More often than not, comedy is a race to see who can hit the lowest below the belt. It's an exercise in raunch and political incorrectness. Stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg was an exception to the rules. He proved that innocent, observational humor was just as worthy as edgier material. He won over audiences, critics, and the comedy community with jokes like "Rice is great when you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." It was this refreshingly wholesome brand of comedy that compelled Time Magazine to proclaim him, "the next Jerry Seinfeld."
Then, as quick as a punch line, Hedberg vanished. The demons lurking beneath his innocence unfortunately got the better of him. He died from a drug overdose in 2005, at the age of 37.
It's been five years since his untimely death, but Hedberg will not be forgotten, especially after an upcoming tribute in Anderson on Thursday, Aug. 12.
Indianapolis native, Bob Berry, a friend of Hedberg's parents, launched this event. It will include a screening of Hedberg's rarely seen film, Los Enchiladas as well as his TV pilot and never-before-seen stand-up footage. Berry had trouble finding a suitable theater in Hedberg's home of Minnesota, so he decided to bring the event here. "I wanted the films to be shown in a single screen 'old school' movie theatre where we could have Mitch's name in lights on the huge marquee out front. So, I decided to use the Paramount Theatre in Anderson. I wanted a venue that would make Mitch's family proud when they walked into it and I know that the Paramount will do this."
Hedberg's parents, Arne and Mary, can't wait for people to see Mitch's talent come back to life on the big screen. Arne said, "We want as many people to see Los Enchiladas as possible. We have probably seen it 11 or 12 times and each time we see something that we missed before. It is a low-budget movie. For $100,000 people can't expect famous actors but it does feature some well-known and well-liked comics including Dave Attell, Brian Malow, Todd Barry and more."
Written, directed by and starring Mitch, Los Enchiladas is loosely based on his life growing up in Minnesota and his experience working in a Mexican restaurant. The film premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, but it has yet to be widely distributed. Hopefully its premiere in Anderson will change that.
After the film, TV pilot and stand-up footage, Arne, Mary and Hedberg's wife, Lynn Shawcroft will participate in a Q&A. The proceeds from the show will be split between the Minnesota Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation program supported by Hedberg's parents and the Paramount Theatre's "Open Mic/Open Jam" programs.
Aside from benefiting these programs, Mitch's family wants people to "leave with a feeling of satisfaction and for Mitch to have increased fanship," Mary Hedberg said. In regards to her expectations for the event, Shawcroft added, "I don't want it to be sad. I want people to laugh. That's what Mitch would have wanted too."
WHAT: "Remembering Mitch Hedberg", a tribute to the late comedian. Indianapolis-based comedian Matt Holt will emcee.
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 12, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, Anderson (1124 Meridian St.)
TICKETS: $15, $12 advanced