image courtesy of the Candy family

Where Have all the John Candys Gone?

On the 25th anniversary of the comedian’s death, some thoughts on life, laughter, love, and the gaping hole left in our collective sense of humor.

Mike Sturm
4 min readMar 4, 2019

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On March 4th, 1994 — 25 years ago today— news began making the rounds that actor and comedian John Candy had died while filming the comedy Wagons East! in Durango, Mexico. He was 43 years old.

For most people my age (I’m 35) or younger, John Candy — if he is anything at all to them — is basically the older generation’s Chris Farley. He was one of a long line of Hollywood fat funnymen stretching back to Lou Costello and Oliver Hardy.

But he was more than that — much more.

Yes, John Candy was known as the big funny man. He did his share slapstick and one-liners. But his real appeal was in his down-to-earth, everyman quality — his innocent sincerity. In films like Uncle Buck, that quality poked right through the fourth wall and into the hearts of a generation of people — especially kids — watching a grown-up get down to their level and be somehow both hilariously buffoonish, and wisely cool at the same time.

John Candy made us laugh in a way that I don’t think any other comedian had done, or has since. He got us to laugh at him first, but then to laugh at ourselves, and then laugh with each other. The laughs were only at the expense of our inflated egos, and once they were effectively deflated, he went on with the show.

But beyond his ability to engage with us onscreen, it was off-screen where the real magic happened. You can search for stories online from people who worked with him on films, and find examples on each one of him being a generous, humble, and caring guy. One of my favorites is one that I can’t find an official account of, but I’ve seen in a few forums online.

As the story goes, Candy was at a bachelor party, which involved a stripper doing a show. The father of the groom was there, and wasn’t into that kind of thing, so he retreated to another room. At some point during the show, someone noticed that Candy wasn’t there watching with everyone else. Instead, he was found in the kitchen, sitting with the father of the groom, talking quietly and laughing with…

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Mike Sturm

Creator: https://TheTodaySystem.com — A simpler personal productivity system. Writing about productivity, self-improvement, business, and life.