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March 07, 2011

Comedian Mike DeStefano Dies

Mike DeStefano, OK Karma There he goes, one of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. —Hunter S. Thompson

Mike DeStefano, the street-wise comedian and alumnus of Last Comic Standing, died last night of a heart attack at age 44. Growing up surrounded by mobsters and addicts in the Bronx, DeStefano was exposed to heroin at 12 and contracted HIV in the 1980s. After losing his wife to the disease in 1995 and successfully getting clean, he became a drug counselor, helping others overcome the same demons he had faced down. He turned to comedy relatively late in life and discovered in it his true calling, a medium that provided catharsis and gave him a pulpit from which to share the unvarnished truths he had uncovered during a difficult life, while always finding the thread connecting the starkly sad to the sublimely funny. His ability to convert pain and suffering into uproarious laughter was reminiscent of Richard Pryor's, another stand-up so brazenly honest about his harrowing life that he completely disarmed his audiences and touched their souls. DeStefano released his only stand-up album, OK Karma, in June 2010, but many other recordings of him exist on the Internet, including this excellent interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. May he rest in peace.

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