Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mitch Hedberg 1968 - 2005

Comedian Mitch Hedberg also died today.

I know that in a larger scheme of things, this will probably be unnoticed, especially since the Pope just got last rites and the political and moral gloves are off now that Terri Schiavo is "dead" dead. On a slower news day, Mitch might have gotten a quick blurb on CNN. He occupied a special place, in that he was a stand-up comic who was simply too weird to base a sitcom on. Lewis Black (1) is in the same vein, but of a different blood. Funny, but not people funny.

What bothers me about Mitch dying is that he was 37 and as far as anyone knows died of a heart attack in his hotel room. If you've never seen him perform, Mitch's style was to stare at the floor and rattle off observations. An escalator can never be broken. It can only become stairs. This shirt is dry clean only, which means it's dirty. To a straight-laced person, he would appear to be on drugs. People who have actually been on drugs know that he probably wrote down his jokes while on drugs, but was probably performing them with a beer or three in him.

This leads to the main problem. Drugs were professional equipment to him. He could have written them off on his taxes but he used to perform sober. I saw him two months ago with some friends and my girlfriend, caring woman that she is, was visibly concerned for him. Mitch spent a good part of an hour just lying down on the stage, mumbling into the microphone. Not everyone, but a large portion of the crowd was clapping for him. They would shout out old jokes, and he would rattle them off in response before sinking back into himself. That's Mitch, we supposed. That's what we came to see. He could have spat blood across the stage and it would have been five minutes of applauding before someone thought to call an ambulance.

That show bothered me. We were applauding his drug use and not his brilliance. We were applauding, because we've all either been or seen that guy who would say the funniest shit when he was stoned. He was better than some drowsy sage at a party, though. He was actually brilliant, with the doors of perception blasted open or safely shut; a much better comic than a simple stoner hero. I almost wished that he had died in a bacchanalian drug rut, but I caught myself. I'd rather have him still making jokes.

"Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease that you can get yelled at for having. Dammit Otto, you're an alcoholic. Dammit Otto, you have Lupus. One of those two doesn't sound right."

(1) Lewis Black will be reading from his new book at the Court House Olsson's Monday the 4th at 7.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I also saw him when he was at the improv and most of his jokes were based on seeing koala bears running around his house. Or something like that. Too bad the media was too busy de-sensitizing us with Terri Schiavo to let tell people that he died.

By the way, I choose the way of the Jedi when I bought my M&M's. Just so you know.

~ Katie

2:02 PM  
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