was at Jon Lovitz Comedy Club. I was the MC and had to bring him up onstage. He was so nice and sincere and told me how much he dug my stuff; I was taken aback. Two months later I see him walking on Sunset Blvd. We just start talking and we hit it off. I was so intrigued by him. I asked where he lived, what his story was. He told me he couch surfs. I was like anytime you need a place to crash, you have one.

And then it happened. We just became friends. He loved talking to me about New York comedy. He would watch guys like Russ Meneve, Ted Alexandro and Dave Attell online and he admired how brilliant they were. He was amazed I got to see them live ontage so often. He also called me the “Miami fuck machine.” It was the most beautiful nickname ever cause it was so silly. Oh, and my sister’s house in which I live in the basement, was called “Matty’s Fuckpad,” which had anything but fucking going on in it. It was hysterical.

I was getting real close with Ang, but what I didn’t realize was that he had to be shared. He was really close with two other great guys, Josh Adam Meyers and John Shefsky. With me, Josh and John, he had different lingos. He talked about different things. There was even times when I’d get pissed at Josh because he took Angelo away from a night he was supposed to spend at my house. WE WERE FIGHTING FOR WHERE ANGELO WOULD COUCH SURF. How amazing must a person be for that to happen?

Lets get back to comedy. See, I became this bitter guy. Sure, comedy was still in my blood, but I forgot about performing just for the love and got caught up in auditions, festivals, agents and who was getting what. Ugh, every comic thinks about this. Everyone goes nuts about this shit. But I can honestly say that Angelo didn’t. When I’d bitch and moan to him, he would just laugh, and make things lighter.

It was all about performing for Ang. It was about just going up and telling jokes. It was simple. It was beautiful. Whether it was an open mic in front of three people or a packed Improv, each show gave him the same pleasure. It was always fun.

And when I saw his attitude and what made him happy, it made me re-love comedy. I felt lucky and blessed. We comedians are the luckiest people on this Earth. We get to tell jokes and bring laughter to people. It’s that fucking simple. Forget the industry, forget who is passed at what club. Whenever you get to perform, it’s a goddamn gift.

And I took that message from him. I really did. Thanks, Angelo.

In October, I get a text from Angelo.

“Can I come over, I’m scared.”

I didn’t know how to react. I called him immediately and he told me they found a tumor in his chest. When he came over, I saw his face. For first time ever he wasn’t smiling. I told him he would beat it. We had a short cry together and he was off to Modesto, CA to check himself into a hospital.

The next few months I spent chatting with him and his mother on the phone. In this country if you don’t have insurance, things move slow and it was getting on Angelo. The happiest guy with the best smile was getting frustrated. I assured him that “by 2012 you will be back in LA. Stay patient, you will beat this.”

Right around Christmas, Angelo got the best present ever: A clean bill of health. No more tumor, and no chemo.

It was amazing, beautiful. Angelo could now return to what he loved to do— telling jokes in LA. He arrived at my place on Dec. 26, fresh with a new beard. He had a lumberjack look! Now that he was doing fine, I felt it was time for an angry lecture from me— or what Angelo described as a “Matty Scolding.”

“Listen, Angelo. Now that you got a second chance, its time to treat yourself like a goddamn professional. Get a fucking Facebook page. Start calling these clubs and start demanding to be heard. You’re too fucking funny to be toiling around. I’m goddamn serious. I’m angry.”

He just laughed. His response was “Oh no, Matty’s gone Buffalo Bill on me.”

“Buffalo Bill” was what Angelo would call me if I started ranting or started raising my voice. It was in reference to the psycho in Silence of The Lambs. He loved when I went Buffalo Bill. I often did it to make him laugh.

But in the end humility is what ruled Angelo. He refused to have a Facebook page. He refused to put up YouTube videos. Everything he did was organic. This always used to bother me. I felt like it was stunting his career, yet deep down I admired it.

And so Angelo came over the day after Christmas. He couldn’t wait to see all his comedian buddies. He couldn’t wait to see me. We spent that day just chilling, watching comedy clips and sports documentaries. I ordered a shit load of food. I told him “at my palace you eat like a king,” but all he wanted to eat was peanut butter sanwiches.

