I’ve known Urban Carmichael for almost two decades. I didn’t know him well, but well enough to stop and talk with him and share stories and jokes. I considered him a friend, as did, I assume, a whole host of people in the PEI arts community. Yesterday, our friend Urban died after a long battle with cancer.
One of my earliest memories of Urban was when we were both in a play that Dave Moses wrote, The Kelly Murder. An historical drama based on the murder of a black man in Charlottetown. It was a large-cast affair, and both Urban and I had small parts. Urban’s character was one of the first to appear on stage, and in the blackout of that first performance, as we all waited for the show to start, Urban uttered a noise that could be heard by all. I believe it was “rabbit” that he said, but that was up for debate. To this day, I don’t know if Urban’s utterance was intentional, or if it came from nerves. For many of us in the nervous cast, his Rabbit cut through our nerves, made us laugh and allowed us to relax a bit.
From that point on, whenever Urban would see me, his “Hi” to me would invariably be: “G’day, Rabbit!” and I’d repeat it back to him.
I was fortunate enough to see Urban perform a couple of weekends ago at Madly Off In All Directions, and spend some time with him backstage. I was very much impressed with the quality of his humour that night. While his presentation was a bit off (not much), due, no doubt, to his frail state of health, the material was sharp and funny and poignant and personal. And current. As a writer of comedy myself, I envied Urban’s ability to write jokes.
A couple of years ago, I had created a character, Moe Gorman, who is an honest but untalented local singer/songwriter. Moe’s voice kind of emulates Urban’s unique, high-pitched lilt. I was always a bit worried that because Moe’s voice was Urban-esque, that people would think that I was making fun of Urban and commenting negatively on what I thought of his talents. Of course, I wasn’t.
I don’t think Urban ever saw me perform as Moe, but I would have liked him to see it. I think he would have appreciated Moe.
Next time I perform as Moe, I’ll be dedicating it to you Urban. I am proud to have called you a friend.