I love stand up comedy. My first contact with it was Robin Willams’ special on Broadway. It was just one guy in front of a huge audience doing probably the single hardest thing to do. Make people laugh.
After Williams, it was Carlin, Pryor, Hicks. Then someone told me the guy I knew as the cop from Beverly Hills started as a stand-up comedian. So I went through Eddie Murphy’s specials. You could tell I was getting seriously interested when I started googling stand-up history and watching black and white clips online. More and more, this guy Don Rickles started to pop out. Everyone I liked mentioned him as a great influence and a kind man who would always help with advice. You know, like one of those bands every band you like listens and names as inspiration.
No surprise, Don Rickles was funny. He was also the first roastmaster. His comedy boiled down to insulting people and everybody loved it. Soon you figure out two things: his comedy humanized everyone and it always came from a good place. You can’t build a career in insulting everyone you meet if people don’t trust you. With Don Rickels, there was no doubt and with Charles Barkley, there is no doubt.
Chuck is one of the most loved people on TV because he always says what he thinks. In the world of PR, PC and social media, having no fear of being misunderstood sounds like paradise. The same way Don Rickles did, Chuck gets away with it because you can just tell he is a good guy, someone who always has the best of intentions.
After the Warriors defeated the Cavs, a small story popped out that Barkley was flying to Iowa to a funeral. Amidst one of the greatest 4-year Finals run in history, Charles went to pay his respects to a cat litter scientist. We didn’t get much detail, up until now.
Shirley Wang is a freelance journalist who shared the story with us. The scientist in question was her father, and she wrote a fantastic article about her father and Charles. I hope you will read it, you can find it here.
To cut a long story short, Chuck met her father, Mr. Lin Wang at a hotel in Sacramento. They had a few drinks and dinner, shared phone numbers and stayed in touch. The friendship grew despite everyone teasing Mr. Lin about it, and his kids begin skeptical about how friendly they indeed were. Unfortunately, Mr. Lin got sick but didn’t tell Charles. He didn’t want to bother him. Then Charles found out and showed his true self.
“I called him and got mad at him when I found out,” Barkley said. “I was, like, ‘Dude, we’re friends. You can tell me. You’re not bothering me. You know me well enough — if you were bothering me, I would tell you you were bothering me.’ “
Mr. Lin enjoyed his last days watching the Finals on TV, laughing at Charles and the crew on TNT. When he passed away, Shirley sent a text to everyone in his phone informing them of his passing. The funeral was in Iowa, a day after the NBA Finals.
Standing there to pay his respects, say goodbye to a friend and give love and support to his family was Charles Barkley. Chuck had a chance to speak of this on many occasions but never did. This wasn’t something to score points on.
If the NBA ever starts giving out an award for kindness, it should be called “The Charles Barkley award.”
Read the story, here’s the link again.