Mitch Hedberg's Legacy Shines at New York Comedy Festival

by Sachyn Mital

3 November 2016

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New York Comedy Festival: Mitch Hedberg Tribute

1 Nov 2016: Caroline's — New York, NY

The Mitch Hedberg Tribute event at Caroline’s was one of the first events of this year’s New York Comedy Festival. It was hosted by Hedberg’s long time friend K.P. Anderson and featured his spouse Lynn Shawcroft along with a panel of the comedian’s fellow comedian friends, including Artie Lange, Dave Attell and Rich Chassler, plus video tributes from Nick Swardson, Todd Glass and Doug Stanhope. The event was often more touching than hilarious, though it’s not like people weren’t laughing (plus proceeds benefited The Innocence Project).

Mitch Hedberg‘s legacy continues to shine strong, over a decade after he passed away from a drug overdose in 2005, simply because his jokes withstand the test of time. The incomparable comedian was survived by Shawcroft, who only recently found the strength to stop “hoarding” Hedberg enough to dig through the trove he left behind, which included notebooks of jokes and videos from performances and selfie style footage.

Nearly every guest remarked that Hedberg loved comedy and about how prolific he was; Attell said he was “never satisfied” (it was not quite a reference to Hamilton though that’s what I thought of). Attell continued, Hedberg was “clean but not corny” and instead of making “DNP—or dick’n'pussy jokes”, he’d make one about a “koala bear infestation”. Tom Rhodes wondered, “at what point, when we were like doing coke with these black guys by the Lincoln Tunnel, did he have time to jot down a joke about cinnamon-stick flavored fucking incense?”

Many of the anecdotes, of course, involved drugs—there was no reason for people to shy away from that large aspect of Hedberg’s life and his social circle. Attell mentioned a California drive where everyone was on mushrooms but him and he wasn’t the one driving. Tammy Pescatelli came across Hedberg one morning missing a shoe, “Mitch, where is your shoe?” she asked. He replied, “It was there when I left.” Hedberg, who called her the “Capitane”, once commented on her appearance (saying something like ‘this doesn’t look good on you’) in a manner which may have started her course away from drugs. 

Shawcroft appeared vulnerable at many points during the heartfelt tribute as people shared anecdotes about her husband, including a few she didn’t hear before. It was through Comedy Central that Shawcroft produced a limited vinyl box set containing Hedberg’s trio of albums which comes out this week. The box set also includes a small book with photos and essays plus a custom flash drive with previously unreleased recordings and other material—a very promising opportunity for comedy fans who are already well familiar with Hedberg’s classic punchlines.

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