This week I got word that Pittsburgh comedian Rico Cooper was killed in his home in East Liberty. I haven’t seen Rico out on the scene in a long time. From what I understand he was pretty seriously ill for a while and trying to focus on his family. Since I haven’t seen him at an open mic in months (probably years) I have definitely lost touch.
It’s unfortunate that the first time I hear his name it’s such sad news. Even briefly knowing Rico is one of the reasons why I love doing comedy. It allows you to meet people from different walks of life that you never would have met. Rico and I come from very, very different backgrounds. But the common thread of comedy, a hobby, a dream, whatever you want to call it, allowed us to know one another.
Rico was definitely fearless. He was so fearless that he made me afraid for him in certain situations. You might want to read about how he one time knocked-out a heckler. That alone was enough to make me hyperventilate.
Probably my most fond memory of Rico was when we were both in the Funniest person in Pittsburgh contest, way back in 2006. He came down to the Improv chewing on a big twig. “Rico, what the hell is that?” I asked.
“These is Muslim sticks, Jeff. You ain’t never heard of ’em? The old men in the desert use to chew on these to clean their teeth.”
“Oh, of course,” I said sarcastically. “Those Muslim sticks.”
“You want one?” he asked, offering me his bag of twigs.
“Eh…why not,” I chewed it for about 40 seconds before I politely threw it away. I was due up on stage soon.
About 7 minutes later I came off stage after a strong set. Rico gave me a big hug and said, “Me and you baby. Me and you.”
I know I haven’t seen him in a while but back then I considered him a friend. I never would have met Rico if not for his love of making people laugh. I’m glad I got at least a short opportunity to know him.