Mitchell Lee Hedberg (February 24, 1968 — March 30, 2005) was an American stand-up comedian who used a lot of one-liners, like Steven Wright with a more laid back delivery. He was known for his monotone voice and rose-colored aviator glasses. He specialized in wordplay, non-sequiturs, and observational comedy. He made a few appearances on a handful of TV shows and did some voice work for Home Movies.
Hedberg was an admitted drug user, and occasionally made jokes about his drug use in his act. These jokes became Harsher in Hindsight when Hedberg died in 2005, supposedly by overdosing on heroin and cocaine. What makes it sadder is that this was before doing his first HBO special. This makes him the third comedian in a row to die in the middle of a decade in their thirties. Andy Kaufman died of cancer in the 1980s and Bill Hicks died from the same in the 1990s. Time will only tell if this trend will follow.
- Strategic Grill Locations (1999)
- Mitch All Together (2003)
- Do You Believe in Gosh? (recorded in 2005, released posthumously in 2008)
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Was sometimes guilty of a variant— he would stress the wrong word in a given sentence (usually the final word), for no apparent reason other than his quirkiness. It was just the way he talked."I don't need a receipt for the doughnut! We don't need to bring ink and paper into this."
"If you're flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit."
"I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle."
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: McDonald's actually did sell spaghetti briefly in the '80s, though most people probably thought Mitch made that up for his "Stubborn McDonald's manager" bit. It's still available in the Philippines. The company has never sold blankets.
- Anachronistic Soundtrack: There's a jazz bassist, named Chuck Savage, playing all throughout Strategic Grill Locations, giving the album the vibe of a coffee house from decades ago. Mitch even comments on his playing at some points.
- Bears Are Bad News:
- Mitch feels that Smokey the Bear should not be the forest fire prevention mascot because bears are too scary. He prefers
a fake character he made upEngland's mascot Smacky the Frog.
- He and some friends were dropping acid in the woods to avoid the cops, but ran into a bear, "which was even more of a buzzkill." A friend remarked, "Smokey is way more intense in person."
- Mitch feels that Smokey the Bear should not be the forest fire prevention mascot because bears are too scary. He prefers
- Beyond the Impossible: Once told a joke about a hypothetical situation where someone took a picture of himself "when [he] was older."
- Be Yourself: He has a bit where he expresses annoyance at turkey versions of other meat products (for example, turkey bacon). He says someone should tell the turkeys to just be themselves instead of trying to pretend to be other animals since they already taste good on their own.
- Bowdlerization: The digital version of Mitch All Together changes the title of "Movie Pot" to "Movie Plot."
- Big Damn Fire Exit: "I was standing in the lobby of this hotel just minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, 'Sir, could you please move? You're blocking the fire exit.' As though if there was a fire, I wasn't going to run. If you are flammable and have legs, you are never 'blocking' a fire exit! Unless you're a table!"
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Mitch thinks the reason photographs of Bigfoot are always blurry is because Bigfoot is blurry."That's extra scary to me. There's a large, out-of-focus monster running around the countryside. Run, he's fuzzy!"
- Brick Joke: Sort of a meta-example. On one of his albums, Mitch makes a joke that falls flat. In response to the tepid laughter, Mitch promises to fix that joke by taking out all of the words and putting in new ones. Much later in his set, when a completely different joke gets a lot of laughter, he explains that this was the fixed joke from earlier.
- Brilliant, but Lazy"Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something that's funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen's too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain't funny."
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": On Smackey the Frog: "It's just like a bear, but it's a frog."
"I like Kit-Kat, unless I'm with four or more people."
- The audience at his Comedy Central Presents special seems to have been primarily made up of people that were unfamiliar with Mitch's act. Because of this, it took a while for the audience to warm up to him and laugh in understanding of his material. By the end, the crowd was more engaged, so Mitch continued to tell jokes for editing reasons just thinking of whatever jokes came to mind.
- Near the end of Strategic Grill Locations, he reviews the jokes he used previously in the set."Velcro wallet I already talked about... suitcase that I handcuffed to my arm I already talked about... [...] 'I hear music', 'Fuck yeah, that's the only way you can take it in.' I'm gonna shave too."
- Calling Shotgun: "Last time I called shotgun we'd rented a limo, so I fucked up."
- Can't You Read the Sign?: This is his response when a child tells him a "Knock Knock" Joke while Mitch is wearing a Do Not Disturb sign.
