Mitch Hedberg

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Mitch Hedberg
Mitch Hedberg.jpg
Born Mitchell Lee Hedberg
(1968-02-24)February 24, 1968
Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died March 30, 2005(2005-03-30) (aged 37)
Livingston, New Jersey, United States[1]
Cause of death Drug overdose
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Lynn Shawcroft (1999–2005; his death)
Comedy career
Years active 1989–2005
Notable works and roles Strategic Grill Locations
Mitch All Together
Do You Believe in Gosh?

Mitchell Lee "Mitch" Hedberg (February 24, 1968 – March 30, 2005)[2] was an American stand-up comedian known for his surreal humor and unconventional comedic delivery (including deadpan delivery).[3] His comedy typically featured short, sometimes one-line jokes[4] mixed with absurd elements and non sequiturs.[5]

Hedberg's comedy and onstage persona gained him a cult following,[6] with audience members sometimes shouting out the punchlines to his jokes before he could finish them.[7]

Early life

Hedberg was born February 24, 1968, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the son of Mary (née Schimscha) and Arne Hedberg.[8][9] Hedberg graduated from Harding High School in Saint Paul.


Hedberg began his stand-up career in Florida, and after a period of honing his skills, he moved to Seattle and began to tour. He soon appeared on MTV's Comikaze, followed by a 1996 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman that brought him his big break. He won the 1997 grand prize at the Seattle Comedy Competition. The next year he appeared in an episode of Fox's series That '70s Show.

In 1999, he completed his own independent feature film, Los Enchiladas!, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. He recorded three comedy CDs: Strategic Grill Locations, Mitch All Together, and Do You Believe in Gosh?, the last released posthumously. He also appeared at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival in 1998, 2001, and 2004.

Concurrent with his rising fame in the entertainment industry, Hedberg appeared on Letterman nine more times, signed a half-million dollar deal with Fox for a television sitcom, and was dubbed "the next Seinfeld" by Time Magazine.[10] George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Mike Birbiglia and Lewis Black were reportedly among his comedian fans.[11]

Personal life

Hedberg was married to Canadian comedian Lynn Shawcroft from 1999 until his death in 2005.[2][12]

Hedberg was known to be a drug user, mentioning it in some of his jokes (e.g., "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too"). In May 2003 he was arrested in Austin, Texas, for heroin possession.[1]


On March 30, 2005, Hedberg was found dead in a hotel room in Livingston, New Jersey.[13] He was 37. Hedberg was born with a heart defect for which he received extensive treatment as a child.[1][14] It was initially speculated that this condition may have played a part in his death, but the New Jersey medical examiner's office reported "multiple drug toxicity" in the form of cocaine and heroin as the cause.[1]

Hedberg's death was formally announced on April 1, 2005, leading many to believe it was an April Fools' Day joke. His funeral was held at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Church in Minnesota.[15]

Hedberg had been interviewed by Jonathan Davis in the December 2001 issue of Penthouse. In the interview, published three years before his death, he was asked, "If you could choose, how would you end your life?" His response: "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."

On October 12, 2004, a few months before his death, Hedberg sat in on the news with Robin Quivers on The Howard Stern Show. He appeared on the show again on March 17, 2005, just 12 days before his death, and briefly discussed his drug use, saying, "Well, you know, I got the drugs under control now." Stern asked, "Do you? You know how to take them responsibly?" Hedberg replied, "Yeah, you know, just for the creative side of it."


Hedberg's standup comedy was distinguished by the unique manner of speech he adopted later in his career, his abrupt delivery, and his unusual stage presence. His material depended heavily on wordplay, non sequiturs, paraprosdokians, and object observations. His act usually consisted equally of compact one- or two-liners and longer routines, often with each line as a punchline. Many of his jokes were inspired by everyday thoughts or situations.

