I spent a great day yesterday visiting with old friends in two different shifts. First, I went down to MSU to spend a few hours with my old friends Will and Biza, who are brother and sister and in some ways like a little brother and sister to me. When I coached the debate team at Okemos High school from 87-90 while I was in college, they were the top debate team at East Lansing, so in some ways they were a rival team. But their coach was terminally clueless and they had far outgrown anything he could teach them, so they often traveled with my team and we all kind of worked together and became friends. They were very smart and very talented.
After graduating high school, Will became the coach at his old high school and quickly turned them into a national power. He also took over a tournament that I had started at MSU and built it into one of the premier tournaments in the country. He then stepped up to be the assistant coach of the MSU college debate team and soon he was dominating that level as well, earning national coach of the year honors in 2000. The MSU debate team is also the current reigning national championship team.
As a much younger man, Will also followed in my footsteps into comedy for a couple of years. He was very, very funny and if he had stuck with it, he would no doubt have become a big name. But debate was more important to him and he has obviously become a huge success at that.
Biza is the assistant coach at MSU, after winning a national championship herself in debate there in 1995. She also holds duel master’s degrees now. All of which makes me feel quite old, by the way. In the time I’ve known her, she has grown from this very young little girl who was, at first, in a little over her head as a high school sophomore to an extremely accomplished and successful woman. It’s really gratifying to see the success they’ve both had. By the way, Will is also a very serious and successful poker player as well.
The second part of my day was spent with another old friend, but one that I get to see a couple times a year normally. Don Reese is an old comedian buddy of mine. We first met about 14 years ago when we worked together for the first time and we instantly became friends. Don is one of the top headlining club comics in the country and if you ever get a chance to see him, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Don is also one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, despite his frightening appearance. He’s 6’5, completely bald and wears all black. As he puts it, he looks like an Amish biker, or the illegitimate son of Uncle Fester and Lurch. But he’s actually a super nice guy who has been married for 23 years and is not at all what you’d expect by looking at him.
Don has been attempting for years to get me back into comedy, which is not likely to happen. I just don’t know at all what my act would be like today as opposed to a decade ago. Back then, I was really the classic angry young man, and I don’t think I’m that person anymore. Still cynical, of course, and still have a dark and biting sense of humor, but not like I was back then. Don used to chide me when I would lose it on an audience and start insulting them. He’d say, “You know, sometimes you act like I look.” Perhaps it would be a good thing that I’ve matured and mellowed some, I don’t know. But it’s just not a lifestyle I care to live again, regardless. Believe me, being a road comic is a rough way to live. When I was 22 or 23 it seemed fun for a while, but at 36 I have no desire to do it again.
Anyway, it was a really great day for me, and it may lead to an even more important reunion. Will is going to secure the contact information for me of another old friend through a mutual friend, Jeff Holland. Jeff was a very important part of my life for many, many years. We went to separate high schools but competed against each other, then went to college together. I last spoke to him several years ago and he was living in Washington DC, but I found out yesterday that he is back in Michigan now. I can’t wait to get in touch with him and rekindle a friendship that began over 20 years ago.