Humor may heal all wounds, but for comic Andy Gold, comedy literally saved his life. A Salt Lake City native who grew up Mormon but nonetheless loved to party in high school, he found himself taking “every drug I could get my hands on” before nearly dying of a heroin overdose eight years ago.
Forced to find new interests while living in a rehab center, Gold found himself drawn to stand-up comedy because Comedy Central was one of the few channels with clear reception. He watched it often throughout his first weeks of sobriety, and six months later took the stage at an open mic, admitting that he was a recovering heroin addict.
That daring paid off when he was asked to join the Addicts Comedy Tour with Mark Lundholm and Kurtis Matthews. The tour was founded by recovered addict Lundholm in the 1990s with the goal of bringing comedy to sober
audiences who still craved a fun night out. Gold will be headlining the Recovery Show, an offshoot of the tour featuring Bret Banta and Taquita Love, at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club for a special show on Thursday.
“I joked about my life and recovery the first time I went up, but didn’t even know this was a niche,” says Gold. “When the Addicts booked a show at Wiseguys, my home club, they asked if they had any comics in recovery and I was referred to the tour. These are actually my very favorite shows to do, because sober audiences like to party — but they’re also sober so they’re super attentive and responsive, more so than at regular shows.”
Gold recalls his upbringing as “all-American and wholesome,” and often helped out at the garden center his father ran. His family were working-class yet managed to live in an upper-class neighborhood, and funny stories about those divisions also make up a significant part of his act, in addition to riffs about dating while in recovery and his relationship with his father during and after addiction.
“I started trying painkillers from my school locker room, and they became my favorites,” Gold recalls. “There was Lortab, Percocet, Vicodin and eventually Oxycontin. Oxy was incredibly powerful and at the end of my senior year I was hooked on Oxy, a certified drug addict. I was doing anything I could — shoplifting, bad checks, you name it. I turned to heroin because I couldn’t afford the pills anymore. It’s a lot cheaper than Oxy, that’s for sure. Oxy was $60 a pill and I was doing 10 a day.”
Gold overdosed in October 2009 while attending his grandmother’s birthday party. His father had to kick open a door to find and revive him when he didn’t respond to the call for dinner, and it took a shot of the powerful anti-narcotic Naloxone to save his life.
“It was an incredibly intense experience, and I was in ICU for a week,” says Gold. “I’d been in trouble with the law, stolen from family and friends, was a
manipulator. It was the first time my dad said ‘I’m through being mad at you,’ and wanted to help right on the spot. I went from the hospital to the treatment center, and it was the last day I used.”
Gold has adapted well to the Addicts tours, but lets the audiences guide him when it comes to deciding what material is too dark. He still enjoys performing in regular comedy shows, but he regards the Addicts and Recovery tours as a life mission, noting that 64,000 Americans died from opioid abuse last year alone. Opioids also played a role in the Oct. 2 death of Tom Petty: His family recently confirmed that the musician’s death was caused by an accidental overdose of pain medication, including Fentanyl patches, administered for a hip fracture.
“A lot of times I leave drawing the line in the hands of the audience,” explains Gold. “When I try something new that might be too dark and too jarring, it helps that I’m talking about my own experiences rather than the hardships of others. Even so, there are times it’s too extreme for the audience. If it gets a groan or silence, I have to drop it. It’s got to be funny, or got to go.”
Catch the Recovery Show on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m. at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club, 1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 644-1500 or visit venturaharborcomedyclub.com.