Greg Giraldo was born in the Queens borough of New York on December 10, 1965, and that’s where he grew up. He was a regular kid but a smart one too. Greg attended high school at one of the best ones in the country, Regis High in Manhattan, where an endowment paid the tuition of the ten percent of applicants who were fortunate enough to be selected. He graduated in 1983 and then went on to earn a bachelors’s degree in English from Columbia University in 1987 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1990 (he was there at the same time Barack Obama was).
This is obviously not the early pedigree of a typical standup comedian, and in fact he went on to work for one of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in New York City. He lasted less than a year there before he gave it all up and decided to pursue his dream and talent for standup comedy. Greg started as most comedians did back then, doing open mikes and travelling the country to perform his material at comedy clubs wherever he could. His comic wit got noticed though and he soon became a regular at the iconic venue in NYC, the Comedy Cellar.
His big break came in 1995 when he performed at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. He “killed,” as they say, and was noticed by a scout for ABC. Within a year he had his own sitcom on network television, Common Law. Alas, the show was cancelled and Greg returned to New York to resume is standup career.
The next show that gave him nationwide exposure was Tough Crowd, hosted by the legendary Colin Quinn. Each episode consisted of usually four comedians discussing and debating entertainment or the issues in the news — always funny and raucous — and Greg became a regular on the show, appearing at least a couple of times a week. He always came prepared with material, was always sharp, and also got into some epic exchanges with the other major presence on the show, the great Patrice O’Neal. Tough Crowd ran from 2002 to 2004.
It was around this time as well that Greg got involved in the Comedy Central roasts, which usually aired once a year. His performances there are now universally acclaimed as some of the best, wittiest, hardest-hitting, most politically incorrect — and, most importantly — the funniest of any other comedian who ever took to the podium over the course of the eight years that Greg performed. He was acknowledged as the master, the one who set the standard for just how crisply roasted the guest and anyone else on the stage might be.
The last of these roasts were during the final years of Greg’s career and he was starting to succumb more to the demons of alcohol and drug addiction. He was a judge on Last Comic Standing in 2010, but his vices were starting to overtake him. He was scheduled for a weekend of standup shows at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in September 2010, but he never made it through the full gig.
Greg died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on September 29, 2010.