Ron Shock was pure. His comedy was the best kind: something he believed in to his core, something from his soul, something honest. It was the kind of comedy that Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor all spun in their own way. Like them, Schock, 69, has passed on.
Shock was a storyteller — a master. His best bits, the ones he was most proud of could last close to 20 minutes. Watch how he weaves through the story. His long-form takes on stories he read in the newspaper are just damn brilliant. He was precise, commanding, energetic and joyous. His comedy sits somewhere between prize fighter and a jazz musician.
This was supposed to be an article updating everyone on the condition of Ron Shock. But the cancer spread through his body faster than my fingers hit the keyboard. For that, I’m sorry, Ron. Shock was never big into merchandise beyond his albums and specials, but just before he received the news that he had urethral cancer, Shock put out a T-shirt based on one of his bits. The back of it reads, “Have a drink … Get stoned … F**k a stranger … Eat a Twinkie … You’re going to die anyway.”
I was lucky enough to spend some hours with Ron and his wife Rhonda over the final months. He regaled me with increasingly fascinating stories. Of his time at seminary he said, “I studied to study for the priesthood. I’ve been in a maximum-security penitentiary, I’ve been in Orleans Parish prison, I’ve been on chain gangs. Subiaco monastery was the most brutal and depraved place I’ve ever been.”
His time in prison was due to his short-lived career as a thief, ranging from cars to jewels. Like all of his tales, his entryway into the world of jewel-heisting was riveting, starting after he was sent to the military as punishment instead of jail. “The Army took a known burglar and they decided the best thing to do was teach me explosives. So one thing leads to another, you know, I get out of the Army I know how to circumvent a burglar alarm system and I know how to blow shit up. Well, what are you going to do with that, you know? I became a safecracker.”
Such was the pleasure of listening to Shock. And nobody enjoyed listening more than Rhonda, his wife of the last decade. Of all the show biz spouses I’ve met, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who was as doting and adoring as Rhonda was of Ron. On Facebook today, she posted the following , “RIP my sweet, sweet baby. I was lucky to know you. I was blessed to have shared ten minutes of your life, much less ten years.”
For a man who started in comedy so late, I defy you to find somewhere more accomplished than Shock was. He was just shy of 40 when he hit the stage for the first time in the early 1980s.
Within a few years, he was headlining all over Texas, then nationally, in the time of the comedy club boom.
And then came the Texas Outlaw Comics that he co-founded with Steve Epstein, Riley Barber, Jimmy Pineapple, Andy Huggins and Bill Hicks. Every show, the Outlaws would tackle a different
topic. Shock mentioned over and again that their best show was their initial one, “The Texas Outlaws Get Religion.” This was the time of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, of Jimmy Swaggert and a number of other sleazy Southern preachers. This was a topic tailor made for Shock. “Every day they brought new jokes for us. It was just beautiful they were so slimy, so bad.”
More than 25 years later, The Texas Outlaws still hold a sacred place in comedy. Perhaps their legend outlived the execution of the actual shows, but to this day, they have earned their place in comedy history.
Shock went on to be the last new comic ever featured on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He had high profile gigs like opening for Ringo Starr at Caesars Palace. (Where
Ringo would do Shock’s bits for him.) He had his own Showtime Special, Bad Gig Blues. He continued headlining all over the country right up until the cancer took it out of him. From Rhonda Shock’s Facebook post today:
“What he wanted his fans to know was that he loved you … and you kept him going these past five months. The thought that he was not going to ever be able to step on a stage again and feel
your love and share his soul and heart with you all is, I think what broke his heart in the end.”
His last shows took place fittingly enough in Texas. A film crew recorded it along with a number of interviews that will all be put together for a concert/documentary film. His art will live on and if you knew Ron Shock, you knew there was nothing more important to him than his art.
“This is the only thing. Comedy is the only thing I’ve ever done in my life that I didn’t do for the money. I didn’t do it for fame or fortune. I did it for the art and because of the style of comedy I do I knew deep down in my heart of hearts that I was never going to be a big TV star, because it’s too long, but it is the style of comedy that I was made to do and I’d rather do it and be poor and unknown but do it well. This is who I am, this is what I do and most of my stories, my long stories are true. I’ve lived this life and you can’t live a life like I’ve lived without collecting some stories in there.”