I recently read comedian Jim Breuer’s book, I’m Not High: (But I’ve Got a Lot of Crazy Stories About Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior), published by Gotham Books in 2010.
I was surprised by this book’s depth and insights. Not that I didn’t think Jim Breuer was capable of that, but I assumed his material would be like those of many comedians who release books which include a lot of jokes and focus on their rise to fame in a straightforward, biographical way.
While Jim’s book does have funny material and describes his path in comedy and entertainment, there is a refreshing amount of introspective, thoughtful commentary about his personal life. I loved that aspect so much that I ended up finishing the book within a couple of days, despite the fact that the book isn’t super-short (it’s hard to specify length based on reading the Kindle version pictured here, but in print it would be close to 275 pages, according to Amazon).
In this post, I wanted to share two stories from his book which were especially moving; they also teach a lesson that we can all apply to our own lives.
The first one involves how he got to know Chris Farley, who had guested on an episode of Saturday Night Live while Jim was a member of the cast. (Chris had of course been a cast member of SNL himself but had since left by this point.)
While they’d been getting along well enough during the preparations for the episode, Jim was surprised to receive a call from Chris on Thursday of the week Chris was working on that weekend’show; during the call, Chris seemed down and kept asking him to hang out, yet Jim wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten his number. Jim didn’t join him that night but describes being compelled to contact him a few week’s after Chris’ guest-hosting episode:
“I started getting an overwhelming urge to call Chris….I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Still, I’d ultimately talk myself out of it…But the feeling would return.”
Finally, Jim decided to ask his manager to get him Chris’ number so he could see how he was doing.
The next week came and he still hadn’t heard back, though, so towards the end of the week he called his manager again, who apologized and said he’d get him the number by Monday. But, as Jim writes:
“He never got me the number. He’s not to blame.
Chris died the next day. I don’t want you to think that I feel like I am personally to blame or that I’m narcissistic enough to think what happened to Chris directly relates to me. I believe only that I had a chance. I had an opportunity to reach out to help. Would it have done any good? Who knows? I know only that God was telling me to reach out to another human being. I felt it, and I truly heard it loud and clear, and I ignored it. I will never turn my back on Him again…I dropped to my knees and apologized for turning my back and not acting on the messages that were sent to me.
I know it feels weird and kooky and surreal. And we are conditioned to tune out or fear that kind of stuff. I’m here to say, ‘Don’t.’ You can make a difference. And when the big man gives you that urge, do yourself a favor and at least just give it a shot.”
I was impressed that Jim would share that personal story considering how it must pain him to this day, both because Chris died so young but especially because Jim hadn’t gotten a chance to speak to him before he passed despite his pressing desire to do so. I appreciate his intent to encourage his readers to listen to messages like these and, hopefully, avoid a missed chance like this.
Another story in his book was equally touching, involving a time relatively early in his career when he finally received word he’d gotten a part on the TV show Uptown Comedy Club. On the night Jim got the news, the first person he wanted to call was his brother Eddie, who’d also been a big supporter of his as Jim was starting out in comedy.
That night, by the time Jim had gotten to his then-fiancée Dee’s apartment, it was late. However, he still felt a strong desire to call Eddie with the news since he knew Eddie would be thrilled. So, he started to dial him from Dee’s phone, but was then interrupted:
“‘Who are you calling?’ she asked. ‘It’s late.’
‘Eddie,’ I said, cradling the receiver on my shoulder. ‘I got the show!’
‘You did?’ She smiled. ‘Awesome!’ Then she clicked the base of the phone and hung up the call. ‘Eddie’s got three kids,’ she said.
‘Dee,’ I said, ‘I’m going to be on TV! Real TV!’
‘It can wait until morning. That’s only five hours from now,’ Dee said. ‘Call him at six thirty A.M., he’ll be up early.’
‘All right, all right, all right,’ I said disgustedly. ‘I just really want him to know tonight. I’m one less person he’s gotta worry about, Dee.’
‘He’ll be so happy to hear that,’ she said. ‘In the morning!’”
Only Jim never did get to tell him that in the morning because Eddie died overnight.
Jim and Dee received a call at 5:30 a.m. with the news from Denise, Jim’s niece, who said Eddie had had a heart attack.
Jim describes Eddie’s sudden passing as gutting, and he was particularly shocked about the timing of Eddie’s death:
“I learned from Denise that he’d passed around one fifteen A.M., right around the time I would have been calling him…Do you call that a coincidence? I could have done any number of things after learning I got the TV show, but calling Eddie after one A.M. was at the top of the list…something compelled me to call at that particular time. Why? Don’t ask me. I know I couldn’t have prevented Eddie from dying, but something compelled me to reach out.”
I found this story especially powerful, perhaps because it involved a member of his own family, one he’d been close to. I could only imagine how painful losing him was, particularly when he’d had him on his mind at the very moment of his passing.
I also found it admirable of Jim to realize he couldn’t have prevented what happened. It’s hard to have that kind of clarity when a loss like this happens. I mean, I know if it had been me in Jim’s position I would have wondered if Eddie could have been saved by my call, whether directly or indirectly.
Like if Jim had been able to speak to him, maybe Jim would have heard him begin to have a heart attack and been able to call 911 and send an ambulance over? I mean, assuming Eddie had been able to pick up the phone and begin talking, with the heart attack happening as they were on the phone?
Or even if Jim had called a minute or so after the heart attack, perhaps the ringing phone would have woken Eddie’s family up and they would have noticed something was wrong with him, perhaps with time to get an ambulance there for help?
Even if Eddie surely couldn’t have been saved, I’d still have regrets: for instance, assuming Jim and Eddie would have only talked briefly, with the heart attack occurring a few minutes afterwards with no one knowing until it was too late — at least then Jim would have had the chance to connect with his brother and share some good news with him before he died. Almost as a parting thank you for all the help Jim says Eddie gave him over the years, advising him on career moves, offering guidance on contracts and agent issues…if it were me, I wouldn’t be able to stop wishing I had made that call. Could we have spoken one last time?
I don’t know, I guess it’s not productive to ruminate on questions like these, but it’s so hard not to when something like this happens.
What I do know is, I wouldn’t have been OK with anyone hanging up a phone on me as I was dialing, especially if the person I was trying to call ended up passing away before I got to speak to them again. I know technically I could redial, so if I allowed myself to be convinced not to it wouldn’t be fair to blame what happened on another person. For the record, Jim doesn’t do that with Dee and I think that makes him a greater person than I am! Because if it had been me, I think there’s a good chance I’d still always resent that person for keeping me from talking to a loved one in what would have turned out to be their last moments.
And if I did eventually forgive that aspect and own up to my own role in it, I’m pretty sure it would take me some time to come to that conclusion. Probably so long that the other person now wouldn’t be able to forgive me for how long it took me to process what had happened.
How would you react in a situation like this? And do you believe, as Jim does, that these moments were more than just coincidence?
This post was created as part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday; this week’s writing prompt was, “end your post with a question. Extra points if you fit an exclamation mark somewhere in the body of your post.” I am happy to say I did accomplish both goals! However, the rules also say there should be “no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.” While I didn’t edit my own words beyond typos, I did think for a while about writing on this topic since I liked the book a lot and wanted to pose some questions about it to readers. Hope that and the fact that I have quotes from another work in my post is OK! 🙂