Sean Webb was a comedian fellow comic Jim Darrien enjoyed. They started doing stand-up gigs together in Greenville and in Webb's home base of Wilmington.
"He was one of those guys that, anytime I saw he was gonna be on the bill with me, I was happy because I knew he was gonna make me laugh when he was onstage and he was gonna be great to talk to offstage," Darrien says.
Last year, Webb was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. On April 27 of this year, Webb died at age 36 at UNC-CH Memorial Hospital. He left behind a wife of 13 years, Christy, and sons Nicholas, 11, and Christian, 10.
Although Webb, who was born in Miami Beach, worked in sales, at radio stations and for Verizon, his wife insists he wasn't a nine-to-five type of guy. And when he hit an open-mic show one night—and bombed horribly—he found his true calling.
"Basically, what he said was, 'Please, just give me five years and don't divorce me!'" Christy recalls. "And how am I supposed to stand in the way of someone who found their passion in life?" She starts laughing. "It was a pain in my butt, but I let him go for it."
For the past three years, Sean did stand-up in and around Wilmington, occasionally doing sets in the Triangle. He even appeared as an extra on episodes of HBO comedy Eastbound & Down.
"One of the things that struck me was he was effortless," Darrien says. "He was just telling stories about his kids, about his struggles to try and be a good dad, and he made it seem so easy. He was genuine. He was likable."
Christy agrees that Sean had a knack for easily getting laughs. "He's always been funny off-the-cuff, like without even trying," she says. "And he's always thought of things in a different light, and anything like what you and I and someone else would see as ordinary, he would find ways to play off of it and his imagination would go and just turn it into something totally different."
According to Christy, Sean suffered a lot of hardships before developing cancer. His parents divorced when he was 8. When Sean was 15, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Sean took care of him. He also took care of his brother and sister, who are both autistic. He and Christy had financial difficulties, losing their house at one point. "It's been a struggle," she says, "but he always kept a positive attitude."
For a guy with no problem dipping into gallows humor ("How closely do you think Michael Jackson resembles his Thriller video right now?" was a closer of his), making fun of his bout with cancer during his sets was only natural.
"The thing is, he was absolutely able to talk about it and get laughs, and that was one of the things that was most impressive," Darrien says. "[He was] Just being honest about it and truthful, but not in a way that's too dark that it turns off an audience."
Sean's friends are supporting his family. In November, Wilmington comic Lew Morgante launched a GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $20,000 needed for Sean's medical bills. (So far, the campaign has raised half of that. Christy says most of his medical bills have been taken care of.) Morgante will also be one of the six Wilmington comics performing at a benefit show next Wednesday night at Goodnights. All the ticket proceeds will go to the family.
Darrien, who organized the event and will serve as host, sees this not just as a benefit but a tribute to a comic who was that rarity in the stand-up world: a funny guy who was also a generous human being.
"He was a guy that wanted not just for himself to be successful, but for all of his friends to be successful," he says. "Comedians, at times, can be self-centered, narcissistic. He was not one of those guys."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Comedy for a cause."