Mitch Hedberg

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Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005) was an American stand-up comedian known for his surreal humor and unconventional comedic delivery. His comedy typically featured short, sometimes one-line jokes, mixed with absurd elements and non sequiturs.

Hedberg’s comedy and on-stage persona gained him a cult following, with audience members sometimes shouting out the punchlines to his jokes before he could finish them.

Hedberg was known to be a drug user, referring to it in some of his jokes (‘I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too’). On March 30, 2005, he was found dead in a hotel room in Livingston, New Jersey. The New Jersey medical examiner’s office reported ‘multiple drug toxicity,’ in the form of a cocaine and heroin ‘speedball,’ as the official cause of death. His funeral was held at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Church in Minnesota.

Hedberg’s stand-up comedy was distinguished by the unique manner of speech that he adopted later in his career, his abrupt delivery, and his unusual stage presence. His material depended heavily upon word play, non sequiturs, paraprosdokians and object observations. His act usually consisted equally of compact one- or two-liners resembling those of Steven Wright, in addition to longer routines, often with each line as a punchline. Many of his jokes stemmed from everyday thoughts or situations.

Because he suffered from stage fright, Hedberg often performed wearing sunglasses, with his head down, with his hair in his face or with his eyes closed in order to avoid eye contact with the audience. He would often stand upstage or perform with his back to the audience. He would also constantly move in one spot and, when holding the microphone in some skits, his nervousness would cause him to shake it uncontrollably.

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