Michael Lehrer, Second City Comedian Diagnosed With ALS, Dead at 44

Comedian Michael Lehrer, who performed with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, has died after a battle with ALS. He was 44. Lehrer was terminally ill and chose to end his life with the assistance of his doctor, his partner, and caregiver Colette Montague told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Lehrer died Tuesday in Portland, Oregon. The state's Death and Dignity Act allows patients with terminal illnesses to end their lives with medication under supervision from their doctors. The law has been in effect since 1997 and was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.

"Michael died with dignity on his own terms," Montague told the Sun-Times. "Medical aid in dying was the hardest decision he ever made." Lehrer is also survived by his son Colin Heaton; his brother Jon; his sister Jennifer Lehrer Pitt; his father Mike; and his stepmother Karen Smith-Lehrer. His family established a GoFundMe page to help Lehrer's son, and it has already surpassed its $18,000 goal.

Lehrer was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2017, reports PEOPLE. After taking a break from comedy to be treated in Buffalo, New York, he began performing again in 2019. He spent his final years doing what he loved, delivering monologues from his wheelchair that focused on his diagnosis. "I have ALS... One question: Where the f— did all that ice bucket money go?" he would joke.

Lehrer "had no regard for where the line is, in the most beautiful way – a total willingness to push buttons and push envelopes and follow the funny no matter what," his friend Seth Weitberg told the Sun-Times. "He was just a total fireball, and willing to do absolutely whatever for comedy. In the 20 years I've known him, he spent about half that time with his shirt off for a joke."

Weitberg went on to say that his friend was in good spirits in his last days. He met Lehrer in Portland and they discussed his decision to end his life. "He just realized that there wasn't going to be any kind of amendment to his situation that was going to make his life better," Weitberg said. "His spirits were good. He was, I think, really at peace with his decision." Lehrer also made arrangements to donate his brain to research, Montague said.

Lehrer was born in Anaheim, California, and grew up in Queens, New York. He also spent time in Wyoming. His long association with Chicago began when he attended Columbia College and worked on Second City revues. Some of his classmates included Saturday Night Live alum Aidy Bryant, Chicago Party Aunt's Chris Witaske, and Space Force star Tawny Newsome. He also performed with Second City touring companies and in Las Vegas. Lehrer also regularly performed on the Kill Tony podcast recorded in Austin, Texas, between 2019 and 2022.

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"The courage this man had to do stand up while battling a debilitating disease was insanely impressive, and though he struggled to get words out the man would KILL onstage," Joe Rogan, who often appears on Kill Tony, wrote of Lehrer. "He was a real legend, and I'm going to miss him very much."