Mitch Hedberg was a funny man.
His jokes had a simple eloquence; the joke was often the implication of the one-liner, or what was not said. His jokes went far beyond the explicit–they pulled from the listener’s childlike innocence and their dreams of the fantastic.
Simply put, they were funny because they resonated with something innate on a basic human level.
I saw Mitch twice: once opening for Dave Attell and Lewis Black (where he outshone both by an order of several magnitude) and once as the headliner at a brand-spankin’ new comedy club in downtown Seattle.
I can’t even remember the name of the club I saw him at… it was near the monorail tracks and the downtown Bon Marche (now Macy’s). It was the skinniest, longest little club I have ever seen. It may have had the worst seating arrangement imaginable in comparison to the small size, since the club was nothing more than a glorified hallway. I spent $45 bucks to see him, including two “free” drink tickets, and my seats were just a few feet away from the front.
Mitch came out and started right in to his repertoire; he bashed the venue and another venue in Seattle that “ripped off” his fans a few years earlier. Eventually, after telling some jokes, it came out how much the tickets cost at the show, and he was livid with anger… well, if you have ever seen Mitch, you would realize that he couldn’t be livid, but he was fuming in a very downtrodden, beaten-cat sort of way. He went on-and-on about how upset he was and threatened to walk…
He walked away from the stage and had a public talk with the management right next to where I was sitting… There was much discussed, and eventually he returned to the stage… but he wasn’t really into it. He kept on derailing and was genuinely upset.
The set was okay… I felt a little let down, but I realized that he really cared about the audience; It was not just lip-service. He wanted people to have a good experience and get their money’s worth. In retrospect, I realize it was because he didn’t think he was worth the amount of money it cost to see him.
As I left, I said something to him, about how it was “all good” and “thanks,” or perhaps a just a riff on the shitty management–Hell, probably both. He just kinda smiled and nodded and I walked out of the club. I left disappointed, but I knew I would go and see him again…
But now I never can.
As I was remembering this incident, I checked Mitch’s webpage (note: 2 years after his death it is mainly unchanged… kinda cool), and he had actually written an explanation and apology. The man did care.
37 is too fucking young.