Hail to the King
So far, the life of T. Sean Shannon, a big-shot writing supervisor for Saturday Night Live, has read much like a movie script of fellow SNL-er Adam Sandler: Good-natured funny guy leaves small town, conquers the big city and gets wildly successful -- all while keeping his integrity and, more important, his goofiness.
Like Sandler in Mr. Deeds, Shannon left his small town -- in this case, Pasadena, Texas -- and took New York City by storm. Like Sandler in Billy Madison, the guy without the fancy degree bested the Ivy Leaguers (SNL is full of 'em). Seriously, where else but in a Sandler flick would a kid from southeast Houston end up writing for Quincy Jones, In Living Color, John Leguizamo, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and SNL?
"It's crazy, isn't it?" Shannon chuckles from his NBC office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. The man who created SNL characters such as Jimmy Fallon's "Nick Burns: Your Company Computer Guy" (which may be the best office IT-dork spoof ever) has even penned three books: Bum Love, Cough It Up and a yet-to-be-named third, whose cover will depict a clown on a commode. The books feature cartoons of grumpy clowns and bears, which have become a sort of obsession of Shannon's; he's even producing a short film series called Bear City.
And to add to the perfectly scripted life, Shannon, who splits time between NYC and Los Angeles, returns to Houston every year to host the "Shannon Brothers Family Christmas." The comedy show at the Laff Stop usually features his brothers Pat, John and Charlie (who was most recently a writer for MTV's Pimp My Ride and once was named the "King of Austin Comedy").
But the greatest comedic scripts are often tinged with tragedy. In December of last year, Charlie, 44, died suddenly from complications from a severe flu. Abruptly, Shannon was without his mentor and lifelong comedy partner. "He was just an amazing stand-up, just so charming on stage," says Shannon reverently. So what was an annual reunion gig for the Brothers Shannon will now be a tribute show -- albeit a funny one -- as it falls on the rather somber anniversary of Charlie's death.
"But what the hell," says Shannon. "You gotta do some kind of memorial." T. Sean, Pat and John's show will comprise videos of Charlie's stand-up spots and Shannon Brothers holiday bits, including the one about the Little Drummer Boy (played by T. Sean) and his brother Shecky (played by Charlie), a horrible comedian whose jokes are punctuated by the Little Drummer's rim shots.
Shannon may even include some "bad taste" jokes involving his brother. "But maybe not," he chuckles. "I mean, my parents will be in the audience."
Fair enough, but don't look for a sappy, mushy show. After all, the golden rule of guy humor states that "someone's gotta get hurt," according to Shannon. "If a guy slips and falls on a pillow, that's not very funny," he explains in a scholarly tone. "But if the guy breaks his spine, well, now that's pretty damn funny. Then people are laughing." Somewhere in Comedy Heaven, the King of Austin Comedy will be laughing, too.
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