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Barry Crimmins

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A Great Second Act Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Great Second Act

Kevin Knox 1956-2009

It's too bad there are no encores once life ends because Kevin Knox certainly deserved at least a few of them.

Knox's rise in the Boston and national comedy scenes came at a time when I'd left the comedy rooms for concert and union halls, coffee houses and political rallies, and eventually, news rooms and writers' rooms. Because of this, I missed one of the great transformations in Hub comedy history.

Sometime during the later Eighties, when I began to seek different demos than those available in the comedy bistros (and no knock on anyone there, just an artistic decision on my part), Kevin approached several of Boston's top acts to ask how he could improve as a comic. To put it gently, these folks told the then fledgling comedian that unless he became more original and less derivative, he had no future in the business. Rather than leave town in a huff, with everyone's act (and believe me, it's been done), Kevin instead took an extended leave from comedy. When he turned up again, he'd thoroughly searched his soul. What he found was not only the humility and character to make changes but also the gumption to go out and storm audiences with a high-powered act. Boston comedy godfather Don Gavin was so impressed that he used Knoxie as his opener for several years. Eventually Gav passed along his open mike hosting gigs to Kevin.

Kevin went on to become one of the most significant influences on a generation, or two, of Boston comics. He also became a Vegas comedy room headliner and an extremely popular touring act. Whether in Beantown or on the road, Kevin collected friends and fans in copious numbers. I never knew him well, in large part because when we ran into each other at various comedy events, he was always swamped by fellow comics, clearly enthused to have a few moments of his time.

Kevin had a smile as bright Vegas at midnight. It never abandoned him, especially during his six year fight with cancer that ended early this past Monday morning, five and a half years later than doctors expected it to. During this time, the Boston comics did literally dozens of benefits for Kevin to help him pay for a costly holistic approach to battle the disease. These shows included both the comics who had originally challenged Kevin, as well as numerous younger performers he had instructed with the wisdom and heart of a person who understood how to overcome defensiveness, learn from criticism, and do the hard work it takes to become a great act.

It is a profound understatement to say he was absolutely beloved by comedians, audiences and club personnel everywhere. His big heart and indomitability bought him time he'd otherwise never have had. During that time, he united the Boston comedy scene in support of a wonderful cause -- his life.

updated: 9 years ago