If you're a fan of the late Robert Schimmel, but particularly on Facebook, then you've seen his family air some dirty laundry over the weekend as Schimmel's brother and eldest daughter squabble over how and whether to raise money for his surviving children.
Jeff Schimmel, Robert's brother who also is in the comedy business, posted multiple updates to his friends warning them against donating to funds established from outside of the Schimmel family, then expanded his warning to include even family members. He has since deleted those Facebook updates. But in an email, he told The Comic's Comic: "I cannot condone what my niece is doing, but won't go into detail. Therefore, I can't recommend that anyone donate. Draw your own conclusions."
On Robert Schimmel's Facebook Fan page, Jeff's niece and Robert's daughter, Jessica Katz, wondered today why her Uncle Jeff was trying to stop her. In an email to The Comic's Comic, Katz said: "I have no idea why Jeff doesn't want to help his family."
Last week, Katz established a fund to help pay for the medical bills for Schimmel's other daughter, Aliyah, and his son, Jacob, both of whom were also injured in the car accident that took the comedian's life last month.
As she explained on the site Help Bob Schimmel's Kids, Schimmel already couldn't work due to the liver transplant he was awaiting before his accident, and "was literally selling the clothes off of his back on eBay to support his five kids," while also living with and caring for his own father in Arizona after the death of Schimmel's mother. Though already sick himself, Schimmel had taken his children out to dinner before the accident, and the kids snapped this final photo of him in the parking lot, dancing for them.
This portion was initially on the page, too, but since has been deleted.
Due to his health, his life insurance was minimal. He was truly in dire straits financially. Now his first wife Vick is unable to work due to the fact she has to spend 24 hours a day helping Aliyah through her recovery which is anticipated to be at least a year. And there are huge medical bills to be paid. And the family lost their health insurance when Robert died as well as of child support. There are hundreds of thousands in medical bills to be paid and in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy it is taking its toll on the family.
You can make payments to the Robert Schimmel Kids Survivor Fund directly via PayPal. It appears that those payments go to Schimmel's first wife, Vicki.
Schimmel also has two younger sons, Max and Sam, from his second wife, Melissa. They were not involved in the car accident. It's unclear what plans she may have in terms of tributes or fund-raisers, but reports from other family members indicate that Melissa was now in charge of handling any CD/DVD and other merchandise orders for Robert. Melissa and Robert reportedly were getting divorced but had not finalized it at the time of his death.
I honestly don't know what to make of all of it from a distance, but I do know that it's sad when a tragic loss divides a family rather than bringing it together.
NPR's Fresh Air remembered Robert Schimmel today by replaying 14 minutes of the interview Terry Gross conducted with the late comedian in March 2008. There's something about hearing Gross ask Schimmel to describe merkins on NPR, and then hearing her giggle as he did so, that's comforting today.
NPR used to include embeds for their radio broadcasts, but no more? Hmmm. Listen to Fresh Air's remembrance of Robert Schimmel.
Robert Schimmel, the stand-up comedian known for exploring the darker aspects of his own life and delivering sexually explicit material that resonated with "mature audiences" who packed comedy clubs and theaters to see him, died Friday after failing to recover from very serious injuries suffered in a car accident eight days earlier. Schimmel previously had overcome cancer and had been anxiously waiting for a liver transplant to combat cirrhosis. He was 60.
Schimmel's younger brother, comedy writer Jeff Schimmel, confirmed the sad news late Friday night via his Facebook status, posting: "ROBERT SCHIMMEL. Son, Brother, Father, Grandfather, Comedian, Generous Man. I have always loved you, admired you, and was proud to be your biggest fan. I will never forget a single moment. R.I.P."
A short funeral service is planned Wednesday, Sept. 8, in Scottsdale. Close friends are urged to contact his family for details. A tribute will be planned later in Los Angeles.
Robert Schimmel's site still had him performing at the Kansas City Improv this weekend, though he had canceled that date even before the Aug. 26 car accident that also injured his daughter, Aliyah, who was driving. The night before the accident, in fact, Schimmel had been up into the early hours of the morning, dealing with his health insurance company in his attempts to get a new liver.