Hedberg suffered from stage fright throughout his career; he often performed in sunglasses, with his head down and his hair in his face or his eyes closed, and sometimes stood upstage or with his back to the audience, constantly moving in place. At times, he nervously shook his microphone unconsciously.[16]

Hedberg occasionally added disclaimers to the end of a joke if it wasn't sufficiently well received, frequently variations on "that joke's dumb, I'm aware of that." During recordings for CDs, he would often say that he would find a way to edit a failed gag to make it seem well-received, for example by "adding laughter" to a failed joke containing arithmetic. Following such a failure on Strategic Grill Locations, Hedberg suggested, "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."[17]

Comedy Central Records announced the release of an album of new Hedberg material on June 10, 2008. The album, Do You Believe in Gosh?, was released on September 9, 2008, and contains material recorded at The Improv in Ontario, California in January 2005. Hedberg's wife, Lynn, wrote the introduction, in which she stated that the performance had been in preparation for a year-end CD recording.[18]


  • "I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it."
  • "You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just going to ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later."
  • "An escalator cannot break. It can only become stairs."
  • "Rice is great if you're really hungry and want to eat 2000 of something."
  • "I think Bigfoot is blurry. That's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault. Bigfoot is blurry and that's extra scary to me. There's a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run! He's fuzzy! Get out of here!"



Year Title Role Notes
1999 Los Enchiladas! Lee
2000 Almost Famous Eagles Road Manager
2005 Lords of Dogtown Frank Nasworthy (Urethane Wheels Guy) Posthumous release

TV appearances

Year Title Role/Info
1998 That '70s Show Episode 11, as Frank (Chef at the Hub)[20]
Premium Blend Episode dated May 23, 1998 as Himself
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
1999 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Episode 67 "Past Lives" and Episode 73 "Garden", both as Himself
Comedy Central Presents Himself
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
Home Movies Episodes 104 and 105 as The Pet Eulogist and Mitch, respectively
2000 Late Show with David Letterman Himself
2001 Ed Episode 110 as Dave
Just for Laughs in Montreal Himself
Late Friday Himself
Home Movies Episodes 112 and 113 as Cop and Dr. Fizzel (Anger Management Counselor), respectively
Late Show with David Letterman Himself (2 episodes)
2002 Saddle Rash Various voices
Late Show with David Letterman Himself
2003 Late Show with David Letterman Himself
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself
Crank Yankers Himself
2004 Shorties Watchin' Shorties Episodes 4 and 9 as Himself
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself


  1. ^ a b c d The Associated Press (December 27, 2005). "Report: Mitch Hedberg died of drug overdose". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Soylent Communications. "Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  3. ^ Shakespeare, J. C. (19 February 1999). "Dude, It's Mitch Hedberg!". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Comedy Central. "Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  5. ^ News Services (April 4, 2005). "Mitch Hedberg, 37, Dies; Offbeat Stand-Up Comedian". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  6. ^ Kolowich, Steve. "Cult comedian Mitch Hedberg dies on tour". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  7. ^ Fierman, Daniel (July 8, 2005). "Comic Tragedy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  8. ^ "To All of Mitch's Fans". Archived from the original on October 28, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Mary Hedberg Obituary - St. Paul, MN - Pioneer Press". Pioneer Press. 
  10. ^ Anderson, Sam. "Last Laugh". The Slate Group. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Fireman, Daniel. "Comic Tragedy". Entertainment Weekly Inc. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Murray, Noel. "Interviews: Mitch Hedberg". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  13. ^ The Washington Post (April 4, 2005). "Report: Mitch Hedberg, 37, Dies; Offbeat Stand-Up Comedian". Retrieved October 10, 2009. 
  14. ^ Rice, Ian. "Comedian Mitch Hedberg Dies at 37". Archived from the original on April 5, 2005. Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Mitch L. Hedberg Obituary: View Mitch Hedberg's Obituary by Star Tribune". March 30, 2005. Retrieved May 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ Gonzales, Matt. "Mitch Hedberg + Stephen Lynch". Retrieved November 10, 2007. 
  17. ^ Mitch Hedberg: Strategic Grill Locations
  18. ^ Do you believe in Gosh? liner notes, Lynn Shawcroft, 2008
  19. ^ "COMEDY CENTRAL Records(R) to Release New Mitch Hedberg CD 'Do You Believe in Gosh?'". Reuters. July 14, 2008. 
  20. ^ "That '70s Show Season 1, Episode 11, Eric's Buddy" on IMDb

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