Listening to Mitch Hedberg’s posthumous CD, Do You Believe in Gosh? (available Sept. 9 on Comedy Central Records), it’s difficult for me to maintain objectivity.

After all, I knew Mitch Hedberg. I interviewed Mitch Hedberg. I performed alongside Mitch Hedberg. And no comedian is, or will ever be, Mitch Hedberg. The world lost this comedian much, much too soon in 2005. In fact, when Hedberg died in March 2005, he was just starting to develop a new hour of material that he would have recorded that October. Instead, we get treated to an even earlier version of his last new jokes, recorded at one of the Improv clubs two months before his death.

You can preview the CD here. For my review, and a chance to win a free copy of the CD, read on!

Mitch Hedberg had a way of making you laugh at just about anything. Listening to this CD, even in this rough live comedy club form, you see just how in the moment Hedberg could be onstage. Right from his first words in this show, Hedberg proves how cognizant he was about his audience and his surroundings, announcing: “All right. There are a lot of people in the bathroom, so…I don’t want to waste these jokes.” So very Mitch. The audience laughs.“Are there speakers in the bathroom? Alright, well f*@& it. Let’s do it. I’ll save my more physical stuff for later. This is all…audio…to the people in the bathroom…how’s it going in there?”

The next 40-41 minutes — albeit short for a traditional headlining comedian set — follows suit. Hedberg, in all of the times I saw him, from the very first time in 1997 in Seattle when everyone else in the comedy competition essentially surrendered to him, until his death in 2005, was always a stand-up comedian who could and would change gears at a moment’s notice. He knew when his jokes were killing, and when they were flying over the heads of the audience. And sometimes, he even stopped his show in its tracks when everyone else couldn’t figure out why he’d so such a thing. Every show with Mitch Hedberg was a unique, wonderful, sometimes frustrating, but magical experience. This show is no different in that respect. And since he is gone, it’s even more magical and frustrating.

In his opening few minutes, he talks about the various Improv clubs and their brick walls, and conjures up a fairy tale reference. He’s also quick to compare the Improvs, noting how the sign in Tempe "is made out of gold" and can therefore be used as barter. He pokes fun at himself, too, saying: “I had a bad set here the other night and they added an ‘E’ to the sign.” And, never afraid of the repercussions, he talks about how the D.C. Improv was “using my name and making me look like an a%%hole.”

Hedberg jokes about working door deals, about the layout of the club — “You guys know what I’m talking
about? Because I don’t!” — it’s so hysterically Mitch, to be in the moment and let it go wherever it may, even if it’s more awkward and funny at his expense. Out of nowhere, seemingly, he’ll imagine what happens if a drummer had magical wands instead of sticks. He always felt free to explain or expand on a joke for the benefit of that night’s audience. Fans would shout out jokes, or even just think they’re offering helpful hints, and Mitch would roll with it, as he does in this performance. “What am I drinking? Nyquil on the rocks. For when you’re feeling sick, but sociable.” His new jokes at the time continued a pattern of unique observations, such as mocking the guillotine for not advancing blade technology, or even the nature of chicken fingers. “I want a chicken thumb! They must be accumulating. No one’s ordering ‘em.” And getting bumped from David Letterman’s show when Madonna goes long is fodder for more humor. “I got paid $900 to eat cantaloupe.”

I’d heard only a few of these jokes live before this CD. Whether you’re a new fan of Mitch Hedberg, or someone who already knew and loved him, this disc will remind you what was so great about him and his comedy, and also make you take another look at the guys practicing his form of surreal observational humor. Some of them will be performing in tribute to Mitch on Sept. 9 at comedy clubs across the country. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.

In the meantime, here are the track listings:
1. Improv Fairy Tale

2. Door Deal

3. Hot Air Balloon

4. Headless Horseman

5. Hotels and Beds

6. Phil

7. Restaurants

8. Texas and Seafood

9. Tea Ski

10. Canal Smarts

11. The Vacuumist

12. Belt

13. Soda Pop

Would you like to win yourself a free copy of this CD? Well, according to the rules handed down to me, you’ll have to read this description from Comedy Central Records first:

“Do You Believe in Gosh” is the long-awaited third album from the comedy icon, Mitch Hedberg, set for release on COMEDY CENTRAL Records on Tuesday, September 9.

Recorded two months prior to his death, the album contains nearly 40 minutes of previously unreleased stand-up material. The CD captures most of the material Hedberg was working on for what would have been his next full-length album in a free-form show with a large amount of audience interaction. The album pulses with Hedberg’s inimitable wit and spirit and is a document of a comedy master.

Mitch Hedberg was one of the most beloved comedians and world renown for his off-kilter one-liners and inimitable style. He died in March of 2005 with nearly an album’s worth of new material he was preparing to record later that October. While he never got a chance to record the album as he wanted, “Do You Believe In Gosh?” was taped live just prior to his passing and captures a large portion of his new jokes.

Then, if you email me your favorite Mitch Hedberg joke and explain why you loved him, then perhaps you could be one of three winners of a free CD! So, go ahead, email me…now!