- Captain Obvious: "I bet the inside of a bottle of cleaning fluid is fuckin' clean, man."
- Cloud Cuckoolander: To call Mitch "off-kilter" would be an understatement. He had a very strange way of looking at the world coupled with a unique cadence to the way he spoke. He sometimes gets compared to Steven Wright, but even that comparison doesn't quite capture Mitch's loopy stoner vibe.
- Cluster F-Bomb: His sets were often peppered with curse words, even if his material wasn't exactly all that racy. His routines still make sense without all the cursing. He dropped the profanity for his TV appearances.
- Colbert Bump: The infamous "Dunkin Donuts Rant" video led to a minor Youtube bump of Hedberg's routines, due to his bit on doughnuts and its odd relevance to the situation:"I don't need a receipt for a doughnut. I'll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut. End of transaction! We don't need to bring ink and paper into this! I can not imagine a scenario where I'd have to prove that I bought a doughnut. Some skeptical friend...'Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut! I've got the documentation right here! Oh, wait, it's back home, in the file. Under D... for doughnut.'"
- People visiting his gravesite often leave receipts for doughnuts.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: "I am not gonna make a banana bread pastrami cottage cheese sandwich! It will severely ruin my reputation!"
- Dagwood Sandwich: He sees sandwiches from New York delis as this."It's like a cow with a cracker on either side... 'Whatcha gonna have?' A pastrami sandwich. 'Would you like anything with that?' Yeah, a loaf of bread, and some other people?!"
- Deadpan Snarker: A good number of Mitch's jokes were snarking about expressions and objects that took their language literally.
- Dissimile: "With a stoplight, green means 'Go' and yellow means 'Slow down'. With a banana, however, it is quite the opposite. Yellow means 'Go', green means 'Whoa, hold on'... and red means 'Where the fuck did you get that banana from?!'"
- Distinction Without a Difference: "My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana. I said, 'No. But I want a regular banana later, so... yeah.'"
- Door Slam of Rage: One of his gags was about arguing with his girlfriend while they were out camping. He tried to angrily storm out of the tent and slam the access flap behind him, which just made him look silly."How are you supposed to register your anger in this particular situation? Zipper it up really quick?"
- Double Standard: "Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only one you can get yelled at for having. 'Goddamn it, Otto, you're an alcoholic.' 'Goddamn it, Otto, you have lupus.' One of those two doesnt sound right."
- Erudite Stoner: "I used to do drugs... I still do, but I used to, too."
- "I love my Fed-Ex guy cause he's a drug dealer and he doesn't even know it... and he's always on time."
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
- "I'd like to see a forklift lift a crate of forks. It'd be so damn literal! You are using that for its exact purpose! That machine's been misunderstood for years."
- "I bought a king-size bed. I don't know any kings, but if one came over, I guess he'd be comfortable. 'Oh, you're a king, you say? Just wait 'til you see what I've got in store for you! It's built to your exact specifications!'"
- Expospeak Gag: Describes a man with a hat, facial hair and various facial piercings as having "a lot of cranium accessories". Lampshaded with the comment, "This is a smart crowd; when I do the dumb crowds, I have to say 'you've got a lot of shit on your head.'"
- Fantastic Racism: "When it comes to racism, people say 'I don't care if they're black, white, purple, or green!' Ah, come on now! Purple or green? You gotta draw the line somewhere! To hell with purple people! Unless they're suffocatin'! Then help 'em!"
- Fridge Brilliance/Fridge Logic: Invoked in several of his routines. A lot of his humor relied on pointing it out.Advil has a candy coating; it's delicious. And it says on the package, "Do not take more than two a day." Well, then, don't put a candy coating around it! I can't help myself! (Beat) Man, I really got a sweet-tooth....
I saw a commercial for a piece of technology which said "now you can water your hard-to-reach plants." Now who would make their plants hard to reach? That seems so very mean. "I know you need water, but I'm gonna make you hard to reach! I will throw water at you. Hopefully someone will invent a product before you shrivel and die. Think like a cactus!"
I was standing in the lobby of this hotel just minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, "Sir, could you please move? You're blocking the fire exit." As though if there was a fire, I wasn't going to run. If you are flammable and have legs, you are never "blocking" a fire exit. Unless you're a table.
