Tonight, comedy clubs in six cities across America will salute the posthumous release of Do You Believe in Gosh? by the late, great comedian Mitch Hedberg, with "Mitch Across America: One Nation Under Gosh." Read my review of Hedberg’s third CD here.
Hedberg’s widow, Lynn Shawcroft, will perform along with Al Madrigal, Todd Glass, Nick Thune and others at the Hollywood Improv on Melrose. Arj Barker, Leo Allen, Rob Cantrell, Todd Barry, Bonnie McFarlane, Marc Maron, Russ Meneve and Tony Camin are on the bill at Comix in New York City. Mary Mack and Shane Mauss are among those toasting Hedberg in his native Minnesota at Acme Comedy Co. Ron Reid hosts a show at Laughs in Kirkland, Wash., near Hedberg’s comedy "home" where he blossomed his unique voice in Seattle, that includes a slide show from his road manager, Greg Chaille, and performances by Billy Wayne Davis, Emmett Montgomery, Dan Carroll, Jesse Case, Joe Vespaziani and Jeremy Whitman. Josh Sneed, Tommy Johnigan, Geoff Tate, Nikki Glaser, Tim Northern, Ryan Dalton and Will Hardesty will help celebrate him at Go Bananas in Cincinnati (Rooftop Comedy has a series of live clips from Hedberg performing at Go Bananas). Brendon Walsh and others honor Hedberg in the clever Cap City club in Austin, Texas.
I wrote a column about Hedberg that appears in today’s New York editions of the Metro newspaper. Each club tonight will host comedians who knew Hedberg and/or were inspired by him.
Rob Cantrell toured as opening act for Hedberg (and Stephen Lynch) in 2004, the year before Hedberg died. Here are some thoughts Cantrell sent my way worth sharing:
Mitch Hedberg was a nice guy and a super talented comic/artist who was
a huge inspiration to me and a lot of other comics. I am still sad
about his passing and wish he was still here. Mitch was a good dude who
worked hard, was funny and cool. Cool as in, a pleasure to be around.
Funny, he always was silly and smart. He worked hard building a major
following without TV/movie exposure, he got big mostly on word of
mouth. He is like the Allman Brothers of Stand-Up.
He loved comedy and put his craft before most everything in his life,
including his health. The theater tour with Steven Lynch was huge, the
shows were ‘Comedy Fun-Land.’ They were at big venues like the Warner
Theater in DC, Electric Factory in Philly and Town Hall here in New
York, packed with cool and intelligent comedy crowds. His fans were
great because they were trained to listen and always appreciate
something different. We were driving to Buffalo from Pittsburgh and we
pulled over at a Karate/Fireworks store (how could you not) and bought
bottle rockets which we set off outside the green room after a show
giving the fans an extra treat of a grand finale of three-and-a-half bottle
rockets. Mitch, Lynn and I also bought karate suits at the fireworks store.
More thoughts from Cantrell on Hedberg:
He sold out the Electric Factory in Philadelphia (3,000-seater — a long
way from The Funny Bone in Idaho — and the night before we were in New York
at The Town Hall) and I remember the theater brought out the ‘Top
Bubbly’ after the show because they sold it out and a couple guys from the band The Strokes were backstage there toasting Mitch. They had
seen him the night before in New York and had taken the train down to see
him in Philadelphia the next night. You know you’re a rock star when
rock stars start following you around.
I had opened for Mitch a couple years earlier in comedy clubs in
California before his finale tour. He bought me a hotel for the weekend
in Sacramento because the club wouldn’t put me up. I was living in San
Francisco, 2 years into comedy, broke, and sleeping on a distant
cousin’s coach in Sacramento. He didn’t even see my set before he got
the room, he just knew I needed it. He was a class act like that, he had
an old-school Sinatra way of tipping and taking care of the people he
worked with. His performances were always epic to me, because he was
coming from an original angle, he could destroy harder than anyone, his
jokes were so solid and his banter between the jokes were fun to listen
to. I am looking forward to the new album and celebrating him and his
"Work" on Tuesday.
Todd Glass knew Hedberg but rarely got the chance to work with him. He explains:
I just knew him from seeing him. One night in Nashville, about a month before he died, I went in on a Sunday to see him. Me and Daniel Kinno. We were there through Saturday and stuck around. (Mitch) would just play onstage, doing silly things. I never knew that about him. Maybe play isn’t the right word, but yeah, play. He enjoyed playing like that.
Glass said some comics think it’s cool to bomb in front of an audience. "Mitch did not enjoy when he bombed," he said. "He didn’t think it was cool. He didn’t like it, and it bothered him, but he wasn’t willing to compromise."
Many other comedians will be talking about what made Mitch Hedberg so special and unique in stand-up comedy. So if you have the chance, go see one of these shows tonight in New York, Hollywood, Seattle, Minneapolis, Austin or Cincinnati.