Wednesday, April 6, 2005

America's Past Time

"Put me in coach, I'm ready to"

I love baseball. More importantly, I love America's first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds. Opening Day in Cincinnati is one of the biggest events of the year, as it should be. People take off work, kids get out of school early, and everyone focuses on the baseball game. There are certain things you can always look forward to when attending Red's games. The smell of fresh cut grass, teaching kids about the benefits of steroids, and lots and lots of drunk people. It never fails that the Red's get everyone's hopes up early in the year. But usually we'll see a Ken Griffey Jr. injury, horrible relief and closer pitching, and then some guy from AAA comes up big at the end of the season to be sure and instill "hope for next year".

We had great seats for Opening Day this year. Thanks Phil.

So there we were, Opening Day. What a setup. The New York Mets had a huge offseason and acquired the likes of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. The Reds gave up ahome run in the first inning. "Here we go again.", we thought. "Same ol' Reds". But in the bottom of the first, the Reds scored three runs on ahomer by Adam Dunn (see also "stud"). Well, we might have a game afterall. But we still had 8 more innings to get through, so I decided to start one of my favorite activities: people watching. It wasn't too long before I found a gem. He was a few rows in front of us and he was "that guy" all day long.

"Man I'm sure glad I'm not hanging drywall today."

I first noticed this gentleman whenthe stars and stripespeeked out from under his ball cap. Everyone attending the game that day gotten an American flag to wave during the National Anthem, but this guy had a vision. "What if I use it to keep my neck cool for the rest of the game" Brilliant. How do you think our soldiers overseas would feel, or those who fought so fearlessly in wars past if they knew that the symbol of freedom that they were shedding blood and giving up their lives for was being used by some hillbilly in Northern Kentucky to keep his neck from getting any "redder" I thought this might be the guy to watch for the rest of the game. Five minutes later, he tried to start "the wave" (see circa 1985). We are locked on target.

Pedro Martinez proceeded to shut down the next 15 batters, striking out 13 of them. By the 7th inning, the Mets were back on top 6-4. I had to get an update on our friend a few rows up, and sure enough I called it, the shirt had come off.

"It's such a nice day, maybe I won't go home and beat my illegitimate children afterall."

The innings kept rolling, the Reds kept getting out, and this guy kept drinking. He was starting to get loud and yell at everyone from the cotton candy girl to the umpire behind the plate. This guy was getting hammered, and I started to realize why they chose to use plastic beer bottles at the stadium. Phil was getting prettyintoxicated himself at this point, but at least he behaves himself and keeps it fun. He's one of the funniest "non-comics" I know, and a big Reds fan. He's the best.

Phil and I in the stands.

In all fairness, the bald guy wasn't the only one deterring my attention from the game. The guy behind me was even worse. Why is there always some white trash father who decides to take his mullet-head kids to the baseball game and proceed to explain everything they're ever learned about baseball which usually boils down to video games and memorizing "Bull Durham" Every pitch, every play, this guy feels the need to explain to his entire row what just happened. And you can't turn around and correct him everytime. One time I wanted to just turn around and awe his children with something even he didn't know. "You see kids, that pop-up to the shortstop is called a 'can of corn'. It's a term that refers back to the old grocery store days when the clerks couldn't reach the items on the top shelf. They'd have to use the end of a broomstick to knock the can off of the shelf and then they'd catch it in their apron...'can of corn'." (see EA SportsTriple Play Baseball2004 for Playstation). What's our other friend up to...

"Say it to my face."

Don't ask me what he's yelling about, I have no idea. but I had to snap a quick pic. Have you no shame sir So here we are in the 9th inning, Reds still losing 6-4. The Cincinnati Reds unfaithful started to leave the park. Not us. The first guy up, Austin Kearns got a base hit to lead off the 9th. Adam Dunn stepped in and sent his second home run of the game over the fence. I told you he was a stud. All of a sudden, it's 6-6. The place is ROCKING! This was the first time I saw people stop and return to their seats when they were about to leave. Suddenly, the stadium was packed again and people are going nuts. Enter Joe Randa. Joe Randa's first game as a Cincinnati Red since being picked up from the Kasas City Royals in the offseason. He'd had a great game so far, but with one pitch, Joe Randa put a ball over the left field wall giving the Cincinnati Reds their first ever walk-off home run in the history of the club. One word: pandamonium.

The tall stacks came alive as the Reds start the season 1-0.

What'll happen from here Who knows. The Reds are in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. But who cares really There will still be white trash people with their shirts off getting drunk and using "Old Glory" instead of sunscreen. There will still be home runs and overpriced parking. And we'll keep going to the games, cheering for the Reds, buying peanuts and cracker jacks. And to be honest, I don't care if I ever get back.

Hope to see you out there...


Saturday, April 2, 2005

Missing Mitch Hedberg

Forgive me if there is bad grammar or typos in this post, but I'm writing with a heavy heart. It's a sad, sad day in the world of comedy. Mitch Hedberg, arguably the greatest comic of our generation, has died. He leaves behind a loving wife, thousands upon thousands of fans, and a group of comedy peers who will never forget the impact he had on our business, and our lives.

