One wedding and a funeral

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on September 15th, 2012

There’s the happy couple– Kristeen von Hagen and Luciano Casimiri– minutes after they were joined in holy matrimony. They’re Friends of Shecky and they’re also comedy writers and performers from Canada. (And that’s the Female Half of the Staff in the lower left snapping virtually the same photo that she appears in. We’re too tired to frump up some sort of gratuitous Rashomon reference.) The couple currently reside in Toronto.

We attended the happy ceremony at the Flamingo just two days after attending a different kind of celebration. On Monday afternoon, we traveled to Big Al’s Comedy Club at the Orleans here in Las Vegas to attend a celebration of the life of comic Ron Shock, who passed away on May 17, after a shockingly short battle with cancer. The affair was alternately poignant and riotous, which, we are assured, is just the way Shock would have wanted it. (Neither of us had spoken to Shock more than a handful of times here and there over the past 20 years, but we are friends of many of his friends.)

Shock was eulogized by Chris Bliss and host Nancy Ryan brought up Shock’s son Hudson Shock, followed by Todd Paul, John Padon, Michael Paskevich, Steve Epstein, John Biddle and Winston O’Rourke, all of whom shared their personal memories of “The Storyteller.” The tribute was capped off with a lovely montage, created by John Bizarre.

It’s reassuring to see comics coming together– to memorialize a lost comrade or to celebrate the joining of two fellow comics. We often hear comedians characterized as isolated, cynical, uncaring, unfeeling. Of course, we often are all those things, but that’s not all we are and we can be counted on to support our comedy buddies when tragedy strikes. And when we’re invited to be part of a joyous occasion, we are thrilled and we respond with genuine gratitude and happiness.

The backdrop of Vegas gives both events a surreal quality. Vegas is a happy, raucous, chaotic place most of the time, so it’s ideal for a wedding! But it is an oddly appropriate place to grieve. Coincidentally, this is the second time that we’ve attended a wedding in Las Vegas shortly after a funeral– the first time being in 1997, when, shortly after the death of The Male Half of the Staff’s sister, we traveled to LVNV to attend the wedding of an old friend. Death, followed by a celebration of life. It’s classic.

The circle of life and all that.

How’s this for a harmonic convergence– Nancy Ryan, who hosted Monday afternoon’s memorial (and is the featured comedian at the Flamingo’s “X-Burlesque” show) tweeted the following on Wednesday night (the night of the wedding):

Pulled my Honda into Flamingo valet… right next to Russell Peters‘ Bentley.

Unbeknownst to Ryan, Peters was upstairs at the Flamingo, deejaying at the von Hagen-Casimir post-wedding reception/bash! (That’s right– Peters, in addition to being a superb comedian, is also a deejay… and quite a smashing one at that!)

To quote Steven Wright: “It’s a small world. But I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.”