In 1994, Bob Smith became the first openly gay comic to appear on The Tonight Show when it was presented by Jay Leno. Right at the end of a gala of his life, held during Carolines comedy club in midtown Manhattan, we find on a screen the routine he performed that night.

Smith seems highly young, extremely handsome, and what is memorable is not just his warm humor, but the crisp route he delivered it. No mugging , no ingratiating , no side-eyes and winking, only excellent riffs about wondering why no one realise he was gay as a kid.

That chemistry specified he was given? He used it to create a skincare line.

He was the only kid with a tree-house that had a breakfast nook.

In this and another slot he had on Craig Kilborn’s Late, Late Show , we insured him tell this excellent gag:” I come from a very conservative family, and it wasn’t easy telling my mothers that I’m gay. I induced my carefully worded announcement at Thanksgiving. I said,’ Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual ?’ She passed it to my father .”

Smith died aged 59 on January 20, of ALS( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s cancer ), the progressive neurodegenerative illnes that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

As I wrote in my Daily Beast profile of Smith, published in October 2016, it was in May 2006 when Eddie Sarfaty, one of Smith’s closest friends and one of the organizers of the memorial service , noticed a muscle twitching in the back of Smith’s arm, an early symptom of ALS.

After he performed at a Human Rights Campaign event that autumn, his agent called to ask if he had been drunk on stage: “hes having” slurred his terms. Smith didn’t booze before performing. The slurring was because he had the bulbar variant of ALS that first preys upon the muscles of the tongue and throat.

Upon receiving the diagnosis in 2007 at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, Smith, ever the comic, guessed,” Lou Gehrig’s Disease? I don’t even like baseball !”

Smith eventually stopped performing in 2010, after a gig at an East Village comedy club.” I hadn’t performed for several months and immediately noticed how difficult it was to pronounce my gags, lines I’d done hundreds of periods ,” he writes in his last-published book, Treehab: Tales From My Natural, Wild Life .” Jokes that always killed were garnering appears of incomprehension. I apologized and repeated a few lines again…After the show, I apologized to the host, who graciously said there was nothing to apologize for. I was in a state of surprise .”

The memorial assemble was three hours long, and in between people’s speeches, readings from his books and recollections, our eyes flicked to the screens to ascertain either Smith perform, or actors on MADtv perform his Antiques Roadshow skits, where a fruitily over-British expert was determined to find a way to lasciviously pronounce “whore” over whatever antique had been bought for his inspection.

Of course, people giggled at Smith’s memorial service, and they also wept, and sometimes they did both. The service was presented by two good friends of Smith, Judy Gold and Sarfaty. Sarfaty said ALS may have beaten Smith ultimately, but Smith had given it” a good ass-kicking .”

Gold recollected fulfilling Smith in Provincetown, both of them bonding over the great lie of the muffins “thats been” being cooked, allegedly freshly, every morning by the owners of a small guest house. They were not.

Gold and Smith stayed friends throughout their lives, as did Sarfaty and Smith. Eddie was also one of Smith’s beloved” nature boys ,” that included his partner Michael Zam, Michael Hart, and John Arnold–all of whom took to the stage, and all of whom Smith said were gay, but more accurately described as bisexual, because” we’ve each had a longer relationship with Mother Nature than any other guy .”

Smith had grown up in Buffalo, preoccupied by the Classic, Oscar Wilde, and dinosaurs. As the service progressed, we learned of the moments that shaped him–his sister’s suicide, for example; even his time as a cater waiter. We heard of his love of Alaska( one of the main reasons to buy Treehab is to read of his descriptions of that place ).

We heard from Elvira Kurt, who used Bob’s sperm to father two children, who were there, collecting fund for the charities–ALS and not ALS-related–from people as they left.

Words caught in throats, and remembrances flooded back. It seemed improbable and unjust to all his loved ones that Smith had gone, even if over the last few years they had watched him lose his power of speech and then his mobility.( Full disclosure: I have known Smith and Zam since 2010, and watched the viciousness of ALS at close quarters. As Smith’s motor and speech skills waned, his writing and basic processing brain stayed the same. His friends and loved ones watched him effectively trapped by ALS, this brilliant funny humankind unable to share and vocalize his great wit and warmth .)

