What can I say about Fred right in front of his mother?
He was not just a friend, but we were roommates for probably one of the craziest years of my life. Living with Fred. I never needed an alarm clock. Because I knew at exactly 8:00 AM every morning I was going to hear either Judas Priest or Dio at full blast. And so did the rest of our apartment complex. And then probably another hour of just songs that he worked my name into at the top of his lungs while he showered.
Man, Craig Bischoff and I, we have birthdays back to back. Like days apart. So we’re hanging out at the Laff Stop and we got the bad news that Corey Bailey another comedian that we all loved very dearly had passed away in a motorcycle accident. And then more bad news came. And at this point, me and Craig are fucking so down, we’re bummed. We can barely drink anymore. And then Fred comes storming in with half a Vietnamese sandwich, Screaming that “Al just got shot” while he’s tearing this sandwich into pieces.
John Fred, he was wild, man. I remember going to a concert with him one night. And just, if you’ve never been in a car with Fred, you’ll never laugh as hard and be so scared in your life, until you see Fred slam you. It was also the only time I’ve ever seen Marty Finkelstein do a stage dive. It was pretty cool.
On the night of Houston’s Funniest Person Contest, I had my day planned out, but that meant nothing to Fred. And then we almost got in a car wreck because he was listening to loud music and he’d like to do this thing called car moshing while I drove. So he’s throwing elbows or I’m like, “I gotta make this show alive, Fred, come on.”
But I remember him sitting me in a corner. He had stolen the first place trophy and put it in my hand and gave me just this long screaming football coach pep talk before the competition even began. And I amazingly went on to win that night on 06/06/06. And as soon as my name got announced, I had a moshing flashback. Cause I look off to the side of the stage and all I can see are arms and elbows coming up to the stage cause he wanted to be the first one to hug me after that great moment. That was Fred in a nutshell. I mean he was loving, he was caring. He was supportive. He was insane. I mean, and I love him.
I owe his couch, a debt of gratitude, cuz it kept me off the road many nights that I didn’t need to be on it. I remember the many nights of going to the disco Kroger and hitting the frozen pizza aisle. He’ll get a frozen pizza, open the box, grab the coupon from the inside, and go pay for it upfront. That’s what Fred did.
He loved the Todai Sushi right next to the old Improv and it would almost like, I feel like I was gonna explode. And Fred was just about to turn into a John Pinette bit. The whole “you’ve been here four hours get out!” you know.
Bryan Hurzie really wanted to be here tonight. He was really broken up. Bryan and I spent a lot of time talking about Fred and I know if he were here tonight, there’d be more and more crazy stories like… Like Al said, if you knew Fred, you got a story.
As a fresh-faced young kid coming into the comedy scene, Fred never knew a stranger. I mean, everybody, everybody was immediately his pal. I always admired that about him and you know, until my very last day, I don’t know if I will ever, ever be able to forget him. And you know, it’s really cool to get to meet his mom and his brother today. And I’m sorry I had to be like this. But we all loved Fred. Fred loved all of you guys and well we all appreciate you.
— Danny Rios
I said, well, you know, I just moved up to Conroe. Oh, we got to hang out for 20 years, about 19 and a half years, we had a shitload of fishing trips. Which more drinking than fishing I don’t drink in public, but I sure made up for it when Fred came up there.
— Mark Widner
I can’t exactly pinpoint the first time I met J Fred. He had always been part of the scene anywhere comedy was to be found in Houston. He was the first person to turn me onto Dio with Black Sabbath. It wasn’t long after that we had tickets and were on our way to see them perform live in concert. From that moment forward every time I would see J. in public he would yell and sing “Rogers! “What do you say to the dead?” and I would reply “Will you forgive me for living” and the song ‘After All’ it became our greeting.
One night after a performance I stepped off the stage and wanted to get his opinion. I was still fresh from working a day job so I asked him, “Where do you see me in 5 years?” and without hesitation, in that booming voice he went off on a 10-minute rant about corporate culture and then just walked off. I stood there elated and paralyzed at the same time. Just conflicted as fuck, you know?
