No, really. Sorry for being gone from blogland for so long, but I’ve been dealing with more death than necessary. And that’s not even counting the turmoil in my personal and professional lives that don’t involve deaths in the family. Yes, it has been a string of those kind of days.
My Nana died on March 25. Being a newspaperman, I pulled the requisite strings (included calling on a friend for a favor) to ensure Nana had a proper obituary in my newspaper. After my dad, my uncles and my aunt read that, they tapped me to prepare Nana’s eulogy. She had so many people who loved her. So many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who felt her devotion first-hand. How could I capture all of that? Well, I tried my best.
A few days after that, Mitch Hedberg died. I performed with Mitch and his wife several times between 1999 and 2003. I also interviewed Mitch a couple of times in my day-job capacity over the years. A good guy. A sweet guy. A vulnerable guy. A brilliantly funny yet tortured guy. I heard the news first from my dear friend in Arizona who runs the Tempe Improv, and at that point, he was hoping I could verify the crazy story he had heard. It took me several hours to find out what he already knew. Mitch had died. An apparent heart attack. Last time I saw that phrase with a performer — Rick James. I never saw Mitch’s self-destructive offstage side firsthand, so let me just say that upfront. But people who knew Mitch better than I had told me repeatedly that he was in trouble. He missed his big gig opening for Lewis Black and Dave Attell in Phoenix two years ago. He got arrested for heroin. He had a disastrous performance in Arizona last year. I saw both versions of Mitch onstage, from the comic who torched the field in the Seattle Comedy Competition (many other stand-ups felt he was a ringer because he already had done Letterman) to the comic who could go down in flames suddenly after 20 solid minutes. Sometimes you weren’t sure which Mitch would show up. But his impact is undeniable. My comedy club friends would call me out when they saw me slip into Hedbergspeak. I wouldn’t try to parrot his punchlines, but his cadence. Wow, that cadence. His delivery was as important, if not more so, than the long hair and shades. Just listen to his CDs. Or read his hometown obit. It’s a damn shame. A damn, damn shame.
OK. I’ve gotten that out of my system. Now where was I?