I suppose I should start by telling you that my name is Vilmos, just like it says on the banner above these words.
You're also wondering, what is my connection to Caleb? Well that's a little complicated. It's a little of everything; friend, antagonist, big brother, and comedy mentor. I am also the one that set up Caleb's web site; I created ALL the content on the site with the exception of Mike West's story; he wrote that himself. No one asked or told me to do it, I did it on my own because it was the only thing I could do to help Caleb right now. I'm also the one responsible for getting you here because I'm the one behind the Internet campaign to share Caleb's story.
So you'd think I was a close family friend, that I know Caleb's parents, and have been to Caleb's family home, but I don’t really know Caleb’s family, nor have I ever been to their home. My relationship with the Medley family is only with Caleb. With the exception of Katie, his family knows who I am but I'm sure they have no idea how close my relationship with Caleb is.
Which makes this situation even more difficult for me because I'm shut out of all this. I'm a thousand miles away and unable to get there. They are in their own bubble right now and rightfully so. I understand all that but just as they have grief over this, so do I. The way I get past my grief is to talk about things. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not getting much love from the Medley camp. I really have no one to talk with about this. I live in a little bit of a bubble myself. I need to talk to someone about this, so I guess it’s going to be you. If you're wondering why I am doing so in such a public environment it's a pretty simple answer, it's what I do. I'm a comic, I share my life with people every time I get on stage. This is what I am comfortable with.
So let's get to the story.....
Caleb grew up in the town I lived in; Florence, Colorado. He moved there from somewhere else (Texas I think) when he was in Elementary School, so he went to school with my kids. I owned the only video store in town, so he rented movies from me.
My first direct interaction with Caleb would have been when he was in the 8th grade. Once a year his school had a career day. People came in and spoke to the 8th graders about their careers, why they choose them, and what it was like to do what they do. Since I was the only "professional" entertainer in town I was assigned the task of talking about what it took to be in that world. My strategy was a simple one; talk them out of it, or at least, make sure that they had a backup plan. The business of being a professional entertainer is a difficult one, and a person’s chances of "making it" are about the same as playing first base for the New York Yankees. Not only do you need the skill, you need a little luck and you need to be in the right places at the right times.
So every year I would take the 30 minutes allotted to me and spend 20 of them talking about college and getting an education. I told them to learn a trade, I told them to educate themselves so that if they didn't make it they would have some way to support themselves. I would later come to find out that every year my career day presentation was the one that was looked forward to the most.
One person who was especially looking forward to my presentation was Young Caleb Medley. That's what I called him back then and when I think of him, that is what pops into my head. I like the way it sounds and I really don't know why, I just do. Caleb is a very creative person and comedy had interested him, so when I did my presentation for his class he ignored my first 20 minutes and drilled in on the final 10. He would later tell me it was that day that he decided he wanted to be a comedian. So in a very small way, I suppose I am partially responsible for him and Katie being in that theater at Midnight on Friday July 20, 2012. You'll figure out why as I go along.
I'm sure over the next several years Caleb and I had interactions from time to time, but nothing I really remember. My friendship and admiration for who he is really came into focus for me when I saw him appear at the talent show his senior year of high school. One of my kids was in the show so I was there to support her. Caleb and his friend Thomas were the MCs of the event and not allowed to participate in the contest. In truth, it probably was for the best, as it would not have been a fair fight. They did a fantastic job. They were funny in a unique way and as MCs they were able to get more stage time. They were really allowed to shine. I was impressed.
At the time I owned a comedy club in Denver and the school had asked me to produce a comedy show for a concert series they were doing in the new high schools fine arts center. I had already booked all the acts but I wanted to reward Caleb (and Thomas) for their efforts. So I offered them a 5 minute slot in the show which they eagerly accepted.
They did very well in that show and I am proud to say that I was the first person to ever pay Caleb for performing as a comedian. It was somewhere during this event that Caleb told me he had decided to become a stand up comic. From that point on, Caleb and I grew closer as friends and that's when I became his comedy mentor. I encouraged, supported, and gave him advice when I could. I am also proud to say that I have been a part of some of Caleb's important comedy milestones.
I do not tell you this to brag, I tell you this because I was able to make opportunities for him to allow him to do something he really wanted to do. I was able to support him in getting a little closer to his dream.
