Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of being able to revisit the material of one of my all-time favourite stand-up comics – Mitch Hedberg.
I was first introduced to this man’s repertoire several years ago when I managed to catch his Comedy Central special on TV some holiday weekend. Already a long time fan of Stephen Wright, Hedberg’s similar use of observational and anecdotal humour, combined with his unique delivery style, immediately reeled me in. I became a fan instantly.
There are very few instances where I will listen to a stand-up album more than once. It’s not that I don’t like the material. It’s just that in most cases the jokes delivered are good for a one-time-use only. A lot of comics out there are disposable in that regard – like a Lady Bic or Scott Baio’s career.
But there are a few stand-ups whose material I find refreshing no matter how many times I go back to the well – Patton Oswalt, Steven Wright, Stephen Lynch… There’s just something spectacular in the humour on display. I find each joke just as funny after listen number forty-seven as I did on listen number one. For the truly gifted ones their comical spew is timeless, even when it’s dated.
And Mitch is definitely one of those artists worth repeating.
Sadly, the Shaded One doesn’t have much of a collection to choose from. Due to an overdose back in March of 2005, a source of comedic genius was silenced forever. His passing hit especially hard for me for two reasons. One – he OD-ed just a week before some friends and I were going to see him at the Funny Bone in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Two – his death was announced on April first that year. That made the entire day a frantic back-and-forth of “Is he??”, “Isn’t he??”, “Is it an April Fool prank??”
Sadly, it was not. I remember sitting at my cubical at work that morning when I first saw it mentioned in the CHUD forums. The only source of that news at the time was The Howard Stern Show. That only made the speculation that it was a ruse worse. All day long I scoured the online trades and various news sites for any information to back up that initial report. I even called one of my friends who was going to the show with me to see if he could find out anything. He called the Funny Bone and asked the manager there. As far as they knew, Mitch was still scheduled to perform the following weekend; they had heard no news of a demise. The plot continued to sicken as we continued to find any corroborating evidence that one of my new favourite comics was no more.
It wouldn’t be until I got home that evening that I would finally find out the truth. And it stung. Hard. At that point the man had only two albums and a Comedy Central special (I believe) to his name – and a good portion of the jokes were shared between them. That meant that a man who I consider a comic genius left us with barely little material to enjoy before he took a ride off the globe.
Fortunately, not too long after his passing, his wife managed to cobble together some new material he was trying out for an upcoming album and got it released as Mitch’s swan song. Titled Do You Believe In Gosh, it’s a complete mish-mash of bits he had been working into his act up until his tragic death. Compared to his previous albums, it’s not nearly as good. There are definitely some gems in there, but a good portion of the material goes about the same way as the pre-released bits he used to admit were bad to his audience. But still, despite the ratio of clunkers to winners, it’s still nice to have one last hurrah to remember such an incredible comedian.
And I guess that’s one way that Mitch kinda edges out over the other comics I can put on replay from time to time. Even with such a light portfolio of gigglery on display, Mitch’s bits never get old for me. I was reminded of that over the course of the past few weeks. I was also reminded of how much I miss him and his bag of funny.
This one goes out to you, Mitch. Hopefully wherever you are they have spaghetti. And blankets.