Known Johnson

September 24, 2004

Mitch Hedberg and Stephen Lynch: Sept. 23, 2004, Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, AZ

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:11 pm

Celebrity Theater’s “in the round” setting provided an unusual setting for a pairing of comedy performances last night, and the slowly spinning stage providing material for everyone involved. After an amusing, if a tad long set by music-comedian Stephen Lynch, whose song-based humor often resembled that of Jack Black’s Tenacious D (if less metal-based,) and hilarious emcee duties handled by previously unknown to me comedian Al Madrigal, expectations were high for the big draw, Mitch Hedberg. Expectations, it turns out, were about to be let down.

Hedberg, for those who don’t know him, has made a name for himself based more on his addled delivery of odd observations. The observations, in and of themselves, are not so laugh-out-loud funny, the humor is almost entirely in the stunted, slow-paced delivery and his constant over-explanation. A classic bit goes “My apartment is infested with koala bears. It was the cutest infestation ever. When I turn on the light, they scatter, but I do not want them to. Don’t run away. I want to hold you . . . and feed you a leaf.” It’s not so funny to read it – but to hear it, it’s hilarious, and his own half-laughter following his jokes may technically be bad “comedy form” but he seems so amused at what comes out of his mouth you can’t help but laugh along with him.

Hedberg toook to the stage clutching two red cups, the kind of red cups everyone knows are usually filled with the hard stuff, setting them down on a stool in the center of the stage. Starting into his routine, it was clear something was wrong. I figured he must have had a little too much of something backstage, and his continued and frequent sampling from the two cups only added to the problem. As time wore on, things got worse. Much worse.

After a short while, he began stumbling about the stage, stupefied, mumbling, delivering punchlines before the body of the joke, laughing for no reason, and at several points throughout the show, simply laid down in the center of the stage. Dangling the microphone over his mouth, he would giggle and sigh, commenting regularly that he couldn’t remember his jokes. The audience egged him on, cheering, clapping, and laughing, tossing suggested bits into the air that he would half-heartedly attempt, then give up in more giggles. At several points I was certain he was on the verge of passing out as the microphone slipped out of his hand to clonk on the stage or on his face, but giggles would emerge again. When he did manage to stand, he approached an older woman at the side of the stage who encourage him to have a seat with her. The security guards approached to ward her off, but Hedberg stumbled off the stage to take a seat, and the woman proceeded to fetishize him, rubbing his hair, touching his clothes, and eventually the two engaged in a sickening makeout session that had the audience groaning and yelling.

Back on stage, Hedberg collapsed to the floor again in a completely incoherent mess. For an achingly long time he simply laughed, attempting to talk and slipping right back into laughter. Commenting that he liked drugs, especiallyXanax, but he was happy with anything, several small pills found their way to the stage, at least one of which he swallowed after mumbling “What is this?” He sat back down on the stage and became the picture of a drunken, washed up loser. Seats quickly began emptying, entire rows vacant, and at one point a man approached the stage with a card. Stumbling to him to retrieve the card, Hedberg read the contents aloud. “‘Jesus loves you.’ Not tonight, man, not after tonight.”

Mumbling that the Celebrity Theater owner was going to be mad in light of a previous incoherent Tempe Improv show, he questioned his performance, lamenting it, repeatedly mumbling that he wanted to “end strong” – Stephen Lynch had started strong, he stated, and Lynch ended strong, and he wanted to not disappoint the fans. He was wrong on all counts, unfortunately. At best he could only end as weakly as he began, but even with shouted lines of bits from audience members he was unable to complete most of his jokes. Upon tossing off a well-worn bit, he simply threw his hands in the air in mock victory, and Al Madrigal jumped in to save the show’s end.

This is Hedberg’s peak. He will never again be as popular as he is right now, and he’s simply throwing it away on drug abuse that he puts on display for his fans. There was next to nothing humorous about his performance – if anything, most people stayed to see if he would make it through his entire act, or, like gawking at a gory accident, stayed to see the slowly unfolding disaster. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we unwittingly paid for.