I always enjoyed the few opportunities I had to road trip with J. Fred or picking him up from his DJ gig on the way to a comedy show. I always made sure to tell any friends, acquaintances, or audience members to catch his set, followed with “you’re in for a treat” and they were. You never knew what to expect, but you knew it was going to be hilarious, quick-witted, and brilliant.
I’m currently East of Salt Lake City Utah, laying under the stars and asking them “Will you forgive me for living?” I can imagine hearing a reply of “yes” and without hesitation, in that booming voice, “Hey, what do you call a Mormon with no kids? A toddler!” Slainte’
— Marc Rogers
I’m gonna miss him. He was like a brother. Anytime that I would just tell my problems. When I told him I’m adopting five kids with my wife and I didn’t know how I was gonna do that. And he was just like, “Man, you’re a good dude for doing it. You’re a good dude.”
“Like, dude, I don’t know if I could handle this. I’ve never had kids, you know?”
“Oh no, no, you’re doing a good thing, dude. You there’s gonna be a place in heaven for you.”
Some of those other times, I would tell him, “You know, I don’t know these kids, they drive me, mad. I used to do that to my dad all the time, man.”
He would always encourage me. And he would just say, “Frank, just take a deep breath, before you beat them. And if you don’t beat them, they’ll never learn.”
And I’m like, “what?” That was his sense of humor, you know? I miss him a lot. And as far as the fishing trips go, I tried, I just didn’t have any patience.
So, all you guys here have got great stories, but I was just a grain of pepper, in his life.
You know, there were times, I wouldn’t see him. Maybe every three months, sometimes six. There’d be a time when I wouldn’t see him for a year. And then all of a sudden he pops up, like that pesky pimple that I got right here. For someone that was headlining. And I was, I was just an open mic-er and it’s not like he took me under his wing. He made me his friend. I’m too emotional and it’s been since September and I still feel ’em, you know. Now when I look at my kids, I think of him. I’m like, damn, who’s gonna stop me from beating them. The kids did meet him and they loved him.
I miss him and I know you guys too. Without a doubt, I know he’s in a better place, because Houston sucks. I’m sorry, But that’s all I have.
— Frankie Torres
The last time I saw J. Fred though, it was at mom’s coming out show, I mean first stand up at Rudz, you know, you were wonderful and seeing your son was incredibly proud as he was excited. And I knew he was excited because he ignored the rest of the world. I was sitting right next to him when he didn’t even know it. It was a beautiful night to watch mother, and son, be in that same performance space together. I had tremendous respect for J Fred because he was, you know, we can joke about how he was without boundaries, but he was loving and supportive just like you guys said.
It’s true that Al was working for me, the day that he got shot. I get a phone call from J Fred, who says, “You’re not gonna believe this, but our best friend got shot in the foot, um, fighting over Vietnamese sandwiches.”
So he says, “Al is at Ben Taub.” And so everybody, the lawyers in the office got in the car and ran over to Ben Taub to see what happened to Al. You know, this big, large room with beds and everywhere and people, you know, it just looked awful scene. And there’s my, my really good friend Al B laid up and it was terrifying to think that he’d been shot and getting the story from him. And he gets to the point and he is laughing and smiling.
Like, “Wait a minute. You’re not acting like you’re a victim as a lawyer. I kind of know what the role is. You should not be smiling and laughing.”
He goes, “No, man, you’re not gonna believe it. J. Fred kicked their ass!” And I’m like, “No, no, don’t be saying that loud.”
Al, he goes, “Why I should be quiet?”
And I go, “Why?”
“Because there he is. There’s the guy that was that, J. Fred beat up. I’m just rubbing it in”
“What?” I turn around and see there’s another guy with a swollen face who’s handcuffed to the bed.
If you know, knowing Jay Fred you knew where his heart was at and I would tell you right now, I don’t think I ever hugged him enough. He’s just somebody that, that he felt incredible energy when he hugged you. It was just, that there was a power and a strength. And he conveyed that without actually physically hugging the way he treated people, the way treated himself, the way, the way he took care of other people.