I bought a two-bedroom house. But it's up to me how many bedrooms there are, ain't it? Fuck you, real-estate lady, this bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom has a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom is a.k.a. "a hallway". ...This bedroom's over in that guy's house. Sir, are you aware you have one of my bedrooms? Don't decorate it!
Every book is a children's book if the kid can read!
One time, this guy handed me a picture. He said, "Here's a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture is of you when you were younger!
- I Was Told There Would Be Cake: "Dont bring the cake-eater over here anymore. He smells like flour. Did you notice how his eyes widened when he found out your birthday was fast approaching?"
- If I Had a Nickel...: Invoked: "'That's dumb'...if I had a nickel for every time I said that, I'd be making money in a very unusual way!"
- Laughing at Your Own Jokes: Perhaps due to his stage fright, he sometimes laughed nervously, especially after poor jokes."That joke made me laugh before I could finish it. Which is good, 'cause there's no ending. I just, I fuckin' covered it up."
- Left It In: On one CD, after a particular joke falls flat, he jokes about adding the sound of audience laughter to compensate."All right ... that joke is going to be good because I'm going to take all the words out and add new words. That joke will be fixed."
- Limited Social Circle: "I don't have a cell phone or a pager. I just hang around everyone I know all the time. Then if someone needs to get in touch with me, they just say 'Mitch!', and I say 'What?' and turn my head slightly."
- Loophole Abuse: Mitch once encountered a duck, and wanted to feed it, but didn't have any bread on him, so he went to a Subway to get some and ended up discovering quite the exploitable loophole:Mitch: I went to a Subway sandwich shop, and I said, "Let me have a bun," but she wouldn't sell me just a bun. She said it had to have something on it. She told me it's against regulations for Subway to sell just a bun; I guess the two halves ain't supposed to touch. So, I said, "Alright, put some lettuce on it," which they did. They said, "That'll be $1.75." I said, "It's for a duck." They said, "Alright, well then it's free." See, I did not know that. Ducks eat for free at Subway. Had I known that, I would've ordered a much larger sandwich. "Lemme have the steak fajita sub, but don't bother ringing it up, it's for a duck! There are six ducks out there, and they all want Sun Chips!"
- Medium Awareness: Both Strategic Grill Locations and Mitch All Together open with Mitch acknowledging the CD recording, and both are peppered with jokes about said recording."I'm gonna have to have some liner notes for that joke. 'During that joke he points to the back.' So people get the full experience."
- Non-Appearing Title: Both Strategic Grill Locations and Mitch All Together are named after routines that do not appear on their respective albums. "Mitch All Together" is from his "Corn on the Cob" routine* , which is on Strategic Grill Locations. "Strategic Grill Locations" is from a different routine where Mitch reminisces about his job as a grill cook* , which has not been formally released.
- Non-Indicative Name: He once spent a whole day driving around town with the emergency brake engaged on his car:"That don't say much for me, but it says even less about the emergency brake. It's more like an emergency 'make the car smell funny' lever."
- Not Available In Stores: Originally, his first CD. Unless he brought it in the store and left it there."'Sir, you forgot this.' No, I did not. That is for sale. Please alphabetize it."
- Obsessed with Food: He just loves to joke about food. Its been said that he would walk around the grocery store to get inspiration for new jokes. When introduced as having appeared on a popular late night talk show, Mitch responded, "... but I think more people have seen me at the store. That should be my introduction. 'Ladies and gentlemen... you might have seen this next comedian at the store.'"
- One Steve Limit / Psmith Psyndrome: Averted. Mitch Hedberg had two separate relationships with girls named Lynn. Well, technically, one Lyn and one Lynn."Sometimes I'll fuck up and call my new girlfriend by my old girlfriend's name. She can tell because I don't say the 'nn' long enough."
- Overly Long Gag: "I was at a restaurant, I ordered a chicken sandwich, but I don't think the waitress understood me cause she said, 'how would you like your eggs?' So I tried to answer her anyhow. I said, 'Incubated.'" (Beat) " 'And then raised. And then beheaded. And then plucked. And then cut up. And then put onto a grill. And then put onto a bun. Damn, it's gonna take a while.' " (Beat) "Scrambled."
- Payment Plan Pitch: "They say this product is available for four easy payments. I'd like to see one with three easy payments and one fucking complicated payment... We're not telling you which one, but one of these payments is going to be a bitch. The mailman will get shot to death, the envelope will not seal, and the stamp will be in the wrong denomination. Good luck, fucker!"
