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Photo by Jon Yehling

Orlando creative community shocked by deaths of comedian Matt Gersting and artist Morgan Steele 

Though the world is still mourning the loss of musical icon Prince at age 57, hearts were broken here in Orlando due to the deaths of two local icons: Matt Gersting and Morgan Steele.

Gersting, who first rose to prominence as a musician – most notably in the Sugar Oaks and an early incarnation of the New Lows – before pursuing stand-up comedy, passed away at his College Park home on Wednesday, April 20.

Gersting was responsible for setting up the Shit Sandwich comedy showcase at the Bull & Bush, a move which was instrumental to the comedy renaissance the city has experienced over the past few years. He was also one of the founding organizers of the Orlando Indie Comedy Fest, which brought up-and-coming standups from all over the country to Orlando and put our comedy scene on the map. Gersting was known for his love of pinball and '90s alt-rock, never missing an opportunity to instigate a singalong with friends and strangers or to leave his name on the high score board of many a local pinball machine. Will's Pub is holding an informal memorial service this Saturday, April 30, from 2-8 p.m.

Artist Morgan Steele was known for his primitive visionary art, particularly his recurring original character "Rativa," a spiritual inversion of Mickey Mouse. Significant examples of his work can be found gracing the walls of the restrooms at Austin's Coffee in Winter Park, as well as the covers of Orlando Weekly's "Best of Orlando 2008" and "You're So Orlando" issues.

One of his supporters, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, owns several of his works and called him a hilarious, prolific artist who would paint on anything and whose outfits made him the "local Hunter S. Thompson."

"It's been a horrible time for music and art in 2016," says Sheehan. "It's a shame. Morgan was a good guy. ... He really will be missed. His death leaves a hole." Steele died of injuries sustained in a car accident the night of Saturday, April 23.


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