We begin this Annual week in a state of mourning following the loss of our beloved Fidel Castro. We say our because following his retirement, Fidel, or Papa Cass as we called him, reached out to us at The Annual, hoping to find an ally in the states. At first we said no, it would be unpatriotic to work with the retired dictator, but eventually we came around. This was largely thanks to the term “retired” and promise of a great many Cuban Pesos (something we failed to realize was worthless in the United States thanks to the countless embargos placed on cuban goods).
After we formed a partnership, Papa Cass really became a Father Figure to many Annual Staffers. Unable to visit in person, we spoke with Papa Cass many times via Skype and Facetime. I personally learned how to grow and maintain a beard from the man, and on more than one occasion he assembled the whole staff and taught us how to survive an assassination attempt. These assassination survival lessons were often given while the 80 year old former-leader was out of breath and filled with adrenaline, we never knew why, but it always seemed like the attempts were fresh in his memory.
One day, little Johnny needed a ride to his Ballet lessons and Papa Cass graciously ordered a cab and spoke to Johnny on the phone the whole way to make sure he had arrived safely. On a cold night in September of 2013 a harsh storm rolled in, I was alone, but Papa Cass called to tell me a bedtime story until I was fast asleep.
Supposedly he sent us gifts but claims they were all intercepted by “those damn capitalists at the border.” He made us swear never to reveal our relationship, largely because having a second family of ragtag comedy writers would hurt his real family in Cuba. Often he would send us joke, bad jokes. They weren’t particularly blue or off-color. They were just… dad jokes. We never published them and he seemed to like that about us, we weren’t afraid to censor him just as he wasn’t afraid to censor his dissenters. We had “spunky attitudes” as Papa Cass would say.
Rest in peace Papa Cass, we are truly sorry we couldn’t give you the viking funeral you fantasized about in so many laggy skype calls.