Joe Bodolai: 1948-2011

Christmas can be a stressful, difficult time of year, but this is unbearably sad. The Associated Press is reporting that Canadian writer/producer Joe Bodolai has died suddenly in Los Angeles.
Bodolai was a supervising producer on The Kids in the Hall, the showrunner on Comics! and a writer on Saturday Night Live. He made things like Gemini Awards fun to watch. American born, he became a torch bearer for Canadian comedy talent. Russell Peters, Mark Farrell, Ron James, Mike Myers and so many others have Bodolai to thank for helping to harness their talent into entertainment careers.
Back when I used to write at The Toronto Sun, I’d get the occasional email from Joe. The messages were always filled with good humour and insight. Sad, then, to read his final Facebook status, left on Dec. 22:

I’m alone this year and am volunteering serving Christmas dinner to the homeless. Perhaps I will be one, but I love all of you and if I make it to next year let’s make it a morally, spiritually, better and funnier year.

Bodolai did not make it to next year and the world is less bright as a result. His wit carried him to the end, although you wish it could have carried him through whatever pain he was in the middle of now.
On Dec. 23, he left a wise, sad, chilling final post on his blog Say It Ain’t So, Joe titled, “If this were your last day alive what would you do?” 
Some of what he writes is funny because it is true. One of the things he wanted to see happen was “young people mobilizing for change instead of watching E!” This coming from a guy who worked for Robert Kennedy, who “resisted” (not “dodged,” as he makes the distinction) the war in Vietnam.
Some of what he writes is sad because it is true, including copping to demons and addiction.
The more chilling passages have to do with the Canadian television business, how it fails passionate, creative leaders like Joe Bodolai. He was there at the birth of The Comedy Network, as he relates, but never got to run the place. What a different story this might be today if he had been given that mission.
The twist to this sad story is that TMZ has posted Bodolai’s final words and his exit note has taken off like a tabloid rocket. He will be “trending” now, and while Bodolai may have been quick enough to find a “secret of comedy” timing joke in that equation, I don’t have the heart to reach for it.
His passing reminds all of us to reach out to friends and family who may be going through their own private hell. Bodolai’s Facebook goal to make the world morally, spiritually better and funnier is a cause we all should embrace in his name in the New Year.
Bodolai was 63. Heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.

3 Responses to “Joe Bodolai: 1948-2011”

  1. Joe was a brilliant visionary. He was the “man behind the comedy curtain” – He helped so many talented people get a break. Too bad he didn’t get one in the end. Rest in Peace Joe. My condolences to his family.

    Jamie Ollivier

  2. What a nice, funny guy he was.
    I remember at one point in the early nineties, whining about not getting any breaks to eye magazine (at the time) comedy writer Andrew Clark. Andrew told me about this show ‘Comics!’that was going to be produced and told me to call Joe Bodolai. I did, left a message, and Joe called back! He came to see me and booked me for the first season. My first real break. Then he gave me my first writing gig on a Gemini Awards he produced. So two huge breaks for me.
    He gave a lot of people their first break and when we (comedians mostly) found out he was supporting the (at that time) Baton bid for a Comedy Network, lots of us wrote letters of support for that bid because of Joe. Don’t know if that made a difference. Of course as he wrote in his last post, Joe didn’t get the gig he was promised when Baton won the channel. He moved to Los Angeles and I’m sorry to say
    I had fallen out of touch with him as around that time I moved to Halifax. I reconnected with him when I was still on Twitter but really just superficially with a couple of rts here or a follow recommend there. I’m tremendously sad for those he left behind, and tremendously sad how it ended for him.
    Rest in Peace Joe.

    Mark Farrell


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