  1. […] edian Mitch Hedberg’s appearance near the writer when I realize he is talking about MY review of the horrible fiasco that was his Phoenix appearance back in September. While I think […]

    Pingback by the beautiful lull » Anonymous “fame” . . . sort of — December 2, 2004 @ 5:19 am | Reply

  2. I was at this show and paid 70 bux for my wife and I. We were there to see Hedberg, as I am not really into singing comedians…thats why I go to rock concerts.

    Anywayzzzz, Stephen Lynch went on first because he had some BS to do in San Diego (I guess CA is first priority), apparently Hedberg usually comes on first which is obvious now why.

    It was worse thatn the review suggests, its as if the almost 3000 people who paid 32.50 each (sold out) did not matter. His need to be waysted [sic] was more important. Doesn’t he have a handler or manager to keep him from going on drunk? He would spend 20 minutes complaining about the pressures of being a comic. Well I am an insurance producer, would my clients pay to listen to me complain about the pressures of being in insurance, plus the 3 kids I amd raising? Not.

    I wish I had brought my kids, I can not think of anything that would horrify them into not drinking alcohol, it would have been a more powerful statement.

    The stuff with the old lady who herself wanted to be part of the show was downplayed in this review, is he still married to Lynn?, he was making out with some old lady who had to dye her hair blonde because it was grey, but she still thinks she is 25 and had attention issues. She thought she was part of the show.

    He asked for xanax and people through pills on stage and he took them, I am not sure what it was but xanax is rather small and the pills he took were rather large. Probably that old b*@&ch’s estrogen.

    2 things about this show that piss me off the most.

    1. He was brilliant in San Diego from what I hear from friends.

    2. and worst of all for a comic. HE WAS NOT FUNNY.

    Does anyone want to buy my 2 Hedberg CD’s Mitch All Together and Strategic Grill Locations.

    Thanks for listening to my rant!!!


    ps. this was his funniest joke out of the 3 he told in 1 and a half hours. “I don’t get it, is it a Hippopatamus or a really cool styling O-Patamus

    Comment by Brian Capp — September 26, 2004 @ 8:02 am | Reply

  3. I saw the Lynch/Hedburg show in DC, and it was the exact same thing. Lynch was a riot– I had never seen him before and he was totally entertaining. I was excited to see Mitch b/c I had first seen him onstage 3 years ago, and he was great (not to mention the numerous times on Comedy Central).

    Mitch began his bit by pulling out a notebook filled with jokes (which is tacky, for ANY comedian), and a cup of “OJ” in his hand, which, every time he took a sip, took 30 sec. He began his jokes, got distracted/bored w/ himself, and proceeded to pull out his lighter and tried to light the stage curtain on fire. No one tried stopping him. I’ll admit he had a funny improv bit trying to find the back of the stage (beyond the curtain), but that lasted all of 2 min.

    He laid down on the floor in the middle of his routine in DC, just like in Phoenix. His giggles made anything he said incomprehensible and got to be annoying.

    Towards the end of the act, he kept saying over and over how he had to end strong, just like Lynch– how he needed a big laugh to be able to exit. I don’t think he ended up getting it, but after an hour and a half, ppl were starting to leave.

    I was really disappointed, and a little less of a Mitch fan now.

    Comment by Chris — February 1, 2005 @ 8:59 am | Reply

  4. I saw Hedberg/Lynch in Scranton, PA some months ago. Brought 4 friends. Mitch was terrible.
    He spent the entire set dropping/unplugging the mic and became fixated on the fact that a guy from the balcony was heckling him.
    Mitch told maybe 10 jokes in 50 minutes. Cleared the room.
    My buddy was working security (he’s a state trooper) and almost arrested him backstage.
    It was probably the most tragic event I’ve ever seen on stage. I will always cherish Mitch’s CDs, but this show broke my heart.

