Native New Yorker and comedian Mike DeStefano died on Monday from a heart attack. Mr. DeStefano was born 44 years ago in the Bronx, and became addicted to heroin at the age of 15. As he described himself on his web site mikedestefano.com, which is taken from his comedy act, “I am a standup comic. Before that I was a drug counselor. Before that I was a drug addict.Before that, I was 12.”
Surprised by Comedy
Mr. DeStefano became a standup comic by accident. After years of rehabilitation he became a drug counselor in Florida at the age of 31. As he became increasingly bored with the usual substance-abuse lecture he began to add personal anecdotes, and ‘colorful’ language to his talks. Then one day he was at a Narcotics Anonymous convention in Atlanta. When the scheduled pool party was canceled due to rain, everybody crowded into a tent. Mike DeStefano went up to the mike and started doing ‘standup.’
“I went up in front of all these people and started ranting about drugs” he said in an interview for the Web site ComedyBeat. “It was bizarre how they loved it.”
Wry Humor, Serious Issues
After that he was on his way to stardom. He performed his routine for over 100 drug-recovery gatherings all over the world. One thing he loved to say to his audiences was that they most likely joined a 12-step program to meet people.
The success of his profanity-filled routines, which were always brutally honest, made him a regular at many New York comedy clubs and in other cities around the country. He was seen on television on “Live at Gotham” from Comedy Central; “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”; and “Showtime.”
Last Performance Eerily Predicted?
Just last year he was one of the top five finalists on “Last Comic Standing” from NBC. He was recently working on “Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy” to sold out audiences, and he was about to begin his new show, “A Cherry Tree in The Bronx” this coming week.
Mr. DeStefano was diagnosed as HIV positive in the 1980s, and his wife died from AIDS several years ago. A few weeks ago Mr. DeStefano was promoting what turned out to be one of his last performances in NYC, when he wrote on his website what turned out to be an eerie premonition: “I might die tomorrow and you won’t get a chance to see my show, ‘Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy by Mike DeStefano.’ Then you’ll feel bad. Let’s avoid all that and buy tickets.”