We just lost a dear friend of the Minneapolis/St. Paul comedy scene. He passed away sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning. This was the second huge death the scene has had in less than two weeks and we are beyond devastated. The entire landscape of our community has changed.
Bill Young was the nicest and funniest person that ever lived. This is not an exaggeration. Bill was a great comedian, but his real genius was in his every day life. Everybody knows the comedian that can’t turn it off. It’s annoying. But Bill never turned it off and everybody loved it. To borrow a Jimmy Pardo phrase, he was “never not funny.” He breathed joy into every moment and he lived to make surly, depressed comedians feel like kids again. His ability to make a spine-tinglingly funny comment at any moment defined him. Because that’s all Bill ever wanted: To make people happy.
And he did. He literally cared for every single person he met. He would go out of his way to talk to and help every single person who needed it, whether it was changing a tire, talking about breakups or working on material. He was always smiling and lighting up the room. He had many best friends, because he gave himself to everybody he met and instead of feeling drained by it, he considered it a privilege to spread joy. I’ll prove to you how nice he was: Bill was a big guy. He ate Hostess Snack Cakes like they were being discontinued. And yet, without fail, he would offer you the second snack cake. You know he really wanted that damn thing. But that’s just Bill in a nutshell: Giving. In the nearly 15 years I knew Bill, I never heard him shit-talk anyone. And shit-talking is 80 percent of what comedians do.
Unfortunately, as much as Bill loved to help other people, he wouldn’t allow other people to help him. Bill didn’t want to trouble other people. That’s why we were all shocked when Bill died at the age of 32 of what has been ruled an “accidental overdose.” Nobody had a clue. Bill suffered alone because he never wanted other people to feel bad. A few issues, including the loss of his much-loved mother, contributed to his unchecked depression.. Bill’s smile could cover up even the biggest pain.
Bill started doing open mics in August of 2000 and had many pro dates, including opening for Paul F. Tompkins. He performed countless sketches with “Denson & Young,” “Drinking With Ian” and many other notable Twin Cities groups. He also appeared on the Stand Up! Records compilations Nerd Alert! and The $4.99 Show. He wrote, produced and/or acted in many plays, most notably at this year’s Fringe Festival in Hermann the German: The Scandal that Rocked New Ulm. He was basically the official mascot of the long-running Monday Night Comedy Show. Despite these successes (and many more), Bill never cared about being a professional comedian. He was perfectly content with staying in town and being the best open micer that ever lived. He loved his family, friends and hometown too much to want to leave.
It’s not that Bill lacked ambition. It’s that he’d already accomplished his ambition which, according to Bill, was to “make you assholes laugh on occasion.”
Instead of hiding from the sadness of the way Bill passed, his family and friends would like to be open about it and ask two things: 1) That Bill be remembered as a giant ball of joy who lived his life to the absolute fullest. And 2) That his death helps open up a discussion with you or anyone in your life that is struggling with depression, substance abuse or pain in general. Even if they seem fine, please talk to your friends and family. Give them a hug and tell them you love them. Sometimes even the biggest saints are hurting inside.
Bill thought he was a ninja and balanced on every three foot high ledge he could find. He loved comic books and farting. He called comedy “doing jokey jokes.” He didn’t always smell great and we loved to call it “Billdew,” which he hated. If you yelled “Cha-cha!” at him, he would immediately drop whatever he was doing and do the Cha-cha wherever he was. His favorite band was Weezer and nobody could convince him that they sucked after 1997. He even had his own theme song.
Bill was my best friend and I’ll miss him forever.
Editor’s note: A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Bill’s family pay for funeral expenses as well as assist with rent for his roommate. Give what you can here. Though, upon further inspection, it seems as though the goal of $5,000 was reached in less than a day.