- Performance Anxiety: A lot of his comic persona was born out of his stage fright, especially his on-stage jittering and his Cool Shades.
- Pun: A staple of his humor."I order a club sandwich all the time, and I'm not even a member, man!"
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: Oh so very much.
- Sadly Mythtaken: One of his jokes relies on the premise that looking at Medusa turns you into a pillar of salt. Medusa turned people to stone—a pillar of salt is what happened to Lot's wife in The Bible. Of course, the joke wouldn't have been nearly as funny if he'd salted his food by making a guy look at the burning wreckage of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: As mentioned above, he took issue with his house being called a "two-bedroom house", because he owns the house. There can be as many or as few bedrooms as he damn well wants. Even if one of them is over in that guys house.
- Self-Deprecation: If a joke didn't work, Mitch was always the first person to point it out. For instance, after one joke which didn't make any sense, he had barely finished telling the joke when he said "All right, that joke was ridiculous!"
- Subverted on one occasion when the audience underreacted to a joke Mitch was actually fond of. "That joke was better than you people are giving it credit for."
- Shoddy Knockoff Product: He perceived Mr. Pibb to be this to Dr. Pepper because Pibb didn't get his degree.
- Shrinking Violet: He was extremely shy in real life and his famous sunglasses were used to help him deal with his intense stage fright.
- Signature Laugh: During one performance, Mitch singles out an audience member with a distinctive laugh."The only problem with having a distinctive laugh is that I know exactly when you're not laughing. 'Oh! Distinctive Laugh doesn't think that joke was funny!'"
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: Mitch was a notoriously casual performer, mixing in half-finished and unfunny jokes right beside legitimately brilliant and hilarious one-liners. The juxtaposition made the bad ones even funnier."I have a sweet tooth. [scattered laughter] I think I messed something up with that last joke. I apologize."
- Spiritual Successor: His one-liner surreal wordplay has been compared to Steven Wright.
- Stoners Are Funny: A stoner comedian, in fact. He played off his jokes about drugs, but he was known to use weed quite frequently. He sounds positively baked throughout Strategic Grill Locations, especially in comparison to his later albums.
- Tempting Fate: Played with when discussing playing golf, and hitting a guy with a drive. "You're supposed to yell out 'Fore!', but I was too busy mumbling, 'There ain't no way that's gonna hit him...'"
- 13 Is Unlucky: "The hotel I'm staying in doesn't have a thirteenth floor because of superstition. But people on the fourteenth floor — you know what floor you're really on. What room are you in? '1401.' No you're not! Jump out the window, and you will die earlier!"
- "If 13 is unlucky, then so should the letter "B" be, 'cuz "B" looks like a scrunched-together 13. 'Hi, what's your name?' 'Bob.' 'Get the fuck away!'"
- Vampire Doctor: He's got a vampire pun bit which goes in part:I went to the doctor. All he did was suck blood from my neck. Do not go see Dr. Acula.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story"Hey man, you know that story about that woman that drove her and her kids into a river?"
"Well, it inspired me to write a story about a gorilla."
- Verbal Tic: in his first CD, he had a tendency to say "All right..." after jokes. He didn't do it as much in later shows.
- It did carry over a bit when he did smaller gigs. Heck, even his wife had the tic when she toured with him as his warm-up act.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Some of his jokes require a little bit of thought before you get it, and the audience will sometimes hesitate with a smattering of laughs before erupting."I once bumped into a guy; he had on a hat, a nose ring, an eyebrow ring, a goatee, a tongue ring, and 3 earrings. He said, 'Hey, man, you have a lot of nerve!' And then I said 'Hey, man, you have a lot of ... cranial accessories. [laughter] You guys are a smart crowd. When I do the dumber crowds, I have to say, 'Hey, man, you have a lot of shit on your head.'"
- Writers Cannot Do Math: One of his jokes is: "I like rice, rice is good when you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." This is actually lowballing things. A single grain of rice weighs, on average, somewhere between 0.025 and 0.03 grams, so 2,000 of them would weigh between 50 and 60 grams or thereabouts. A standard serving of rice is half a cup, or 200 grams, somewhere around three to four times that amount.
- X Meets Y: Foosball: soccer meets shish kabobs.