J Fred was a very, very special friend and you knew that very easily and quickly. The other thing I would like to comment on is how he was as an entertainer. When I met him, he was already a featuring act at the lab. He was already foundational at that point as well. And I, yeah, I really took a liking to him just as from the entertainment point of view because when I was growing up, I idolized Robin Williams, Robin Williams was just so fast and, and, and characters and voices and all this, an animation and, and so entertaining just to be around. And so was, J. Fred, whether you knew it or not, you were my Robin Williams.
— Stephan Rubin
The very first time I met J Fred, I was over at a fish fry at my good friend Al B’s place, where we just watched hours of The Simpsons. This was the very first time that I was there and Fred was there and maybe said three words the whole time. And Al didn’t really introduce cuz I guess there was no one to introduce and his friend was sitting there snoring. Most of that time Fred was just sleeping on the couch, sitting up while we watched all these Simpsons episodes. Eventually, I was like, “Al, who the hell is this guy?”
“Oh, it’s J Fred.” Like that explained everything.
Okay. So the next time I hung out Fred was awake that time, but then I got the full political ramblings of why they put fluoride in the water and why you should avoid it at all costs. I was like “Al, who the hell is this guy?”
“Oh, it’s J Fred.”
The third time we moved the fish fry over to Sister Sara’s house. It was my first time there. And Fred gave me a tour of his room. He was like, “Oh yeah, here’s the Las Vegas Comedy Festival that I was a part of. And I also opened up for Lewis Black. And here I am with Mitch Hedberg.”
I was like, “Al, who the fuck is this guy?” And Al would give the same answer, “Oh, it’s J Fred.”
Fred truly was larger than life. And every time I met him, it was almost kind of like meeting a different person. But depending on where we were, Fred was the person that came out. We had always planned several fishing trips together which never panned out. I mean he could talk fishing no matter what was going on. He would be down to talk fishing, no matter if it was the appropriate time or place or not. The man was down for a pretty good fishing trip. After Al moved to LA, and I kind of lost touch with Fred.
As the time went by, he popped up. I forget where, it was like J. Fred sightings. I would be on my way to DJ at the radio at Rice and he would just appear on the Metro and sit down and talk to you as if it was 10 minutes ago. And that was the last time we talked and he would continue to tell me why I should stay the hell away from that fluoride.
I don’t know if fluoride was the magic thing, but it was something like that. Where again, even knowing in several years you kind of go, who the hell is this guy? That guy was J. Fred. And he was a special guy, he was a magic guy and I’m gonna miss him.
I’m gonna miss him along with the long list of others who have passed away. His comedy was truly magical and he was definitely one of a kind. And he got to do some really, really cool stuff that most people only dream about. And that was J. Fred.
— Ramey O’Brien
Most folks go to TED Talks, this is my Fred Talk. To know J. Fred is to love him and to love him is to be highly annoyed by him. He was a hurricane, a giant German shepherd of a human being who left laughter and trails of pure destruction in his wake. You couldn’t help but love him. He taught boundaries, by stepping all over yours.
My favorite memory was the time that he saved my life and put me in danger at the same time. If you heard this before, here’s a director’s cut. It was like around June 5th, 2003, I got home from work, and out of my shoes and John Fred goes, “Hey Al, here’s $20. Get some Vietnamese sandwiches. We’ll go watch Mitch Hedberg at the Laff Stop right after.” “I’m in!” And I just slipped my untied shoes back on and bought the sandwiches. So I get back with the Bahn Mi sandwiches and as I get out of my car which is under my apartment facing Hawthorne st. I see what I think is a homeless person walking toward me. And I’m thinking, “Man, this is the last thing that I need.” And before I could finish that thought, it’s a gun to my face and the dude says, “Be quiet. Don’t do a thing because you’re going to lose.”
And I snap and I jump out of my untied shoes, knock the gun out of his hand and the cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. I land on top of him and we both go for the gun at the same time. He grabs the gun before I could and puts the end of the barrel at my foot. And before I could I could finish thinking, “He’s not going to shoot me in the foot is he?”, he pulls the trigger.