On Dec. 27 and 28 we did gigs together. That first night he was so nervous. He told me he had all new stuff. I thought he was nuts for being so rusty and trying new stuff. But he was awesome. Everytime I watched him, all I thought was, “Why doesn’t the whole world know who Angelo Bowers is?”

That second gig was in the Valley, and he was so on. His timing, his rhythm was amazing. There were loud applause breaks after every joke. I told him that he totally got it back. He just shook his head and said, “Oh no Matty, I just want to be like you, you’re my hero.” That was the thing about Angelo. He would never take a compliment; he was too humble.

New Year’s Eve came– and that turns into Matty Self Loathing time. I like to spend it alone, watching shitty TV and watching fake people being happy. I told Angelo, “Go out and have a good time. I need to wallow.”

“Oh no Matty, I’m spending it with you,” he said.

And so we watched MTV and Ryan Seacrest and made fun of it. That’s a photo of us at the top of this piece.

At 11pm, my little sister came downstairs to see us, before heading to a party.

“This New Year’ss sucks. My boyfriend dumped me, I’m sad,” she said.

“Awe, you look so beautiful,” Angelo chimed in.

My sister told me the next morning, “Your friend cheered me up!”

Then I made her take a picture of us. Me, Angelo and my doggies. It was the best New Year’s I’ve ever had.

Monday was his last day. He spent part of it in my back yard going over his comedy notes like a mad scientist. He had two spots that night and I could see how excited he was to perform. But even more than performing he was excited to see his comedy friends. I got texts from people that night. “Where is Angelo performing, I want to see him.”

I sent them to the Comedy Store and Red Rock.

I fell asleep at 11 that night. I figured Angelo would wander in at 1 a.m., apologize for waking me up, and then I’d want to hang out. I checked my room where he was sleeping. No Angelo. I woke up at 4 a.m., checked my room again. No Angelo. 7:30 a.m., I’m up to walk my dogs, and still no Angelo. I assumed he crashed at Josh’s. Josh was going through stuff and needed to catch up, anyway.

You just don’t expect the worst. But it was the worst.

Yesterday is a blurry, awful haze. I’m waking up numb from it, completely punched in the stomach. I got to meet Angelo’s wonderful mom. I had his stuff, his clothes. She cried in my arms and told me how much Angelo loved hanging out with me. I told her I kept one of his T-shirts. It was a generic 49’ers shirt he got for Christmas that he made fun of.

Angelo’s mom then said something I could not believe.

“I never got to see my son perform.”

It was crushing. If only she knew how genius he was. If only she knew how every comic in LA LOVED, LOVED him.

So Heartbreaking.

And that’s why I went “Buffalo Bill” on you, Angelo. You had this tremendous gift. You wrote like nobody else. The world deserved to see how amazing and how talented you were. There is one video of you on YouTube. It’s by someone taping you on a camera phone. It says “this guy is hysterical, who is he?”

It’s Wednesday. Angelo was supposed to do the Laugh Factory Fresh Faces show. It’s a video series they put online. Angelo was so nervous, and worried it would make him look bad. Buffalo Bill struck again, “Angelo, don’t be a fucking idiot. Everybody is going to now see how awesome you are. I guarantee you will get so much from this. Stop being a pussy and fucking go up there and do your thing.”

“Aww, Buffalo Bill in the morning. Relax, Matty.”

And then we laughed.

I still hear your voice in my head, Angelo. Your saying “da-da-da Matty G.” It’s ringing over and over.

How do I end this? I’ll just say for all comics reading this (and we are all guilty of this) next time you are on stage, just think: Damn. We are the luckiest people on earth. WE ARE LIVING, BREATHING and TELLING JOKES. Forget about career, industry, showcases, agents and hating on others. Just breathe and say, ‘I get to tell jokes, and its beautiful.’

Every time Angelo stepped on stage, he did just that. It was real and pure.

I’ll forever love you, Angelo. I appreciate how much time you spent with me when everyone wanted to hang out with you. Thank you for inspiring everyone around you. Keep making them laugh and stick to your guns. There’s no Facebook pages in heaven.

Matty Goldberg

Matty Goldberg is a Los Angeles-based comedian.

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