Barry Crimmins

words to live near


Bob Lazarus Monday, January 5, 2009

Bob Lazarus
My dear friend and comedic comrade Bob Lazarus passed away last night after losing a monumental struggle with leukemia. Always the easy sort, Laz left us only one date to remember him by: January 4. In 1956 it marked his debut on the planet and exactly 53 years later, it became the day of his departure. After enduring two failed bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy so intense that at times it wasn't clear whether they were trying to cure him or get him to confess to something, his death came as something of a mercy. This makes his passing no less heartbreaking or premature.

If the doctors did finally break Bob, the only thing that he would or could confess to was an abiding love for life. There was no one more universally loved by the Boston comedy scene than Bob Lazarus. Ever. Period.

If you took the average of Laz and me, you'd have a guy who smiles exactly half the time. His enthusiasm was both humbling and motivating. He wasn't naive,  he didn't find the positive where it didn't exist, but he was forever finding angles of appreciation that others might miss. If he wrote material that then clicked on stage, he happily reported the details and did so in such a charming manner, you felt happy to hear them. Small facets of his everyday life became causes for celebration. He was absolutely ebullient when he got a broadband connection and was thrilled with the newfound freedom brought by digitized music. He would enthuse about doing yard work or finally getting a problem solved at the home he so loved -- mostly because it was where he lived with his beloved wife Kathi and their darling daughter Carly.

Laz never let his ego get in the way of opportunity. One of the most draining jobs in show biz is work as an extra in a film. The days are long, the money is (relatively) short and extras are treated like scenery. I never once heard Laz do anything but express gratitude for any of his work looming around in the background of countless films and TV shows shot around Boston. When he took center stage as a standup, the same humility that helped him work in the background shone through to the audience... Laz wasn't just funny, he was one of us and he was funny.

As wonderful and positive as Laz was (and again, this didn't preclude a very sharp and hilarious sense of humor, irony and sarcasm) his good spiritedness grew even greater upon the arrival of his beautiful daughter, Carly, 13 years ago. In an age when parents overindulge themselves by boring the hell out of everyone by talking about their kids, Laz's approach to parenthood was different. He didn't brag about Carly's accomplishments at the contrived activities and events that fill up the grids upon which modern children are forced to waste their childhoods. Instead he spoke with genuine gratitude for the time he spent with his daughter. When he talked of playing with her, helping her learn about the world and generally showing her a good time, he sounded as if he were describing lucking into luxury box seats for Game 7 of the World Series. He would enthuse about shooting baskets with Carly or watching The Honeymooners with her or just going to their favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch. He would speak appreciatively of how much Kathi indulged the two of them by letting them spend so much time frolicking. Someday, when time has served its analgesic purpose, Carly will understand that although she had her Daddy for a much shorter period of time than most daughters, she was incredibly blessed to have had a father who knew how to make every minute matter -- especially when it came to playing a vital role in his daughter's life.

I was extremely fortunate to have Bob Lazarus as a friend for thirty years. Like Kathi and Carly and so many others, he has left me the gift of memories of a man who had an unerring eye for the good in life, an unswerving desire for the joy of living and an unmitigated love for his family and friends.

To take a page from Laz's book and find something good in all this, I must say that, ever the comic, his timing of his swan song was impeccable. On Monday morning the new year and all of its challenges were about to land squarely upon us. Thanks to Laz we will now spend a few more days of quiet reflection before we move forward in the world he so brightened.

I will miss you greatly, my friend. Thanks for everything. -- Barry Crimmins

updated: 10 years ago