On June 6, the Chicago comedy community lost one of its young stars. Dan Ronan died at age 24. Ronan was known for his involvement in “The Late Live Show” and The Lincoln Lodge as well as his venerable performances, in which he often found humor in his own struggles with OCD and drug addiction. Comedians and friends from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles shared their thoughts and stories with RedEye.
“Dan Ronan should have been a famous comedian; anyone who has seen him on stage knows that. I used to always think about Dan's first TV appearance and how well he would do. I legitimately think he could have a late-night set so funny that it would spark a resurgence of the white man afro. … While it saddens me to think of how much laughter the rest of the world is missing out on, I am comforted by the fact that Dan's legacy will be carried on. He had an immense impact on myself and basically every comedian in Chicago today. The night we found out about Dan's passing, I got together with five other comedians who were really close to Dan. We told stories, grieved and joked about how much money Dan owed us. What I realized that night was that all five of us thought of Dan as our best friend, and there are even more people who felt the same way, and that's more valuable than any amount of fame.” –Tommy McNamara
“The one word that keeps getting thrown around is fearless. If I hadn’t known Dan, I would think it kind of cliche for everyone to keep saying that. But having known him, I really understand what people mean by that. Because really what it was … is that he could talk about the darkest, most unsavory parts of the human condition and make people laugh, and he could do it so quickly. They say that comedy is tragedy plus timing, right, and the time that he needed to make tragedy funny was shockingly short. He could talk about what must have been a very upsetting event from a week earlier and it would be hysterical. And really, stuff that most people wouldn’t even want to admit to, let alone make funny.” –Jesse Baltes
“Dan was the hardest-working comedy mind I've ever encountered. He tried to be writing and performing constantly. As a staff member of ‘The Late Live Show,’ he wanted to be meeting up with people to write every day of the week and to be putting up a new show every week of the year. As a stand-up, he was widely known as someone who could do 6 or 7 sets in one night without breaking a sweat. He had piles of thick notebooks that were filled to the brim with jokes. He was only 24 and had produced so much, and it's heartbreaking to consider all the comedy he had left in him that we won't ever experience. ... Dan had a dark and twisted sense of humor and was much more likely to laugh at someone's raw, exposed vulnerability as they bombed at an open mic than a well-crafted joke by a professional comedian. I will never forget one night when I was at maybe the worst open mic in the city, and I was only performing for two people. Within a minute of my set, one of them left the bar and the other went to the bathroom. Then Dan walked in. And he witnessed me on stage literally telling jokes to no one in an empty room. He laughed so hard, just overcome with joy to see his friend in the worst situation. Moments like these happened all the time, but Dan's laughter always made me feel better.” –Joe Kwaczala
“Doing comedy, you meet so many people who are funny, but it's incredibly rare to meet someone who is also capable of being vulnerable at the same time. Many people use humor as armor--a way of distracting from the things they're scared of about themselves--but Dan was the opposite of that. He used comedy to peel back layers of his personality and be completely honest about his flaws and fears. He was like that offstage, too. He always wanted to talk about dreams and fears and pain—the formative stuff that makes comedians different from other people.” –Megan Green
“When you are doing stand-up comedy early on in your career, before you have a following and fan base, it is very tough. You walk onstage, no one knows who you are and the audience is eagerly trying to figure out if you are funny or not. Right out of the gate, the audience always knew Dan had it. … He tragically passed away before a mainstream audience could really experience his incredibly talent and body of work.” –Ricky Gonzalez
“One thing that's always stuck with me was the bio that Dan had on The Lincoln Lodge's website: ‘Many people call Dan Ronan the next Richard Pryor. Do you like Richard Pryor? Then come and check out Dan Ronan. Don't like Richard Pryor? Then go to hell, pal. I mean it. Have fun burning in hell.’ It was a great encapsulation of his humor and willingness to really not give a shit and just let the comedy talk.” –Joe McAdam
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