As this is happening, Fred is upstairs playing his guitar and he hears me drop the sandwiches. He runs downstairs and sees me on top of the guy with my left arm around the guy’s neck and my right arm around the guy’s arm which is holding the gun.
“Fred, he shot me.” And Fred grabs the gun and throws it in the bushes. And that’s when we hear the guy’s getaway driver peel off.
So Fred starts kicking the dude in the face. The dude falls down with a thud with me on top of him. Fred runs back to the apartment and gets his phone to call the cops. A couple seconds after Fred runs off, the dude gets back up with me on top of him.
So now I’m hold holding onto the guy’s neck who’s trying to shake me off like a rodeo clown. I squeeze tighter, Fred arrives and it’s, “Round two! Fight!” Fred is just kicking and screaming and punching while I’m just hanging on and choking the dude. And that’s when the neighbors show up. Why? Because we were cursing while it happened. “Be quiet! There are children here!”
“Like shut the hell up. This adult shot me, another adult. I’m gonna curse as much as I want.”
And then the neighbors actually help us, and they sit on top of the dude that shot me. So while I’m waiting for the ambulance to show up. Fred finds the guy’s pack of cigarettes on floor and starts smoking them in front of him and starts making comments like, “I know it’s June, but don’t worry, orange is a fall color.” It took my mind off the crazy intrusive thoughts like “will they have to amputate my foot? And does this mean I’ll be limping for the rest of life?”
I get to Ben Taub county hospital and they sit across from the guy that shot me. And of course, I’m giving the guy that shot me the middle finger. How can I not?
All the attorneys I worked at the law office show up at Ben Taub. All they really did at Ben Taub was stack towels on top of my bleeding foot for five hours and tell me to come back later for an X-ray. I get home on crutches and grab my sandwich. I take a bite and I realized Fred ate my sandwich. Still the best tasting sandwich I’ve ever had.
There’s so many, so many stories, so many crazy moments in between performances. I’ve lived with him for probably about three years. Right up until till the time he threatened me with a spatula. We’ve had our ons and offs, still he had moments of wisdom, moments of clarity, and moments of insanity. And there are always moments of insanity.
He always had sayings that stick with you like, “Riot the time is now!”, “Don’t expect A work from a D student.” and “Their emergency is not your fire-drill.” You know, like if you needed help, you could call Fred at 10 o’clock at night or morning and say something like, “Hey Fred I had a flat. Or hey Fred, I was offered 50 pounds of crawfish, do you have an extra cooler? Can you help? And he was there right there.” He made my emergency his fire-drill. You know, he would give you the shirt off his back and sell it to you. There were fish frys. He loved fishing. He loved playing the guitar. He loved, he loved singing your name into any song he came up with. He loved Last Concert Cafe. And most of all he loved each and every one of you guys.
— Al Bahmani
When I started out in comedy, I saw J. Fred. I remember the first time he sang, “The Brady Bill”, a great song. I was like, that’s genius, the Brady Bunch theme song mixed with gun control. It’s great.
J Fred was a great guitar player. He’s really really good. I do a little bit of guitar just at home. You know, I never not in public or anything. And we would talk about that a lot. I remember him one time telling me he was playing his guitar so much that he actually formed blisters on his hands and thumb, and the blisters would pop, and then he would put super glue into the little hole that formed. And I was like, wow, you’re, you’re a lot more hardcore I will ever be at playing the guitar. J. Fred is definitely, you know, very funny, sometimes, bits of his in my head would just pop up. You know, like a restaurant where somebody walk-in, talk to the host will go, “Hey, I want two for the lunch section! Two for the lunch section!” “Oh, okay. Let me sit in the lunch section, right this way.” I always thought that was great. “There’s no lunch section. Why do people say that?”
I think that’s about it. That’s about all I have to say. I just want to do some of his material. Just to hear him.
