Mitch Hedberg

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Mitch Hedberg
Mitch Hedberg.PNG
Hedberg during his Comedy Central Presents special in 1999
Birth name Mitchell Lee Hedberg
Born (1968-02-24)February 24, 1968
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died March 29, 2005(2005-03-29) (aged 37)
Livingston, New Jersey, U.S.[1]
Medium Stand-up, film
Nationality American
Years active 1989–2005
Genres Observational comedy, surreal humor, word play, Non sequitur, One-liner
Subject(s) Recreational drug use, everyday life, American culture, self-deprecation, drinking culture, Food
Influences Emo Philips, Steven Wright, Jerry Seinfeld, Cheech and Chong, Bobcat Goldthwait
Influenced Dale Amler, Jon Lajoie, Ryan Maglunob, Mike Birbiglia, Demetri Martin, Aziz Ansari, Jake Hurwitz, Hannibal Buress
Spouse Lynn Shawcroft (1999–2005; his own death)
Notable works and roles Strategic Grill Locations
Mitch All Together
Do You Believe in Gosh?
Website www.mitchhedberg.net

Mitchell Lee "Mitch" Hedberg (February 24, 1968 – March 29, 2005)[2] was an American stand-up comedian known for his surreal humor and unconventional comedic delivery. His comedy typically featured short, sometimes one-line jokes[3] mixed with absurd elements and non sequiturs.[4]

Hedberg's comedy and onstage persona gained him a cult following,[5] with audience members sometimes shouting out the punchlines to his jokes before he could finish them.[6]

Early life[edit]

Mitch Hedberg was born February 24, 1968, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the son of Mary (née Schimscha) and Arne Hedberg.[7][8] He had Swedish ancestry.[citation needed] Hedberg graduated from Harding High School in Saint Paul.

Career[edit]

Hedberg began his standup career in Florida, and after a period of honing his skills, he moved to Seattle and began to tour. He soon appeared on MTV's Comikaze, followed by a 1996 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman that brought him his big break. He won the 1997 grand prize at the Seattle Comedy Competition. The next year he appeared in an episode of Fox's series That '70s Show.

In 1999 he completed his own independent feature film, Los Enchiladas!, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. He recorded three comedy CDs: Strategic Grill Locations, Mitch All Together, and Do You Believe in Gosh?, the last released posthumously. He also appeared at the Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival in 1998 and 2001.

Concurrent with his rising fame in the entertainment industry, Hedberg appeared on Letterman nine more times, signed a half-million dollar deal with Fox for a television sitcom, and was dubbed "the next Seinfeld" by Time Magazine.[9] George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Artie Lange, Doug Stanhope, Mike Birbiglia and Lewis Black were reportedly among his comedian fans.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Hedberg was married to Canadian comedian Lynn Shawcroft from 1999 until his death in 2005.[2][11]

Hedberg was known to be a drug user, mentioning it in some of his jokes (e.g., "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too"). In May 2003 he was arrested in Austin, Texas, for heroin possession.[1]

Death[edit]

On March 29, 2005, Hedberg was found dead in a hotel room in Livingston, New Jersey.[12] He was 37 years old. Hedberg was born with a heart defect for which he received extensive treatment as a child.[1][13] It was initially speculated that this condition may have played a part in his death. The New Jersey medical examiner's office reported "multiple drug toxicity" in the form of cocaine and heroin as the official cause of death.[1]

Hedberg's death was formally announced on April 1, 2005, leading many to believe it was an April Fools joke, only to find out later that it was not. His funeral was held at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Church in Minnesota.[14]

Hedberg was interviewed by Jonathan Davis in the December 2001 issue of Penthouse. In the interview, published three years before his death, he was asked "If you could choose, how would you end your life?" His response: "First, I'd want to get famous, and then I'd overdose. If I overdosed at this stage in my career, I would be lucky if it made the back pages."

A few months before his death, on October 12, 2004, Hedberg sat in on the news with Robin Quivers on The Howard Stern Show. He appeared on the show again on March 17, 2005, just 12 days before his death, and briefly discussed his drug use, saying, "Well, you know, I got the drugs under control now." Stern responded, "Do you? You know how to take them responsibly?" Hedberg replied, "Yeah, you know, just for the creative side of it."

