Memories of my brother by
family loved to laugh. We were a large, Irish family growing up in the Midwest
who wanted to see humor in everything. Laughter to us was a tonic. It made the
good times better and the bad times somewhat less so. Most of all, we really
loved to just make each other laugh. And that, I think, was what made Chris
so enjoyable to watch.
it wasn't enough to just "be" funny; he really wanted and needed to make you
laugh and feel good. The sincerity with which he was able to do that was obvious,
whether you saw him on stage, on screen, or up close in person. Chris' humor
was right from the heart. He never scripted his jokes or worked on creating
a better "act." He simply thought of something funny and went with it.
I remember best about Chris was how he loved to laugh. Some comedians need all
the attention; they crave it. Not Chris. He would double up at the slightest
of jokes, which I saw him do countless times; with friends and comedians alike.
And when the joke was on him, Chris was hysterical. He loved it!
our years growing up, I could never understand how Chris was able to get himself
in trouble with a teacher, a coach, or our parents, and still come away with them
smiling and rolling their eyes. Now I just marvel at that skill. I sure
hope my kids find that ability some day - what an gift!
Chris (the accused) standing before a teacher who is scolding him on some infraction.
As she recites to him exactly what he has done to disrupt her class, the teacher
(listening to her own words) begins to realize just how funny the stunt really
was. Better yet, all of this is fully supported by an almost angelic look Chris
could display, backed up by a genuine Catholic need for seeking forgiveness.
He literally wanted everyone to see the humor in what he had done; even the
person he knew would eventually have to discipline him for it.
always willing to make others happy. He was our little wind-up toy. When we
wanted to be amused, we asked Chris to do something outrageous, and he delivered.
This willingness to do anything had consequences. I imagine that deep down Chris
had a very strong need to be accepted. Fairly typical of your average teenager.
But a lifetime of being overweight made that acceptance all the more difficult
in Chris' mind and probably caused a good deal of self-doubt in him. So, he
did some things that his conscience and good reason told him would ultimately
not be the best for him. Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing
others over the long-term cost to himself. When people around him started to
drink and take drugs, Chris joined in. The ability to say no was just not
of the older brother is often one of setting the right example and being the
model for others to follow. But I look back at some things my younger brother
did and can only wish I could someday live up to his standard. Little is known
or told of how, while a cast member of Saturday Night Live, Chris would attend
Mass almost daily and often helped out in a local senior center connected to
his church. He also loved to visit children's wards in hospitals. He was very
serious about his faith and service to the community. The smile on the faces
of those he helped was worth gold to Chris.
me the single most memorable moment in Chris' life was when he asked me to
attend his third anniversary of sobriety at an AA meeting that he would be leading.
The address he gave me was surprising at first. It was on the far west side
of New York, in an area known as Hell's Kitchen. The building was dark and completely
run down. Manhattan hosts many AA meetings each day, many in the ritzier parts
of the city - Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Upper East Side. But Chris chose
this meeting. It was where he met each week for three years. Upstairs, I found
Chris at the head of the room conducting a meeting that was filled with what
looked like refugees from the nearest homeless shelter. But here was Chris talking
about the disease he shared with everyone in the room; a disease that made him
no better or worse than each person present. That was so much like
him. And I will never forget how they all looked at Chris with admiration and
respect. Not because he was a famous actor but because, like them, he was battling
a very powerful enemy. A battle that they all would fight each day for the rest
of their lives. But that day, they had won their battles. And when Chris was
finished, we all celebrated and had cake. Chris loved that day. So did I.