Comedian Ralphie May died Friday at age 45, TMZ was first to report. HuffPost confirmed the death with May’s publicist.
His publicist, Stacey Pokluda, told HuffPost that May had been battling pneumonia and cancelled a handful of performance dates over the last month in an effort to recover. He died after a cardiac arrest.
“Earlier this morning at a private residence in Las Vegas, his body was discovered,” Pokluda said in a statement. “Two days ago he won the Casino Comedian of the Year at the Global Gaming Expo and had performances throughout the remainder of 2017 as part of his residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas.”
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee ― but raised in Arkansas ― May’s first break came at age 17, when he won a contest to open for comedian Sam Kinison, his idol. Kinison encouraged May to move to Houston and work on his comedy there. May took the suggestion, eventually graduating from a performing arts high school in the area.
He then moved to Los Angeles, honing his craft until his big break, on the first season of the NBC comedy reality show.
In 2005, May married fellow comedian Lahna Turner, but the couple filed for divorced in 2015. They share two children.
Many of May’s comic contemporaries have expressed their grief on Twitter:
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated May and Turner were divorced. While the divorce proceedings began in 2015, they had not been finalized.