Style[edit]

Hedberg's standup comedy was distinguished by the unique manner of speech he adopted later in his career, his abrupt delivery, and his unusual stage presence. His material depended heavily on wordplay, non sequiturs, paraprosdokians, and object observations. His act usually consisted equally of compact one- or two-liners (like Steven Wright's) and longer routines, often with each line as a punchline. Many of his jokes were inspired by everyday thoughts or situations.

Possibly because he suffered from stage fright, Hedberg often performed in sunglasses, with his head down and his hair in his face or his eyes closed. He often stood upstage or with his back to the audience, and constantly moved in place. Sometimes he shook his microphone uncontrollably.[15]

Hedberg occasionally added disclaimers to the end of a joke if it wasn't sufficiently well received, frequently variations on "that joke's dumb, I'm aware of that". During recordings for CDs, he would often say that he would find a way to edit a failed gag to make it seem well-received, for example by "adding laughter" to a failed joke containing arithmetic. Following such a failure on Strategic Grill Locations, Hedberg suggested, "All right ... that joke is going to be good because I'm going to take all the words out and add new words. That joke will be fixed."[16]

Comedy Central Records announced the release of an album of new Mitch Hedberg material on June 10, 2008. The album, Do You Believe in Gosh?, was released on September 9, 2008, and contains material recorded at The Improv in Ontario, California in January 2005. Hedberg's wife, Lynn, wrote the introduction, in which she stated that the performance was in preparation for a year-end CD recording.[17]

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1999 Los Enchiladas! Lee
2000 Almost Famous Eagles Road Manager
2005 Lords of Dogtown Frank Nasworthy (Urethane Wheels Guy)

TV appearances[edit]

Year Title Role/Info
1998 That '70s Show Episode 11, as Frank (Chef at the Hub)[19]
Premium Blend Episode dated May 23, 1998 as Himself
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
1999 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Episode 67 "Past Lives" and Episode 73 "Garden", both as Himself
Comedy Central Presents Himself
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
Home Movies Episodes 104 and 105 as The Pet Eulogist and Mitch, respectively
2000 Late Show with David Letterman Himself
2001 Ed Episode 110 as Dave
Just for Laughs in Montreal Himself
Late Friday Himself
Home Movies Episodes 112 and 113 as Cop and Dr. Fizzel (Anger Management Counselor), respectively
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
2002 Saddle Rash Various voices
Late Show with David Letterman Himself
2003 Late Show with David Letterman Himself
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself
Crank Yankers Himself
2004 Shorties Watchin' Shorties Episodes 4 and 9 as Himself
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The Associated Press (2005-12-27). "Report: Mitch Hedberg died of drug overdose". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  2. ^ a b Soylent Communications. "Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  3. ^ Comedy Central. "Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  4. ^ News Services (April 4, 2005). "Mitch Hedberg, 37, Dies; Offbeat Stand-Up Comedian". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  5. ^ Kolowich, Steve. "Cult comedian Mitch Hedberg dies on tour". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  6. ^ Fierman, Daniel (July 8, 2005). "Comic Tragedy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  7. ^ MitchHedberg.net. "To All of Mitch's Fans". Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  8. ^ http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/twincities/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=156164350
  9. ^ Anderson, Sam. "Last Laugh". The Slate Group. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Fireman, Daniel. "Comic Tragedy". Entertainment Weekly Inc. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Murray, Noel. "Interviews: Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  12. ^ The Washington Post (April 4, 2005). "Report: Mitch Hedberg, 37, Dies; Offbeat Stand-Up Comedian". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  13. ^ Rice, Ian. "Comedian Mitch Hedberg Dies at 37". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  14. ^ "Mitch L. Hedberg Obituary: View Mitch Hedberg's Obituary by Star Tribune". Legacy.com. 2005-03-30. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  15. ^ Gonzales, Matt. "Mitch Hedberg + Stephen Lynch". Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  16. ^ Mitch Hedberg: Strategic Grill Locations
  17. ^ Do you believe in Gosh? liner notes, Lynn Shawcroft, 2008
  18. ^ "COMEDY CENTRAL Records(R) to Release New Mitch Hedberg CD 'Do You Believe in Gosh?'". Reuters. July 14, 2008. 
  19. ^ "That '70s Show Season 1, Episode 11, Eric's Buddy" at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]