— Andrew Kresse
Fred was my friend we’d play music together. Even though he told people he was just rhythm. He made me feel like I was just the most special person in the world. Every time I was with him, he would give me full attention. I think he did that for everybody. Yeah. And I think that he really did love all of you guys, especially his brother. I’m not gonna tell you what he tortured his brother. But I used to get on him all the time. I said you should be, you should call, call Graham up right now and tell him how much you love him. Because he always told me how much he loved you. And he, he always talked about you and Al B, he loved every one of you. He was crazy and annoying, but I never hated him. Always loved him. And I miss him greatly
— David ODea
I got to know J. Fred before I actually knew Fred. I met him through Graham. Graham was a good friend of mine and I would always hear about Fred. So when I finally met Fred, you know, he would come to some of those things we did on the weekends. And then one day he showed up at the Last Concert Cafe and I was like, oh yeah, he’s a comedian. We had a comedy night and Fred started coming there and hanging out and he was so helpful. He would come early, cuz I think he rode the bus or something, but he would get there like two or three hours early and he would help everybody do their jobs. I mean, he was a lovely person and that would work. And then I think he would wear himself out, he was a great announcer and emcee. He was just a good guy. And I’m really glad to be around people who get Fred, you know. I didn’t know what I was walking into and I’m just really feel good now that he had all of y’all And all y’all felt the same way we did. Thank you all.
— Dawn Fudge
Well, I just wanna thank all of you for coming out tonight. This it’s, it just, it does my heart. Good. It really does. Fred loved every one of you. He did. His hugs were just to die for, and I miss his hugs so much that he was always good to me. You know, he always would call me up, “Mom, what do you need? Can I do anything to help you?” My mother always said, any man, that’s good to his mother is God has a special place in heaven for him. I missed him at Christmas. I didn’t even bake cookies this year cuz he wasn’t there to eat ‘em. Easter was hard too, but I know he is in a better place and that helps. He always called me a church lady.
Well, because I’m a United Methodist minister and there was the sister Sara Show every Sunday morning at 11 o’clock. I was 30 years in the pulpit. When I decided to do standup comedy, he was so, so supportive. He really was. And, and I told him, once I said, “Fred, I just wanna make you proud of me.” And I think it did.
One time after Fred had finished a set, an audience member handed him a note and the note said, “I lost my son two years ago and I thought I’d never laugh again tonight for the first time I laughed.” And that really struck a note with Fred. I’ve seen the note, he kept it, and uh, made me realize how healing comedy really is.
You cannot laugh and be miserable at the same time. It’s very healing. But it really is important. I think to know that what you guys do in your comedy is a very important thing. It’s very healing and it’s really tremendously important. And I just thank all of you for being here tonight. And, and church lady says, I love all of you too.
— Sister Sarah
Well, thank you, everybody. I grew up calling Fred, Fred. So finding out that he was going by J. Fred was a surprise. So many Fred stories.
About 1991, Fred comes home and decides he wants to do stand-up comedy. So I got in front of my mother’s typewriter and I said, “I’ll help.” Let’s write you an act. I drove him from San Antonio to Galveston, to Houston, Kingwood Woodlands, everywhere. Anywhere there was an open mic, Fred would get up and do this act. And he finally got his first paid booking in Galveston at the old Flagship hotel.
So we got a room and I drove him to the show and he does it and killed. We got back to the room and turned on the TV and we caught a rerun of the Golden Girls and he realized where I got all his jokes. We bonded over it. And we rewrote the act.
And when Fred was on, Fred was on when he was off, he was you know. So I learned to leverage. We were in an HEB grocery store and the lines to the cash registers were around the corner. Well, they kept making announcements. “Could we get more cashiers up front? Could Janice please get to register four! Could I get a price check on number nine?” And I look over and Fred is gone.
Fred had watched the managers on the in-store mic and figured out the telephone code they dialed. So he snuck on his knees underneath an empty register, got the phone, dialed the announcement code, and said, “Thank you for shopping at HEB. As customer appreciation, we are offering free beer in the delicatessen. Free beer in the delicatessen.”
You have never seen a stampede like that, people left their carts towards the deli. So we navigate through to the front of the line. And as we’re checking out with our Totino’s party pizza and spray starch. He loved spray starch. We get to the checkout. We’re gonna score. As we’re getting out of there. Fred makes the mistake of speaking in his radio announcer voice. And that manager realized it was Fred. We were summarily thrown out and banned from that HEB.
