As I write this, my friend and colleague in the world of comedy is in the last stretches of his fight with cancer. He’s not going to win, but he gave it all he had, and after seeing him one last time Tuesday night, I thought I should write a little about this man.
James Price, Jr. AKA “Fat James” was first and foremost an entertainer. I don’t care where you were, if James was there, you were going to have a good time. And if you weren’t having one already, he would personally ensure that you did, no matter what he had to do. Even if it meant shedding clothing. Hell, especially if it meant shedding clothing.
A week and a half ago, I went to see him when we all still had hope that he would beat this thing. I was there with another good friend of mine, Stephen Glickman, who is on a popular show on Nickelodeon. James was dealing with the worst side effects imaginable from chemotherapy, and you know what he was most concerned about that day? That Glickman would sign some autographs for his nieces who love his show. Here he was, fighting for his life, and he was still looking out for the ones he loved.
I first met Fat James when I was new in the world of comedy in the summer of 2003- he would often do a show I was the regular emcee at, and I would see him as a booked performer at many of the open mics I was using to cut my teeth. He was always playful, encouraging, quick to compliment if he liked something, and just plain fun to be around. Early on in my comedy career I was in a pilot for a reality show that never saw the light of day with James, Glickman, and others- here’s one of my favorite moments from that show.
OK, that could also be one of my least favorite moments, but that was James. Later that day he and Glickman repeated that treatment of me with their shirts pulled up. Going through a germophobic phase at the time, I practically took a bath in hand sanitizer afterward. But I did so while laughing, because I couldn’t help myself.
Comedy is a funny business- we work together in spurts, and often form friendships that last for years even if we don’t see someone very often. We tend to think of the people we started out with as being in our “class”, and by that analogy James was a Junior when I was a freshman. He played that role well, pushing us youngsters to get better while kicking our ass on stage. I hadn’t seen James quite as much in recent years, not performing with him since last summer, but when I did see him he was just as warm, friendly, and fun to be around as I always remembered.
I did crowd warm-up work with him on the set of two movies- Akeelah and the Bee and some crappy Nick Cannon vehicle that went straight to DVD. He put my crowd work skills to shame on those shoots, and made me really work my tail off that weekend just trying to keep up.
James just wanted to be loved, and I think he accomplished that. I’m not a religious man, so I don’t think James will ever see the words that I’m writing now, but if I’m wrong, I want to say this: I’ll never forget you. You have been someone I’ve looked up to in this business since I started, and I hope you now find some comfort. I’m glad I got to say goodbye to you before it was too late. Make ’em laugh!