Gay Author/Comedian Bob Smith Dies At Age 59

Bob Smith’s partner Michael Zam writes on Facebook:

It’s with great sadness, but also a lifetime of happy memories that I’m writing to share that my beloved Bob Smith passed away this morning at age 59 after a remarkable 12-year battle with ALS. He was the funniest and most optimistic person I’ve ever known, as well as the most committed and stubborn (I’m convinced this last trait kept him going so well for so long). I’m glad we got to share so many years together, traveling the world, supporting each other’s writing, and caring for two amazing, temperamental older rescue beagles. I love you, Bob. Thanks for everything! And thanks to the dozens of friends who came to see him and lend a hand over these last years. Fittingly, there will be a memorial in a comedy club sometime in the near future.

Smith was the first openly gay comedian to appear on The Tonight Show and the first to get his own HBO comedy special. He opened up about his illness in a 2016 interview with the Daily Beast:

After he performed at a Human Rights Campaign event, his agent called to ask if he had been drunk on stage: he had slurred his words. Smith didn’t drink before performing. The slurring was because he had the bulbar variant of ALS that first preys upon the muscles of the tongue and throat. Upon receiving the diagnosis in 2007 at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, Smith, ever the comic, thought, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease? I don’t even like baseball!”

  • HeyYouKidsGetOffMyLawn

    Very sad. He was very funny. ALS is a horrible disease – amazing that he managed to survive for over 10 years with it.

    • Gerry Fisher

      That was my thought as well. I have an acquaintance who succumbed in a few years.

    • Chucktech

      Apparently, there are many different ways in which it progresses and varies from one person too another. Look at Stephen Hawking. He’s lived with ALS for decades.

  • JCF

    Wow, 12 years w ALS. My mom didn’t even last 2 and a half (though she was in her 80s). Memory eternal…

    • Sashineb

      It’s a terrible disease. My aunt had it and lasted less than a year until her throat collapsed. Her mind was very sharp but the disease did terrible things to her body.

      • Robincho

        Let us praise God, therefore. God, who created all things, including the fucking disease that carried off your aunt…

        • kareemachan

          And let us say a big FUCK YOU to the xtians who solemnly tell you it was “God’s will”. Or that it was punishment for being gay. Or whatever.

    • JCF

      “Smith, ever the comic, thought, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease? I don’t even like baseball!”

      Well, my mom can’t compare that way: I’m a SF Giants fan because of her!

    • Judas Peckerwood

      My ex lasted just two years after being diagnosed. Such a cruel disease.

    • Jonty Coppersmith

      Bulbar ALS is the variant Stephen Hawking has lived with for over 40 years, the same kind Mr. Smith had. I know what you mean though. My father in law lasted 3&1/2 years before his death last summer.

    • marshlc

      My brother had it, took a little over two years. Twelve years is phenomenal.

  • JCF

    Memories of John Arthur (died from ALS in 2013). It was because of him, that his widower, Jim Obergefell, won ALL of us marriage equality.

    • DaddyRay

      True American Heroes

    • Lumpy Gaga

      ObJohnnyCarson: “I did not know that.”

  • DaddyRay

    Condolences to Bob Smith’s partner, friends and family
    ALS is a devastating desease and I give major props to loved ones who love, support and care – there are too many horrible stories of people who just don’t want to deal

  • fuzzybits

    Oh wow,he was one of the first gay comics I remember seeing. I always thought he was funny. Sympathies to his partner and family.

  • Lars Littlefield

    That’s a damn shame. People as positive as Bob Sith are the last folks who should fall victim to such crummy diseases like ALS. Good to know they enjoyed a great life together. RIP

    • Phillip in L.A.

      “I didn’t know he was a Sith–where did you hear that?” (Too soon?)
      Dedicated to Robincho.

      • Lars Littlefield

        He was also a Shriner.

  • Michael R
    • Phillip in L.A.

      Thank you for posting, Michael R

    • Robincho

      Neither my late husband nor I was what you could call a masochist, but we WERE on a roadtrip through The South many years ago, and in a bookstore in New Orleans we stumbled on a book by Bob Smith. All of a sudden we both got real interested in him, and further snoopage revealed that he was going to be giving a reading at an Atlanta bookshop at exactly the time we had proposed to be in Atlanta. So off we went, and listened to him, rapturously, as he read from that work.