And then I remember, I guess this was about 1989. We made the mistake of deciding to live together.
So I went to this apartment complex and I walk in and they look me over and they decide that I’m such a refined young man. They had three complexes, A, B, and C. Well, C was the quiet complex where they put all the old people. Well, that’s where they decide to put us. Anyone who knows Fred knows this is a bad idea. So they put us upstairs above this poor poor woman. I’ll never forget her name, Mrs. Sears and we lived together for six weeks. I mean, it didn’t go well. And Mrs. Sears kept marching up to our front door every night, banging on it and please quit giving high heeled shoe lessons. And we’re like, what is she talking about? Well, Fred had that walk.
So it wasn’t working out. I wanted out, but we had a lease. One month, I go down to the leasing office to deliver the rent check. And the leasing office woman is just like, absolutely not. “I’m not taking your check, get the hell out!” And I said, “but we have a lease.” And she opened a filing cabinet and pulled it out and tore it up in front of me. I was never so happy in my life.
I have so many other Fred stories. The eggs that used to disappear from the refrigerator. My mother’s a very intelligent woman in many ways. but she’d come into the room all the time. While we were watching TV as kids. And she’d say, “You boys go through so many eggs.” Well, of course, we were throwing at cars. She also was like, “God, y’all go through a lot of hand lotion.”
I can’t think of any, I loved throwing things at cars. He loved playing guitars. He loved dogs. Oh yeah. Dogs, love dogs. Uh, love the beach. Love fishing, The guitar, And the guitar. And dogs, dogs always big dogs, big dogs.
I’ll never forget it was at the Comedy Showcase had a contest. The Funniest man in Houston, is that what y’all call it? So I think he was a finalist or something and he kept going and kept going and, and we would go in groups and the group kept getting picked and bigger and he would go in and all my friends would wait outside and have to pay $10 to get in. And we were like, okay, well I guess he got wise to it. And he wrote a song and performed it. It was called “Let’s have a contest”, it went, “Let’s have a contest. We can make the locals work for free and charge their friends admission “
And that already got the manager running toward the stage to kick Fred out. But that’s when the mallet came out and he decided to play jingle bells in his head and yeah he started bleeding, and anyway, all right. Which got him thrown out and disbarred from the contest.
The show America’s Funniest People were coming to the Houston Galleria on the day after Christmas to audition people. Fred gets me up at like four in the morning. I agree to drive him to the Galleria and I drop him off. We don’t hear from Fred for 16, or 17 hours. He calls about 9:00 PM that night. He waited in line behind 3,000 people. Wow. Got on stage and played jingle bells on his head with a mallet. It was like a wooden instrument. It was beautiful.
So I pick him up and we are driving home. We get home and there is a message on the machine. He has been picked as one of two people out of 3000 to be on America’s Funniest People, the following Sunday night.
So we all gather as a family around the TV and we watch it. Well, then Don Nelson and Jan Glenn had a morning television program on ABC 13. They called cuz they had heard Fred was gonna be on that night. And they asked him if he would be on live TV the next morning on their good morning show.
So again, he asks me, “Would you drive me down there at four in the morning?” Of course, I even put makeup on him. So I drop him off at the stage door and I race home. And again, as a family, we sat around to watch him on live television. Don Nelson comes out, and Fred is there on live TV with his guitar. And Don says, “Fred, tell us a joke.” And Fred strums, the guitar and says, “What do you call a diet for illegal aliens?” And Don Nelson went, “We’ll be right back after this commercial”.
Then we get a phone call from Fred. Can you come and get me? They’ve blocked me out. Basically, the hook came out, when they came off commercial break, the stage manager pulled him off stage, threw him out the back door, into the parking lot, and locked the door. Fred wandered to a payphone to call for me to go and get it. So I picked him up and I’m like, “So you’re not gonna be on tomorrow?”
— Graham Gemoets
What can I say about Fred right in front of his mother?