Four years ago today, Mitchell Lee Hedberg died in a New Jersey hotel room with his wife, Lynn Shawcroft, nearby. He was 37.
What a mind fuck that was.
Hunter Thompson had just killed himself 5 weeks prior, and I wasn’t ready to lose another hero.
I first saw Mitch in 1999 in San Francisco. My buddy Ryanodo and I had seem him on Comedy Central and when he was promoting Strategic Grill Locations, we knew we had to go. I laughed so hard during that show that my head ached for hours afterward. It was amazing. Mitch was on fire.
We loved it so much that we went back the next night.
After the show, we waited near the dressing room and were ushered in with a couple of other fans. It only lasted a few moments, but we got to meet Mitch! We told him how great he was and he thanked us. He was really shy…and wore a grin as wide as Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
A year later, I took my sister to see him. Another gangbusters performance, and another chance meeting with Mitch, that time, getting to introduce my sister to him.
Then, in late 2001 or early 2002, Mitch had a 3 or 4 night stand in San Francisco. On a mission to expose as many people as we could, Ryanodo and I went to all of the shows, bringing with us a different set of friends each night. It turned out that Mitch was preparing to film an MTV special, and after the third night, Lynn noticed us and brought us aside to talk to Mitch and get autographs. We were also interviewed for the show.
Of course, we went back the next night. This time, after the show, we hung out with Chuck Savage, Mitch’s bass player. After about an hour, Chuck told us to hold on and ran inside. He came back out with Lynn, and she went on to invite us to their next show, the next night in Sacramento. She said they would put us on the guest list and have a room for us in their hotel.
You’re goddamn right we went.
Mitch had an off show that night…in fact, it lead me to yell out that he was “pancaking” in the middle of his set. He thanked me for using his joke against him.
After the show, we went onto his tour bus and chilled in the back for a bit with Mitch. He was smoking a corn-cob pipe. Eventually, we went back to the hotel and partied for a while with Chuck and The Possum and Lynn. Mitch never made it out that night.
The last time I saw him, he was smiling and shaking my hand on his tour bus.
Three years later, he was dead.
Since then, comedy hasn’t been the same. Too many cheap imitations.
I miss you Mitch…you took off too soon.
RIP Mitchell Lee Hedberg (Feb 24, 1968 – March 29, 2005)