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Old 04-26-2020, 03:21 PM   #54
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Location: La Porte de l'Enfer
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I need to share this with someone, so why not here with a bunch of folks I will most likely never meet.

I have seen it written in many different ways, “As long as we remember a person, they're not really gone. Their thoughts, their feelings, their memories, they become a part of us.” When we allow a person into our lives and when they choose to be a part of our lives, we take on a shared responsibility. We share the burden of helping one another, of healing one another, of growing together and becoming better people together. We are responsible for making the most of those thoughts, feelings and memories. I do not know that I have made more of that responsibility than I did with Clint Nohr.

Clint and I first met around 2004. I had traveled to Charlotte, NC on my second ever road trip to do guest spots at the Comedy Zone. We had both started stand-up around the same time and were in our first year. Clint also had a guest spot that week and we instantly hit it off. Well, not quite instantly. Admittedly, there was some rivalry between us at first, but that wore off fairly quickly and became friendly competition. While we couldn’t have been much more different physically, we shared a very similar background. We both came from small-town roots and we both had a sense of being bigger than our rural upbringings. By the end of that week, we had exchanged numbers and began chatting on the phone. What I did not know at the time is that was the start of a sixteen-year conversation, a back-and-forth dialogue in which we shared ideas, emotions, laughter, and countless highs and lows.

The conversation, over sixteen years, had its waning moments, but it never ended. We might go months without speaking, but once we started again, we picked up like it had only been a day. We had periods where we spoke daily for weeks and other times where it may have only been once a week, just to quickly check up on one another. Over this time, we spent hundreds of hours on the phone, over text, or in person doing our best to outwit each other and always, always making each other laugh.

I liked Clint’s laugh; it was almost a cackle. A short, punctuated chortle with a hint of derision. It, much like Clint’s humor, had a sarcastic quality. That little, “Henh” spoke volumes to me. I knew if I heard it, I had scored a point and the ball was on his side of the court to return. I lived for those moments. As much as I enjoyed being on stage during that time, I honestly only had an audience of one I wanted to impress.

We schemed together. We groused about the industry. We bemoaned failing relationships. We exalted each other’s success and challenged each other to outshine. The competition was still there, but we were rooting for each other. I never did Bob and Tom, but hey, he never did the Tribble-Run. We were focused on success, but we wanted it to be shared. If I got into a room first, I would always put in a word for Clint and he would do the same for me. I was proud that I helped get him in at my home club in Little Rock. He was excited for me when, on his recommendation, I got in with Charter Talent. No matter where our careers were, we wanted to hear about it. We wanted to share it. And, of course we always wanted to laugh about it.

When we were not travelling, we did our best to see each other. Clint made numerous trips to Knoxville, where I was living, and I even made trips to Hagood to hang out. I cannot sugar coat it, during those years we got each other into trouble almost every time we hung out. The first time I crashed at his place in Charlotte, his girlfriend quickly grew irritated with me and they both ditched me at a bar. I slept it off in my car and the next morning when Clint came around to help me find my way back to their apartment, he revealed he had gotten even for me. While I was lost in a new city and sleeping at a gas station, Clint had defecated in her bed. We would later steal her car and drive to a strip-club at noon. Not because we wanted to go to a seedy club, but just to see how long it would take her to notice.

I don’t share these details you to shock or to brag about the things we did, but rather to illustrate where we both were mentally and in our maturity. The first few years Clint and I knew each other, we both were convinced to be great comedians we had to revel in excess. We had to act like rock-stars. Every comic we admired and aspired to be like was a wreak of a human, and we did not know better than to try to emulate their destructive behaviors. Clint would do something insane, and I would try to top it. And we continued this way for years. Slowly, we began to recognize the toll our destructive behavior was taking on our lives.

