COMEDY: The Mitch is Back in Town

Hedberg returns to Vegas with unique sensibilities intact

Julie Seabaugh

Dude, Mitch Hedberg is frickin' hilarious. The Conan, Letterman and comedy festival regular and his one-liners on koala cuddliness, bigfoot's blurriness, and how he "highlighted his hair 'cause he felt some strands were more important than others," are clever and absurd, delivered via a shy drawl that somehow escapes from behind that highlighted curtain falling over his constantly bowed head.

The House of Blues audience actually booed after his time was up when he opened for Lewis Black and Dave Attell at January's Comedy Central Live tour. Now he's back on a double-bill with Stephen Lynch, so if you dig your stand-up intelligent and original, prepare thyself for an imminent transformation into a full-blown Hed Head.

Any dirt from touring with Dave and Lewis?

Pretty much Attell and Black, they went out every night, and they can hang out with the crowd. I can't do that, man. I'm afraid if I'm talking to someone, and someone else is trying to talk to me, and I talk to that person, I'm like, "Oh, now that person is mad," so I get all concerned. So I don't have a lot of good stories 'cause I didn't really go out very much. But I was so happy to be on that tour. That tour to me was like—I don't know, what's a happy pill?

I guess Prozac, but that's only if you're depressed, but it was like I couldn't be sad no matter what happened, you know?

Who else would you like to go out with in the future, if you could set up a dream tour?

The dream tour that could become a reality? I'd like to tour with Dane Cook. The dream tour that would be a dream and would never happen would probably be ... I'd like to go on the road with the 1982 Bobcat Goldthwait and the 1979 Steve Martin.

With That '70s Show and Almost Famous, you've been dabbling in a bit of acting?

It's all accidentally. You know what the bottom line is with acting? I don't think I'm a good actor. I don't think I'll ever become an actor that should be hired over anybody else by any means, you know what I mean? And that's the bottom line. The truth of the matter is, they want to hire me to be me, essentially, which is hard to do. I would say that acting is something all comics have dangled in their face.

So what is your big goal, then?

That's the question. I would have to say to write and direct, and I got burned the first time I did it. I made a movie [1999's Los Enchiladas!], wrote it, directed it, but I also acted in it. My manager wanted me to be in it, and you know, I did an alright job in it, but the thing is, the movie never got bought. I played it at Sundance, but it burned me because it was a bad experience. I spent a lot of money. I probably shouldn't have been in Sundance my first movie, but I also shouldn't have given myself such a big part. I'm embarrassed to watch the movie because I'm in it.

What's the scene like for you backstage? How do you prepare?

Backstage has always been my area for me where I've always had high expectations of good times. I've always wanted to have it just right. I'm really into putting on some music that the whole audience can hear, and if I can do that, I'll do that. Most of my backstage experiences are in these little rooms in comedy clubs. Now that I have an actual theater-backstage area, I'm trying the massage technique. I brought a lady in who does massages on one of those chairs—you know those chairs? I paid for her to come in for an hour, and everyone's entitled to 10-, 15-minute massages, whatever they want.

I would love to sit backstage and just do some moderate amounts of drugs with some friends and have some good times, but you know you've got to keep that stuff ... you've got to walk around with a water in your hand, which is sad. So it's massages, and some fruit, a little bit of alcohol, a little bit of waltzing around, and just kind of listen to the crowd mumble, and then some music.

You mentioned drugs. What have you learned since your arrest? [Austin authorities found Hedberg in possession of heroin in May 2003.]

That was a horrible arrest! I guess what I learned about is that I don't want to be written about from any drug point of view, you know? No one nowadays ever keeps to themselves. Everyone talks about shit and you can't just do stuff these days without someone talking. Those days are over. As far as what I've learned, I guess is to stay under the radar as far as possible. I mean, I've definitely learned over the years that you can't do copious amounts of drugs and stay alive. That's not going to happen.

After this tour winds down, what's up next on the horizon?

That's a good question. I'd probably say back to the clubs, back to the colleges. I don't mean "back to it" in a bad way, but I mean it's just going to be stand-up. I did just buy an RV. I had a small one for about two years, and I got hooked on pulling into a campsite and plugging it in and relaxing. And now I've got a nice one, and I just want to ride around and chill out in some of the classic American parks.

Any other final thoughts on life, love, happiness?

In the words of the opening of the movie Troy, we're going to fight like warriors and love like, I don't know ... I think it's the two lines that open the movie Troy that best suit me, even though I can't come up with them now. [Laughs] But other than that, I'm happy, and I just want to stay happy, and as long as my mom and dad are alive, I want to have a relationship with them that stays pretty good, 'cause that's always a touchy live wire there. I want to live and let live and be let-lived to let live. So there you go.

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