      Some of his material sounds rather like weak tea these days, but I assure my brethren and cistern here that his words, then, were nothing short of transformative. That was one man who saw shit with laser-beam clarity,

      My heart goes out to Michael Zam, for I know what grieving is about. Bob Smith was too smart to believe in a Heaven (“If Jesus loves me, why doesn’t He call?”), but goddamnit this is what it all seems to come to…

      • whollyfool

        “That was one man who saw shit with laser-beam clarity”
        Those people are rare and to be treasured. Looks like Bob Smith was brave in many ways.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

  • DaddyRay

    New Thread – Joe is busy

  • TampaDink

    I always love the joke he opened with in the clip above. He was brilliant & will be greatly missed. Having said that, I’m glad to know that he’s no longer suffering.

  • gothambear

    Rest In Peace charming funny man. Was lucky to see him perform on our Atlantis Cruise many years ago.

  • Dayglo

    “I don’t even like baseball.” Genius!

  • LesbianTippingHabits

    I saw him as part of a trio, “Funny Gay Males,” at The Birchmere in northern Virginia.


  • David in Tucson

    Fuck ALS.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Yes, but not in a good way

    • JCF


  • Phillip in L.A.

    My sincerest condolences to Mr Michael Zam and the rest of his family.

  • Ninja0980

    RIP Bob.

  • Hryflex

    Sorry to hear about this. Years ago his brother Jim and I lived in the same building I did. I still run into Jim now and then at the grocery store.

  • DaveMiller135

    Openly Bob.

    • madknits

      Way To Go Smith!

  • Reality.Bites

    Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?

    And she passed it to my father.

    – Bob Smith.

  • BeaverTales

    Goodbye, fellow Alaskan spirit….I’ll look for you in the trees when Spring arrives.

  • SelectFromWhere

    Awwww… 🙁 Honestly, I never found him all THAT funny, but had great respect for his being an Out Gay comedian in the 1990s before even Ellen was.

  • madknits

    I saw him in Boston with the Funny Gay Males. I’ve read a couple of his books. I liked his written style of comedy. I’m sad to hear this.

    • Joe in PA

      I saw FGM perform at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA in the 90s[?]. They were great and I think the first time I’d seen anything like that.

  • Ken

    I should say right away that my relationship with Bob Smith is nowhere as close as 99% of the people who are expressing their grief about his death. But he was important to me, especially as I was a young and closeted gay man. He was the first openly gay comedian to perform on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When I saw him, I was not only blown away by his humor, but also by his honesty. Years later, he and I were promoting our books that had just been published. We both read at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. He had recently been diagnosed with ALS, and while the symptoms were pretty obvious, he wowed the audience. I was amazed. A few years later he and another brilliant comedian, Eddy Sarfaty, came to Toronto to promote Bob’s latest book. Bruce and I met them in a gay bar in our neighbourhood. Bob could no longer read at the event, so Eddy read for him. Later, I was asked to review his book for Lambda Literary, which could have been a tricky situation if his novel hadn’t been as good as it was. I adored the novel, as did many other reviewers. Bob died yesterday after living with ALS for 12 years. I guess I’m posting this for all the admirers who weren’t in Bob’s immediate circle, but who will still grieve his death. He was an amazing man.

  • Christopher


    So sad. Loved this guy!

    “Openly Bob” is fucking hilarious!


    (2018 is starting off as shitty as the last two years.)

  • Jay Silversmith

    I hope kids today are aware and appreciate how these brave people paved the way for them.

  • Bob Smith and Funny Gay Males made it possible for this little boy growing up in Texas to understand that, if I could just make it through the hell of adolescence, there would be a group of men who thought, talked, laughed, and acted just like me who would take me in, make me their friend, and keep me laughing all the way to the end.

    Rest in Power, Bob!

  • kareemachan

    RIP. ALS is a NASTY disease. I wonder how much the gummint is funding research for a cure, and if any of Big Pharma have shelved research on it like they have for Alzheimer’s now that they have their precious tax breaks….

  • SammySeattle

    I went bird watching with him years ago. He was an absolute sweetheart.

  • MichaelJ

    Almost 30 years ago two friends and I saw Bob Smith as part of the Funny Gay Males trio, and for me he the one of the three that had me laughing from start to finish. I loved his dry wit. I am sorry to say I never saw him perform again.

    My condolences to Michael Zam and others who were close to Bob. And all my sympathies for people here who have lost or who are loosing a loved one to ALS. I’ve known a couple of people whose lives ended too early and with much suffering from ALS. It’s a horrible disease.

  • NMNative

    To live in hearts we leave behind is not too die. Thomas Campbell.

    Our deepest sympathy.
    Lee and David