When Clint moved in with my fiancé (now wife) Ashlee and I in Columbia, SC, our paths began to diverge. We were still having fun. I can remember the day Clint convinced me to put on swim-trunks with him and walk around our apartment complex with him riding my shoulders; challenging anyone we saw to a “CHICKEN-FIGHT”. People either laughed or walked away perplexed by these two grown men waving their arms (Clint was wearing water-wings) and screaming at them. We thought it was hilarious. And, although we were having fun, we were beginning to see that this wouldn’t last. The economy crashed. The gigs were drying up and comedy was becoming less and less fun and more and more work. By the time Ashlee and I moved back to Knoxville, Clint and I were barely speaking. We did not talk to one another for six-months.

When we reconnected, things had changed. I had given up comedy. I gave Clint many reasons, but the most important was that I simply did not like the person I had become. Somewhere during that time between, Clint had his “water-shed” moment as well. When he returned into our lives, it was not to bring laughter, but to bring amends. He was in recovery and was making attempts to reconcile his past. We welcomed him back with open arms, and from that point our friendship was no longer just about the laughter, but something deeper and more meaningful.

Within a year of leaving stand-up I was no longer in contact with any of our old comedy friends. No one returned calls and I stopped trying to stay in touch. I understood. These madcap men that we had admired for so long did not find me useful. I could not get them into a new room or in with a new booking agent. I could not tell them how merchandise sales had been in a club the previous week. I couldn’t talk shop with them. I had nothing to offer but friendship, and that could not benefit anyone’s career. Clint was the exception. He never dodged a call, he never ignored a text, he never stopped asking for my advice. He never needed anything from me other than my friendship. He had gone from being just a “comedy-buddy” to be a foundation in my life. I will forever be grateful for that.

Clint had a cruel tongue, but he was never cruel. To my shame, I was. One day, years before, while on the phone, he asked me why I always needed to take jabs and cheap shots at him. I was taken aback; I had not realized that for years; maybe the reason I failed in so much in life wasn’t because things were lined up against me, maybe I was just a jerk. In all the time we knew each other, he had given me the space to be cruel in order to come to that realization. I am thankful for that space, for that patience, for the lack of judgment and for the understanding that I was acting out of pain. I am thankful for his friendship.

When I look at my children, I am thankful. They are healthy. I look at my son and daughter and I cry. I cry because I owe a debt. I owe his parents Charlotte and Kevin. I cannot imagine the suffering and sacrifice it took to help Clint. To raise him, and to instill him with kindness. To let him discover the world and share himself with it. To let him pay their sacrifice forward to me. I hope I can pay that forward to my children. I know I am trying.

Clint never wanted to be the Cystic Fibrosis comedian. He would never tell any but the closest to him of his condition. When I first discovered his treatments, I knew very little about CF. After he moved in with us, I began to understand how much his life revolved around it, and how strong he had to be to never, never be defined by it. When, on the rare occasion, he asked for help with his treatments, I saw first-hand how hard it was. I would clean up his newspapers while he recovered, his body wracked from coughing. I am overwhelmed with the pain of knowing COVID-19 accelerated his condition and he died in pain, gasping for life. I think of how much his parents had to give to keep him going. I am so grateful to them for what they gave. I would not be the person I am today without him in my life. I hope I am a better person. If I am, I know Clint was a part of that growth.

On March 18th, our conversation ended. He had texted me a few days earlier to congratulate me on an achievement. Even though I was no longer in comedy, his support never faded. He always rooted for my success, even when he didn’t quite understand what it is I do now. The last thing I texted back, the last thing I said to him was “Thanks.” I wish I could have added, “for everything.” For being kind. For being patient. For always pulling for me. For always answering my calls (even if it was just to say, “doing a treatment, call you right back.”) For being at first an accomplice, then a friend, then a pillar in my life. For everything.

At the beginning of this I wrote that we are never really gone as long as someone remembers us. As long as I live, so will Clint Nohr. I will likely think of him daily. I will miss our conversation. I am not a religious person; I do not know what comes next. I do hold onto a hope. I hope someday I will see my friend again. If I do, I know the conversation will pick right back up where it left off. I will ask him how the club is, and if he can get me in.
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