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Comedians and Too Much Food

The funny fat kid is something of a cliché, thanks to the discovery, made independently by generations of children, that they could often escape bullying by responding with humor — preferably pointed at themselves. But let’s face it, there are only so many self-referential fat jokes it is possible to make. So these bright, overweight children frequently went on to figure out that any joke, at anybody’s expense (except the in-crowd they were trying at the moment to appease), would win them acceptance, or at least tolerance.

Many professional comedians got their start as fat kids, and served their apprenticeship as obese teenagers, and some have carried it into adulthood. Others managed to slim down, and some gratefully left those bad old days in the past. But thanks to the convergence of two trends in the zeitgeist, it is now possible to learn an enormous amount about the inner lives of comics who were or are obese.

The first trend is visual media. Thanks to television and movies, it is now possible to know who is overweight, and exactly how overweight that performer is, at any given moment in their career. The second trend is podcasting. The art of conversation has been glorified like never before by the immense popularity of podcasts. Many are recorded on visual media, but even if available in that form, the audio version is chosen. A lot of fans prefer to listen while they drive, jog, take care of chores, work out, pretend to be doing something legitimate at their job, and so forth.

A huge segment of the population prefers entertainment they don’t need to look at, and they get it from the thousands and thousands of podcast hours available through their ears and electronic devices. A large proportion of the interviewers and interviewees believe that they suffer from actual, legit addictions, as spelled out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and are not shy about revealing every detail to each other and, of course, to audiences.

Consequently, we have had the opportunity to listen to hordes of celebrities and masses of ordinary people talk about their weight problems. A great many professional comedians are addicts of one sort or another, including food addicts. Some tend to think it is more the food itself to which they are addicted, while others believe the contents of the plate are irrelevant because the addiction is actually to eating. Others went through their entire careers before the concept of food addiction was ever publicly floated, but they might very well have recognized in themselves the signs.

Even professionals who are not noted for their weight are self-conscious in certain situations, like when audience members cluster around after the show wanting to take selfies with their comedic idols. Doug Benson, for instance, admits that he is not pleased when a fan puts an arm around his waist, because they can feel the fat on his side.

Among the morbidly obese professional comedians, alive or deceased, are John Candy, Lavell Crawford, Joey Diaz, Chris Farley, Stavros Halkias, Gabriel Iglesias, Robert Kelly, Ed Larson, Ralphie May, Patrice O’Neal, Ms. Pat, John Pinette, K. Trevor Wilson, and many more.

Those who admit to having been fat kids include Owen Benjamin, Bobcat Goldthwait, Chloe Hilliard, Pete Holmes, Karen Kilgariff, Jen Kirkman, Jessica Kirson, Mark Normand, Jay Oakerson, Jonah Ray, Alison Rosen, Duncan Trussell, Jeremiah Watkins, and others.

We will take a closer look at some of these folks, and their own opinions on whether or not their obesity stems from addiction to food, eating, or both.

Written by Pat Hartman. First published May 17, 2024.

Image Copyright: Tom Stokes (@TA_Stokes)/CC BY 2.0 DEED


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