After spending much of his life rehabbing from drugs, a Throggs Neck comedian passed away only months after his appearance on a hit television show.
Michael DeStefano, 44, who grew-up on Vincent Avenue, died on Sunday, March 6 from a heart attack after a life filled with trouble, drug abuse and laughter.
Back in July 2010, DeStefano whose well-known comedy acts consisted of his own life experiences, poking fun at his habitual heroin use and rehab stints, appeared on the NBC comedy competition show “Last Comic Standing,” finishing in fourth place.
DeStefano, who was a rebellious child growing up in Throggs Neck, graduated from St. Frances de Chantal and was thrown out of St. Raymond’s High School during his freshman year. His experimenting with heroin and other drugs began shortly after at the young age of 15.
After several stints in rehab and relapses into heroin, DeStefano spent his last rehab session in Florida and chose to continue living there after he was released. While working as a drug counselor, he accidentally began his career as a comedian at the age of 31 after telling some jokes about drug use to an audience at a convention in Atlanta.
“The first joke I told got huge laughs,” said Destefano in a July 2010 interview with the Bronx Times Reporter. “I was so impressed with myself, I knew I could do it for a job.”
It wasn’t long before DeStefano began pursuing a career in stand-up comedy and in the years to come, he was featured on popular comedy shows such as the ‘Opie and Anthony Show,’ ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien,’ “Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham,” an appearance on FX’s firefighter comedy-drama ‘Rescue Me,’ and most recently NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”
Although family members did not release specific information about DeStefano’s death, his brother, Joe DeStefano, released a statement in memory of his brother.
“Mike was loved by so many people and I just want to say thank you to all of you,” he said. “Mike went out on top! He was a big winner! Thank you all for making that possible and for all your support.”
Citing Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and George Carlin as his main comedy influences, DeStefano had become a regular in New York City comedy clubs and was scheduled to perform in Texas and Florida during the last three weeks of March.
DeStefano’s next performance was set for Wednesday, March 9 at the Barrow Street Theatre in Manhattan, a one-night show called ‘A Cherry Tree in the Bronx,” a comedic version of his tales of growing up in the borough through drug addiction, survival and heartbreak.
His wake was on Wednesday, March 9 and Thursday, March 10 at Schuyler Hill Funeral home on 3535 E. Tremont Avenue and his funeral Mass is scheduled for St. Benedict’s Church on Friday, March 11, with internment in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Yonkers.