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 )

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