I gave him his first stage time in a comedy club. It was in the fall of 2008 when I took him up to Wits End Comedy Club in Denver to do a 7 minute slot on the show. The headliner that night was a great comic and friend, Dennis Blair. Dennis has his place in comedy history; he was George Carlin's opening act for 20 years. He had also opened for other comedy greats like Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield and Jackie Mason. After the show Caleb, Dennis, and I went to the "Comedy Condo" which is the generic term used for wherever the comedy club chooses to put the comics up in while they appear at the club. Dennis and I then did what comics do after a show. We started talking; we talked about comedy and shared stories with each other. Caleb sat listening intently as Dennis talked about the people he knew; people like Carlin, Dangerfield, and Rivers. I talked about the people I knew; who were all a lot less famous. You'd have to ask Caleb, but it was that night that I believe Caleb really came to understand what it meant to be a comedian. To me, it was a reminder of why I was one.
What followed was Caleb struggling to find time to become a comic, but he had responsibilities. He got married to Katie and he needed to earn a living. He worked at the local grocery store and the hours did not lend themselves well to getting on stage. Neither did the town of Florence Colorado. It's not a bad place, there's just no place to do comedy. Even so, Caleb never lost touch with his dream and took every opportunity he could to pursue it.
I helped wherever I could. I kept him in touch with the world of comedy by sharing my stories with him and encouraging him to stick with it. I was even able to get him out on his first road trip. We had a great time and were able to chronicle it all. He in his web series called "Caleb Saves the Internet"; I did so with him in my Podcast called The Green Room. Both can be found on the Support Caleb page. I think this road trip really brought Caleb to a point where he made the decision to move to Denver and really work at it. It worked out well for Katie too; she wanted to get into veterinary medicine and Denver had a great school that she could attend. Of course life is never without irony, at the school Katie was going to attend one of her teachers would be Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. Kevin is not only a great vet, he's also a great comedian. The irony is that Kevin was the headliner that was on that first show that Caleb ever was paid for.
It took Caleb and Katie some time but they finally made it to Denver. They got a small apartment in Aurora. Katie was able to transfer from the WalMart store she worked at in Canon City; Caleb had to find a job.
Caleb found work right away with WalMart, but it was the WalMart in Evergreen, Colorado. Evergreen is a mountain community west of Denver. Aurora is on the southeast side of Denver; which gave Caleb a long drive back and forth to work through the mountains each and every day. Plus the work was at night and was not conducive to a comedy career, but Caleb needed to make a living first.
So while Caleb worked at WalMart he continued to look for another job. Something a little closer to home with hours that would be more conducive to comedy. He got on with a Target in Aurora. It was closer to home and the hours were a little better. He had to take a pay cut, but by the time you considered the money he saved on gas, the amount he was able to keep was nearly the same.
Things were looking up! Caleb was getting a little stage time here and there and he had a little extra time on his hands; apparently a little too much. Soon Katie was pregnant; and while it wasn't a perfect time for them they knew they were going to have children eventually. They adjusted their plans to make room for a new addition to their family.
Caleb continued to feel the need to do comedy and continued to look for ways to fit it into his life. He managed to get hired on with WalMart again, this time close to home and with hours that would allow him to really get into comedy. Katie's health was good and everything was looking up. That's what makes Caleb's story so tragic; he was on his way. He had a good job, he had a son coming, he had a wife that loved him and he was doing comedy; all the things he wanted to do. His life was moving in just the direction he wanted; he had everything to look forward to.
This is being written just 5 days after he was shot. It seems that he is going to survive this. No one knows how he will be affected by this; no one will ever find out what could have been.
I can tell you one thing for certain, Caleb is an optimist. No matter how this turns out he will persevere. He will eventually become the comedian he is destined to be. I believe that because I believe in him.
He was perfectly willing to make this journey of his own. I know him well enough to know that he would never ask for your help, but I have no problem doing so.
Your help can come in many forms. It could be a kind word; it could be a prayer; it could be sending good vibes or white light, or it could be a couple of dollars. You can do any or all of those things at the link on this page. The most important thing you can do is to get Caleb’s story out there. Please share this with your friends and encourage them to do what I am asking you to do, whatever you can.
Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.