Mitch Hedberg was one of the distinguished names in the comedy circles who made it big in the world of humor in his short career span. He was renowned for his unique style and deliverance that singled him out from the other comedians of his time. His abrupt delivery coupled with unusual stage presence made the audience split into laughter the moment he entered stage. Furthermore, his write-up was compact and unique including one or two punch lines mixed with absurd elements and non-sequiturs. Most of his jokes were inspired by everyday thoughts and situations. It was through his surreal humor and unconventional comedic delivery that he gained a cult following. His audiences were so enthralled by him that before he could finish the joke, they would shout the punch lines. Hedberg was loved by audience and fellow comedians alike and had fans in George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Doug Stanhope, Mike Birbiglia and Lewis Black. Destined for greatness, his life was cut short due to his drug addiction. Paradoxically, when questioned as to how he would want to end his life, he often replied, ‘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’.
Childhood & Early Life
Mitch Hedberg was born on February 24, 1968 to Mary and Arne Hedberg in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He belonged to Swedish heritage.
Young Hedberg completed his formal education from Harding High School in Saint Paul.
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He moved to Florida to polish his laughter-inducing skills. He chose Florida in particular not because it was a humorous state but because it was warm. It was the love for sun and warmth that drew him there.
After he perfected and sharpened his skills, he moved to Seattle to try his talent at different and new audiences. Thereafter, he started touring throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It was while he was at Los Angeles that he bagged his debut television appearance in MTV’s ‘Comikaze’ by deliberately delivering his act to the talent coordinator.
Post his appearance in ‘Comikaze’, numerous offers came flowing in. He was seen on several cable shows including A&E’s ‘Comedy on the Road’, Comedy Central’s ‘Comedy Product’, and NBC’s ‘Comedy Showcase’.
His big breakthrough, however, came in 1996 when he was invited to perform at the prestigious ‘Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival’. His brilliance and on-stage antics won him a deal with the studio and a spot on the legendary show, ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’.
In 1997, he participated in the Seattle Comedy Competition. He won the grand prize offered in the same. The following year, He appeared in an episode of Fox's series ‘That '70s Show’.
Using the cash prize won in Seattle Comedy Competition, he went on with his debut feature film venture, ‘Los Enchiladas!’ which was released in 1999. The film was not only directed and produced by him, it was also written by him and had him in the star cast.
Following this, he recorded three comedy CDs, ‘Strategic Grill Locations’, ‘Mitch All Together’ and ‘Do You Believe in Gosh?’. The last one was released posthumously in 2008.
In 1998 he re-appeared at the Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival. The following year, he made his fifth appearance in the ‘The Late Night Show with David Letterman’. Through his lifetime, he made a total of nine appearances on the show.
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The other shows in which he appeared include, ‘Ed’ in 2000, ‘Late Friday’ and ‘Home Movies’ in 2001, ‘Saddle Rash’ in 2002, ‘Late Night with Conan O Brien’ and ‘Crank Yankers’ in 2003 and ‘Shorties Watchin’ Shorties’ in 2004.
His tryst with film did not end with debut venture, ‘Los Enchiladas!’. He was seen sporting the role of Eagles Road Manager in the 200 film, ‘Almost Famous’. In the year of his death, he played the role of Frank Nasworthy (Urethane Wheels Guy) in the film ‘Lords of Dogtown’.
It was the laughter riot that he stirred in the ‘Just For Laughs’ festival stealing the attention of audience, critics and industry personnel and press alike that his name was inducted in the next generation of comedy stars by Time Magazine. He was even dubbed as ‘the next Seinfeld’ by the publication.
His stand out performance in the festival secured him a half-million dollar deal with Fox to create a television sitcom of his own.
The posthumously released comedy album, ‘Do You Believe in Gosh?’ peaked at number 1 in the Top Comedy Albums and Top Independent Albums. It reached the number 18 position on the Billboard 200 and Top Internet Albums.
Personal Life & Legacy
He went into the wedlock with Canadian comedian Lynn Shawcroft in 1999.
He was believed to be a drug user and was arrested for heroin possession in Austin, Texas. On numerous occasions, he mentioned the same in his jokes.
Not many know that he was born with a heart defect. He received extensive treatment for the same when he was a child.
He was found dead in his hotel room in Livingston, New Jersey on March 29, 2005. He was 37 at the time of his death. At first, his medical condition was stipulated to be the cause of his death. Later on, medical intervention and examination confirmed the multiple drug toxicity in the form of cocaine and heroin as the cause of death.
Ironically, his death was announced to the public on April 1, 2005. Most thought it to be one of the pranks on Fool’s Day, only realizing later on that it was no joke and a real news item.
After a funeral was held at St Ambrose of Woodbury Church in Minnesota, he was buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville.
This much-talented and skilled American stand-up comedian was mostly seen performing with his sunglasses, head bowed down and hair on the face or eyes closed to avoid contact with the audience. This he did to counter stage fright that he suffered from.