Greg Fitzsimmons is a solid, tight comedy writer. That talent won him four Daytime Emmys as part of the Ellen DeGeneres Show staff, made his book Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption From An Irish Mailbox a worthy read, and helps make him a stand-out onstage. He’s a veteran with more than 20 years of experience as a comic, which makes it a happy occasion to see he’s finally getting his first one-hour special, called Life on Stage, on Comedy Central. That’s the resume Fitzsimmons brings, which means it’s not surprising that Life is filled with clever material, but disappointing when he indulges in a few tired premises.
He is engaging from the start, establishing a philosophy that life is for living. Fitzsimmons believes young people don’t take advantage of their youth these days. “You’re conservative; you’re guarded,” he says. “You don’t do coke.” He then urges a young woman in the front row to try cocaine: “Do it! Not a lot. Don’t get hooked. You don’t have the money to get hooked; you’re poor.”
Enjoy being young, because you won’t be beautiful forever. You won’t be able to indulge yourself later on. Your first day is your best day, and it’s all downhill from there. That’s the message from Fitzsimmons’s voice of authority, someone who previously let his friends convince him to quit drinking. It was, he says, a mistake. He could handle his drinking; it was his friends who had the problem. Sure, he has kids now, and he should probably be saving for college, but if the kids are smart enough, they’ll get scholarships. If not, they shouldn’t go to college. In his ideal life, Fitzsimmons would spend his last days running down the street drunk and in debt, trailed by an army of his illegitimate children, buying them all cake on credit.
The friction with that philosophy comes when Fitzsimmons reveals that he exercises (even though it hurts), he bought a Prius to celebrate his midlife crisis, and he had beautiful hair just long enough to get his wife to marry him before it fell out. He’s smart to begin Life with a laissez-faire attitude, because it provides context to some of the more everyday middle-aged complaints that follow.
The special is peppered with a few standard bits any comedian could have written, and that’s where Fitzsimmons loses momentum. Men will do anything for oral sex. Women look beautiful when they masturbate; men don’t. White guys can’t use certain racially-charged words. Fitzsimmons uses “colored” and “negro” as his examples. He can’t say those words, but he can write checks to the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund. That’s been pointed out by comedians (and civilians) in the past, and Fitzsimmons doesn’t put a new spin on it. It seems highly unlikely he was ever chastised for using those words in his day-to-day speech. But these speed bumps are the exception to the rule. Fitzsimmons is smarter than that material, and for most of Life, he shows it.