First he posted this status update: "living donor didn't work out. on phone with with mayo and cigna for an hour. now it's up to god"
Then about 10 minutes later, he posted another update to his multiple Facebook pages: "Started writing a journal right after the call. I'll start posting it pretty soon. Got specific orders to not go on the road anymore. So, I'm going to try my hand at a video blog. Trying to figure out a way to do it live, so i can talk to you guys in real time. if not, maybe an audio podcast? looking for someone to help educated me on how to do it."
Then about 10 minutes after that: "they're going to have to knock out my immune system so i don't reject the donor organ. there goes that fantasy with two hookers at the chicken ranch."
About a half-hour later: "signing off. good night all"
Schimmel's big break came through Rodney Dangerfield's young comedians special for HBO in 1988, Nothin' Goes Right, in which he shared a bill with a soon-to-be murderers row lineup of Bill Hicks, Andrew Dice Clay, Lenny Clarke, Dom Irrera, Carol Leifer and Barry Sobel. Here's the clip from that appearance (language, obviously, is NSFW):
He released several CDs and multiple DVDs, and in 2008, wrote a book, "Cancer on Five Dollars a Day (chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life."
His final stand-up special, Life Since Then, debuted on Showtime in 2009. In it, he talked about then being 58 and having to talk to his teenage daughter about sex, and sending her to an all-girls school; about his wife wanting to do sexual role-playing; his son telling a dirty joke in school; the danger with petting dolphins; hosting the AVN porn awards; and more, including his lengthy story about getting treated for cancer. Here's a related clip from a ComedyJuice show in which he talks about waking up with a catheter, and learning new things about sex from his daughter:
Here's something even rarer: a young Robert Schimmel performing on The Gong Show in the early 1980s. His description on the video? "as a goof, i played piano on stage at improv (early eighties) and the gong show bookers were there and asked me to do the show. not only did i lose to a blind african american girl singing "am i blue?", but an old lady dressed as a dallas cheerleader had a heart attack and collapsed in my arms right before i walked out onto the stage." I think you're going to enjoy this.
His sister, Sandhi Schimmel Gold, wrote a heartfelt ode about her brother earlier this week, and included some of the things she and Jeff both hoped to see Robert get to do, if he had recovered.
Robert Schimmel, you crazy cringe-inducing sonofabitch, you shall be missed.
Apologies in advance for the last-minute notice: This week is a busy one for new hourlong comedy special TV/DVD tapings, especially at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College here in New York City, where Robert Schimmel is taping his latest special for Showtime tonight, and Pete Correale, Adam Ferrara and Jim Breuer all follow suit with their own individual stage-to-screen efforts this weekend. Ticket info here.
In case you haven't been following the Internets, ABC News recently struck up a partnership with its Times Square neighbor, Carolines, for a weekly interview/performance segment called Carolines on GMA Now. Club owner Caroline Hirsch also takes part in the segments and often has her own questions for the comedians. It appears as part of the magically mysterious third hour of Good Morning America, which doesn't appear on the regular ABC television network, but rather on some digital cable systems, mobile phone networks and definitely online. ABC doesn't like to offer embedded video, so instead, we've got links to share.
The mix includes both headliners working the club that weekend (natural cross-promotion) as well as up-and-coming New York-based stand-ups. Sometimes there's a performance in the ABC studio with a small audience (that's a tough room!). Sometimes not. Last week's segment had a rather revealing interview with Mike DeStefano.
“We’re thrilled to be teaming up with ABC News' ‘Good Morning America NOW’ on this new program,” Hirsch said in the official press release earlier this spring. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our lively and entertaining programming on ABC News NOW -- across all of its platforms -- broadband, cable and mobile.”
HBO Comedy features an early-morning treat at 5:25 a.m. Tuesday with the rebroadcast of Rodney Dangerfield's 1987 young comedians' special, "Nothin' Goes Right." What makes this special special? How about an early look at what would become Andrew "Dice" Clay, on the same lineup with Bill Hicks, Carol Leifer, Dom Irrera, Robert Schimmel and Lenny Clarke. Haven't seen this show in a year or so, but I can tell you already that Clarke's bit about terrorist hijackers might not wear its age so well. Let's give the whole episode a new look-see and reconvene here tomorrow.