Ardie Fuqua is a terrific comedian and a friend of mine and many. Last Saturday, June 7 at 1 a.m. he was in a limo on the New Jersey Turnpike with Tracy Morgan and others coming back from a gig in Dover, Delaware. A Walmart truck struck the limo, killing comedian James McNair. Tracy Morgan was severely hurt and is recovering. The condition of Ardie is unclear. Ardie is a fixture in the NYC comedy circuit but also a regular in New York nightlife. He was always good for a laugh. Hellos were replaced with “did you hear the one about the…”. Even if the joke was awful, which was often the case, he would sell it with wide eyes and a wide smile and you would laugh at that, if not the punch line.
Ardie’s situation is no joke and we don’t know the punch line. We wait to hear, long to hear, even a bad joke soon. He has had a tough ride even before the Turnpike, and his recent success was a result of picking up the pieces once again.
My love and prayers go out for Ardie Fuqua and his family. I asked one of Ardie’s many friends, Tiarra Mukherjee to tell us more.
“I met Ardie in 1992 or so through a mutual friend. He was just starting out at the Comedy Cellar then, and we’d get giant smiles our way when he’d see us sitting in his audience. I think he was a bit nervous back then, not like now–the mayor of that place that he is. The ritual back then was always Olive Tree Café upstairs afterwards for a bite and drinks, and he always treated. Ardie was always so grateful and still is. (As Tracy Morgan’s opening act for almost two years now, Ardie was overjoyed that Morgan took him to Australia last year.) Sometime in ‘96 or ‘97, Ardie met up with me and a crew of my girls and hit if off with a friend named Gina. Quickly, they went into serious relationship mode, so we were lucky to have Ardie around more often. There was certainly a lot of fire thrown back and forth in that relationship, but even during their crazy fights, he’d somehow diffuse things with a joke. It was obvious then that he was going to make it big one day as a comedian–he was funny as hell and embodied the words of screenwriter Robert McKee: “the comic mind is idealistic, intelligent, and angry.”
And if comedy is, in fact, the “angry art,” Ardie certainly has the material. He overcame a lot over the years–struggle after struggle: issues with alcohol and drugs, banned from seeing his young kids as much as he wanted to, heartbreaks with women, persevering in the comedy world, where you work so hard and make so little, year after year. But he always fought hard, and kept moving. Because despite the dramas, Ardie stayed strong and let his gift of humor take the front seat. There is much to be said for Ardie’s growth from one year to the next.
After quite some time, Ardie and I reconnected when I produced a few year-end clip shows for BET and we hired Ardie as talent. It was so great seeing him again, still the same humble, hilarious guy. A few years later, we reconnected on a deeper level, when he faced yet another enormous struggle–the loss of his 20-year-old son in 2012. His grief was overwhelming and it touched me very deeply, having lost my baby brother, who was my best friend and like my son at the same time. Ardie and I started talking regularly via Facebook, text, phone. I hope I brought him some comfort because he certainly did for me, just by understanding how incomprehensible the world can be. I was going to have him and my mom meet for lunch to talk about the sons they lost, but even though he was in terrible shape, Ardie didn’t want to bother my mother or risk making her more upset. So we talked. And Ardie fought hard. He’d ride his bike out to his son’s grave often, spent a lot of time with his daughter, his nephew and his son’s friends; went to a support group for parents and siblings and invited me along. And he kept performing right through it, putting smiles on everyone else’s faces, while he was crying inside.
There’s a book Ardie and I talked about. It’s meant to be inspirational in many ways and people were telling him to read it. I looked it up and though it’s not for me, I thought it might help Ardie, who was suffering so deeply, and expressing it so fearlessly via social media and to his friends. The book was tricky to find, but eventually I came across it and got it for him. But it’s still sitting on my windowsill. I told him I’d come by the Comedy Cellar one night when he wasn’t on the road to hang out and planned to give it to him then. And I’ve been meaning to. But as I sit here, without much news of how he’s doing, except that he’s in very bad shape, I fear that I took too long. I refuse to believe that, however. Ardie, you’ve gone through too much for too long and you’ve come too far, my friend. So, it’s still here on my windowsill waiting for you to read it, and I can’t wait to give it to you.”