Hiding behind his trademark red sunglasses and shaggy hair, American comic Mitch Hedberg would strut across the stage, sipping from his red Solo cup full of (probably?) booze as he unleashed a string of surreal non sequiturs, tongue-in-cheek wordplay, and deliciously bizarre takes on the most innocuous of topics. Dogs, turtlenecks, sandwiches, rice—nothing was safe from Hedberg’s uniquely perspective shifting comedy. At a time when American standup was enthralled with the Lenny Bruce/George Carlin mould of ‘comedy-as-truthtelling’, Hedberg was a comic who revelled in the craft, relying on his wizardry with words to elevate his puns and double entendres to high art.
He delivered punchlines at 60kmph, a ratatat rhythm that often left you gasping for air between laughs. His jokes often came from a place of almost childlike wonder, untainted by the reality of adulthood and responsibilities, even if the subjects often touched upon more adult concerns.
His light hearted jokes about drugs and alcohol hinted at a more troubled relationship with substance abuse, which eventually led to death by overdose in 2005, when he was only 37 years old. But Hedberg’s comedy lives on at the centre of a global cult that still trades in the cultural currency of his iconic zingers. Today, on what would have been his 53rd birthday, we’ve put together a list of five of his most iconic bits (available on YouTube).
1. Why I Hate Dreaming
This performance by Hedberg at the Montreal festival is an absolute hoot. The comic freewheels between astute observations about belts, pants, border control, and a specific Dr. Acula. He also makes some pretty solid points about why chasing your dreams is overrated.
2. Late Night With Conan O’Brien
Hedberg performed on The Late Show with David Letterman ten times, a remarkable number of appearances given his relatively short career. He also made two appearances on Late Night with Conan O‘Brien. During the second appearance, he remarked “that means the first time it must have been okay”. Check out this hilarious video which is definitely more than “okay”, where Hedberg talks about the time he forgot what slipcovers and fajita colognes.
3. The Perfect Pizza Franchise
“If you’re flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.” This brilliant joke is one of many in this performance from this posthumous, unedited cut of his Comedy Central special. Hedberg goes on to talk about his ingenious ideas for the “perfect” pizza chain and how redundant it is to hand out flyers.
4. The Reason We Can’t Find Big Foot
In his 1998 performance at the Just For Laughs festival, Hedberg talks about his experience of performing on The Late Show with David Letterman. His conspiracy theory about Pringles will definitely make you think twice. And he’s finally cracked why nobody can find Big Foot!
5. Acid Opened Up My Mind
“I used to drugs. I still do, but I used to too.” That’s one of Hedberg’s most classic lines, one still regularly referenced on #StonerTwitter. In this clip, Hedberg recalls his “trip” into the woods. He also makes important points about people waiting for a table at restaurants and how annoying turtlenecks are.
6. Bonus Content!
If these five clips whetted your appetite, there’s more Mitch Hedberg content to hunt down! Before his death, the comic released three albums of his live performances, which are available on Spotify. So head on over for more Mitch goodness.