But Smith carried on writing, applying whatever technical innovation there was to aid him. When I visited him in hospital, Smith elevated a foot and spelled out his reply, as Zam comprised a see-through plastic board with the letters of the alphabet in small, clustered groups, with’ yes’ and’ no’ as two boxed options of their own.

I asked how it was, living for almost 10 years with ALS, and Smith’s foot spelt out “Harrowing.”

How did he deem his mortality? He spelt out, “Anxiety.”

How was being in hospital for him? Smith spelt out, “Hell.”

Seeing people–particularly Sarfaty and his spouse Court Stroud, the writer Christopher Bram, and Zam–meant the most to him, he said.

What did Smith feel for Zam, I asked. His foot spelt out, “Love.”

Zam smiled gently at Smith at that moment:” Bob and Michael sitting in a tree ,” he sung softly.

In the book, Smith wrote movingly about the elation of having Madeline and Xander, via sperm gift, with Kurt and Brushwood Rose.

” He loves it ,” Zam told me of Smith being a dad.” It intends a lot to him. I ever say to him,’ The greatest thing you ever did was jerking off in a cup .'”

Smith and Zam, co-creator of the multi award-nominated Feud: Bette and Joan and a lecturer, were as funny as each other. Zam’s tribute to his partner at the memorial was precisely spoken and moving.

They had just gotten together when Smith had received his ALS diagnosis, and although many of Zam’s friends belief him pretty amazing for staying in that relationship, there was, Zam said , no choice. He desired Smith. Smith adoration him. They were together. It was open relationship, Zam told the gathering. Neither one would want the other to be denied any kind of pleasure. Their love was the constant, and unbreakable.

They were good at being separate in the relationship; they both had their work to do, they both had good friends and Zam paid full tribute to all those who took care of Bob and kept his hearts as buoyed as possible as his illness progressed.

James Hannaham, John Bateman, Patrick Ryan, Chris Shirley, Michael Carroll, and Christopher Bram were all part of a writers’ group that met at Chelsea gay bar Barracuda and they all read from Smith’s volumes —< em> Openly Bob , Way To Go Smith , Selfish and Perverse , Remembrance of Things I Forgot , and Treehab .

Stroud read from an essay Smith wrote about his love of bird-dogs, or more accurately why dogs furnish an example for us all.( The monument included full tributes to Smith and Zam’s bird-dogs, Bozzie, a lab rescue, and Toby, still alive and with the most pendulous ears in the world .)

There were songs, and more laugh, and more tears; a sense of disbelief that this beautiful and talented humankind “re no longer” here. But Smith’s spirit felt very close, very alive, as the remembrances and anecdotes swirled all over the room.

And then, after the clip of him performing in Leno’s Tonight Show, the chamber ran quiet, and the music of a phone message filled the chamber. It was a message that Jay Leno had left Zam after Smith’s death.

” He was just a great comic mind. We were all the benefit of some of it, but most of the world never got to hear any of it and that &# x27; s the saddest part of what might have been, you know. And it really is “

” Hey Michael, it’s Jay Leno. I just wanted to call and say I was so sorry I was to hear the news. You know, it’s really very, really sad .”

Leno quoted his favorite line of poetry by John Greenleaf Whittier:” For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these,’ It might have been .'”

Leno said:” I think of Bob when I read that. It’s really true. He was just a great comic mind. We were all the benefit of some of it, but most of the world never got to hear any of it and that &# x27; s the saddest part of what might have been, you are familiar with. And it really is.

” I’m sorry for you and I’m sorry for the slapstick community, and the countries of the world will miss out on … Well, I’m being selfish you know … there are just some great gags. He had a great head. It’s just sad his torso couldn &# x27; t keep up with it .”

” Alrighty my friend ,” Leno said to Zam &# x27; s machine,” I don &# x27; t mean to drone on, I simply crave you to know. It’s been a long time. It doesn &# x27; t intend it’s’ out of vision out of psyche .'”

It seemed clear at his memorial service that Bob Smith will never be far from many people’s minds.

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