The first time I saw Mitch, I was sitting in the office of Go Bananas Comedy Club, my home club in Cincinnati. John Chung, the General Manager at the time showed me a tape of Mitch on Louie Anderson's Comic Strip show. He said he was considering bringing Mitch to the club. That few minutes of watching Mitch changed my life. By the end of the set he had become my favorite comedian, and nothing has changed that to this day.

When John decided to book Mitch, I begged and pleaded to let me be the emcee that week. And as luck would have it, I was also booked to work with him in Dayton the very next week. Two weeks back-to-back with my favorite comedian'it was surreal. That was April of 1999. Later that year, Go Bananas booked Mitch to come headline on New Year's Eve, the biggest comedy night of the year, and I got to host again. That night, Mitch asked me if I wanted to come open for him in Grand Forks, ND for a special Valentine's Day show. Of course I wanted to, but was skeptical if it would work out. A lot of headliners make a lot of promises, but Mitch was one of the rare ones who actually followed through.

(Backstage at The Punchline in Atlanta, GA)

Grand Forks, ND in February, wow.
If there was one word to describe Grand Forks in February, it wouldn't be 'warm'. We all met up in Minneapolis, (we being Mitch, his wife, Mike Spurlock, his wife Sydney, Chuck Savage, and a comic from Seattle named Rico). We had an absolute blast, and I think the experience of going to North Dakota would not have been anything like that, had I been there with anyone else.

In July 2001, when I quit my day job, Mitch was the first headliner to ask me to come feature for him. He took me to his favorite club in Houston, TX, The Laff Stop. I can't tell you how amazing it felt to have my favorite comedian, take a liking to me. He didn't have to help me, and I know it wasn't a big deal to him, but he knew it was a big deal to me.

(Left to right: Jamie Lissow, Landon Lyons, Mitch, Me, Tom Simmons)

Last year in '04, Mitch recorded the introduction for my first comedy CD. He told people to 'sit back, relax, have a drink, and listen to the comedy of my favorite Josh Sneed. In a magazine article, he dropped my name and called me to tell me to be sure and get a copy. On Letterman he told people that another friend of ours, Brian Hurzee deserved to be on the show. That was Mitch. Any chance he could take to help out someone else, he took it.

Mitch has had a bigger impact on my life than any other comedian. He showed that you can be successful to the fans, and still have the utmost respect of your peers. He was quoted more than any comic I've ever worked with. I only hope that one day I can get to a point where I could do an hour of material, and have people in the audience yell out jokes they want me to do, even though they know them by heart. He was easily considered one of Dave Letterman's favorite comedians. George Carlin told Larry King that Mitch was one of his favorites. And just as he was reaching a point in his career where he could sit back, relax, and enjoy the benefits of all the hard work he's put in for so many years, it all came to a screeching halt.

Drugs got the better of Mitch, but I don't want to dwell on that.It's such a sad way to picture such a comedy icon.And I don't want to preach to anyone about the dangers of drugs.But when you can see that a man at the top of his game, who had just about everything you could ask for in this business, lose a battle to a substance like that, it should be a wake-up call to everyone.No matter what your vice is, get your life in check.Mitch's legacy will stretch for many, many years.He will be remembered as an amazing comic whose life was cut tragically short because of an addiction.

I think my friend Mark Gross offered the best prospective on this whole situation.He said, 'Well, we're lucky to have known him.If there was any silver lining, I couldn't have put it better.When I hear guys talk about working with Bill Hicks or Sam Kinnison, I always thought, 'How cool would it have been to see them''But I know one day I'll tell these same stories and people will react the same way about Mitch.I'm very lucky to not only have seen him and worked with him, but to have actually spent time with him and Lynn on a friendship level.

(Hanging with Mitch and Lynn backstage at Zanie's in Nashville)

What's the point of this entry? I don't know really.Maybe it was just a reason to recall some of the memories and good times I had with Mitch.Maybe it was to paint a better picture of exactly who he was to other comics and myself.Maybe it was to serve as a reminder of the dangers of drugs.But I guess it doesn't matter why I wrote it.Whatever you decide to take from this, if anything, just be sure to do a reality check in your life.Decide what's important, and realize that the choices you make don't always just affect yourself, but possibly many others.So for now we'll just go on.Doing our shows, telling our jokes, but keeping in mind the fact that one of our brothers has fallen.He's gone, but not forgotten.If you have a minute, say a little prayer for his wife Lynn, she needs it right now.

I could go on and on with stories, but I'll end this here.Mitch, we miss you already.You've left a lasting impact on a lot of us, and we'll try our best to come close to the bar you've set so high as a human, comedian, and loyal friend.And for a while, every time I go onstage, or think of one of your clever bits, or hear you on the radio, or play your CD, or go back to a club you helped me get into, I'll remember all of the advice you gave me and just give it my best, like you did.And I only hope everyone finds someone that they can look up to and admire, and be proud to call their friend like I did you -- my friend Mitch.Rest in peace, brother.

Hope To See You Up There,


Mitch Hedberg


(To learn more about Mitch and the legacy he leaves behind, visit )