Jordan Wieleba, a Denver comedian died yesterday. It was a freak thing. First she was seemingly fighting a cold and now she's gone. I don't really know how to write about this but writing has reliably been my best way to process things. We got booked on the same shows pretty regularly, and she was someone I could always go up to in a room where I felt nervous and didn't know who to talk to. The last time I talked to her I think was at this brunch thing a few comics put together at High Plains. It was brief because we were both hungover. Again, it was an event where I wasn't sure who I knew, and she was one of the people I could go say hi to while I got acclimated.
We never had a lot of deep conversations. It was shoot the shit maybe, and sometimes just silence. We could just hang out and not have to keep up appearances and jabber about shows or how we're doing our thing or whatever. We never had to be "on" and I appreciated that, that's rare in this community.
There's a lot of shit talk and competition in comedy but I never heard Jordan say anything bad about anyone, not even so much as agreeing or placating anyone who was venting about someone else. She was always encouraging, and gave her all for whatever show and however big a crowd. She had an insane work ethic that I always admired, I aspired to. It's cliche to only say nice things about someone who's passed but I genuinely liked her as a person, even though effectively we were just coworkers. We didn't really hang out outside of comedy, and most of the stories I knew about her were things she said on stage.
I don't know the rules for grieving over someone that you didn't know extremely well. It's like snowmelt. Some feelings dissolve quickly in light of your every day life. You still have to go to work, you still have to keep trying, meet with friends, keep up appearances, and all those things propel you, and in a small way that absolves you of having to be upset. There's a release to it in a surreal way, but it doesn't feel right, either, there's this "Wait, but hold on a second" in my head, because I don't want her to slip further out of my life.
Just like snow, the feeling lingers in the shadows, you don't really notice until you stumble across some untouched drift and realize how cold you are, and how much is left. You don't really know how long all of it's going to last, you just have to wait and see.
The weird thing about being knowing another performer is that when they go on stage, they open up in a way you don't even get from your closest friends most of the time. She was vulnerable and hilarious and biting and sympathetic, I'd never met someone with so much control over what they were doing on stage. In person her thoughts were her own little private universe. On stage they were the words of someone with self awareness and empathy that makes you laugh and hurt because you want to be a part of it and let them know somehow that you know what they mean.
I know she struggled with loneliness and suicidal thoughts, like most of us do. I remember the unimpressed look on her face and the hilarious shit she'd whisper in the back when we were watching some well-intended but doofy dude tried as he to defend transgender restrooms and completely missed the point. She didn't tolerate bullshit, good or bad.
I know that she had faced so much of the world and knew exactly what she wanted from it. I always imagined her moving to New York and starting a TV show for some reason. She was at the top of the list of people I could say, "yeah, I knew her, we did shows together" as some weird humble brag when they got famous. It wasn't even a far off question of "If", it seemed like she was just about there.
The only time I remember seeing her outside of comedy really was one night at Karaoke. I'd never seen her do it before; we were hanging out at a table in the back and she was nervous. I knew she'd been in a band before, and I guess I assumed she was nervous because she played an instrument and wasn't the singer. A friend of us went up and sang beautifully, then Jordan got called up. She took a deep breath, shook off her jitters, walked on stage and howled out one of the best karaoke punk songs I've ever heard, she sang and danced and it was like looking in on someone's personal heaven. I hate that I can't remember what she picked. I think it was Punk Rock Girl by Dead Milkmen.
I don't have any real closing thoughts for this. I wish it hadn't happened and it's so stupid and random. I wish I was still going to see her tonight at this show we were going to be on together. I wish I'd told her that she helped me feel okay and that I always looked forward to seeing her. I loved her sense of style and her perspective. I wish I didn't have to keep going right away, that I could freak out for a few days and just scream and instead I feel numb, crying in the corners when I have them. I just have to wait for the thaw I guess.
We lost someone really special. She did us a huge favor and recorded a special of a lot of her jokes last year. This is one of her comedy works sets from earlier this year:
Thank you for doing my shows back when I was completely clueless. Thanks for being so kind to me and making this scene seem less alienating. Thank you for showing me what it looked like to work hard at this. I wish you knew how much you were appreciated and how much you're already missed.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.