    Comment by Gene — March 21, 2005 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  5. Well, Mitch has passed. I worked for a group of musicians recently that are having serious drug problems. One of the guys that is not involved in the drugs said to me once, “Its so sad what a LITTLE fame can do to some people, and I do mean a LITTLE fame.”

    Comment by Trying to be Nice — March 31, 2005 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

  6. I saw Mitch in Kansas City in February, and was every bit as excited before the show as I was when I left. I didn’t stopped laughing the whole time. I would have gone again to see him the next night if I had the choice. I am pained by what I hear of Phoenix, DC, etc., but I hope the sadness is not all anyone will remember of a freaking hilarious dude.

    Comment by distinctive laugh — April 1, 2005 @ 12:20 am | Reply

  7. I saw Mitch at the beginning of February in Des Moines, IA. He never was on the ground or anything. The room wasn’t laughing near as hard as I was, but that’s lame West Des Moines people for you. I thought he was brilliant and only screwed up once. He did pull an underage black guy (the only one in the audience) on stage to give him drinks back stage.

    Comment by Milka — April 3, 2005 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  8. I seen the two in chicago and they were both great lynch first and then mitch and me and my 6 buddies were there to see stephen not know who mitch was. the concert was one of the greastest that i have seen. me and all my friend enjoyed the show and would have seen it again if not for mitch passing away. RIP Mitch

    Comment by anton — April 3, 2005 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  9. I have to stand by Mitch. I am a true fan. The guy is hilarious. I dont agree with his drinking or drug use and if it was as bad as you people say it was, then that is truly sad. However, Mitch Hedberg is the funniest comedian I have ever heard. Me and my brother had the great pleasure of attending one of Mitch’s final shows. He was laugh out loud hilarious. His CD’s are great, his comedy central show was great, and he will llive on forever in the heart of those who truly loved Mitch Hedberg…the man, the myth, the legend.

    Comment by Brandon — April 4, 2005 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  10. R.I.P. Mitch
    We love you man

    In memory
    “I think Bigfoot is blurry, that’s the problem. It’s not the photographer’s fault. Bigfoot is blurry. And that’s extra scary to me, because there’s a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run. He’s fuzzy. Get outta here”

    Comment by Brandon — April 4, 2005 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  11. From what I know about Mitch, it sounds like his performance in Phoenix, D.C. was just a “bit”. Maybe he was just trying something new, or trying to shock the audience. He’s known for outlandish comedy and drug-related humor. There is no way that he was seriously on drugs or drunk at the time. I think the people reviewing the show are grossly exaggerating and I would really like to see some proof of these allegations.
    RIP Mitch Hedberg

    Comment by john doe — April 6, 2005 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  12. John Doe, I really hate to break this to you – this was not a bit. Mitch was impaired. I think you are in denial – this is a man who had a very, very serious problem, one that he has acknowledged (check his site – he has some letters to fans in those cities promising to clean up his act.) How you think that every single one of these people is stupid enough to not get this “bit” is beyond me – if you’d seen the man like this, you’d have been as horrified as I or many others were. This was not a joke – Hedberg was an addict who had surpassed the point at which he had control over his addiction, and it came out on stage. Please don’t act like everyone but you is a fool.

    Comment by Tom — April 7, 2005 @ 6:47 am | Reply

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  35. Tom, calm the fuck down, and pop some prozzac.

    Shame about Mitch… I though he put on one helluva show.

    Comment by H-Kat — June 19, 2005 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

  36. H-Kat, there’s nothing for me to calm down about, not when I paid to see a comedian do his job, not to mention that I’m not angry in this review – just very saddened by this awful display. And checking your whois info, you were most likely not at this show, unless you happened to be in Tempe, AZ that night, instead of Herndon, VA.

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  40. RIP mitch, i know you had your problems but you were still one of the funniest guys alive.
    i cant believe that you would let your fans down like that though…
    PS if you took Q and R out, that would be part of the alphabet

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