University Relations and Communications

'Wise Guy' talks with students about healthy choices

September 16, 2009



Darla Tyler-McSherry, Student Health Services, 657-2564
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Free presentation set for Thursday at MSU Billings’ Petro Theatre


Mike DeStephano

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The dangers of substance abuse, unhealthy choices and HIV/AIDS as they relate to college students will be presented in a humorous yet brutally honest way Thursday when a noted comedian and educator comes to Montana State University Billings.

Mike DeStefano will speak on those subjects on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. at Petro Theatre in “Wise Words from a Wise Guy.” The free presentation is sponsored by MSU Billings HEROES (Health Educators Reaching Others and Encouraging Success); Associated Students of Montana State University Billings, Yellowjacket Athletics and Yellowstone County DUI Task Force. 


DeStefano says he knows that personal story of addiction and disease is no laughing matter. But, as a health educator, author and comedian, he knows that laughter and humor can help people understand difficult topics and help him talk openly about some of the darkest parts of his own life.


“By all rights, I should have been dead a long time ago,” Mike says. “Instead, I’m a comedian and educator!”


With a youth spent in an abusive family from the roughest part of New York, Mike turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain in his life. And the alcohol and drug abuse preceded unsafe sexual practices.


“I don’t know when, where, or how, but one day I woke up and I was addicted. I couldn’t even consider going to any kind of social event without alcohol. I became consumed with getting high,” he says.


After overcoming his own addictions and becoming a substance abuse counselor in New York, he met and married Fran, another recovering addict.  Tragically, Fran died of AIDS-related causes seven years later. His wife’s death forced him to find a unique strength and courage. He expanded his commitment to educating others about HIV and AIDS and the behaviors that often lead to infection.

“I made a deal with God,” DeStefano says. “If he keeps me healthy, I’ll keep trying to help people.”


Today, he lives in New York City. He is active on the professional comedy circuit in addition to making college lecture and entertainment appearances. He has presented his program “Wise Words from a Wise Guy” on campuses across the United States to help students understand the dangers of alcohol abuse, drug use, and unsafe sexual behavior.


He has recently performed on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and his comedy resume boasts Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham.”  He is a regular guest on the “Opie and Anthony” radio show, and he also recently landed a recurring role on A&E’s hit show, “Rescue Me.”


For more information on “Wise Words from a Wise Guy,” contact Darla-Tyler McSherry, health educator with the MSU Billings Student Health Service, at 657-2564.