Mitch Hedberg, a cult icon in the world of stand-up comedy, was one of the truly great and original voices of his time. His innovative and hilarious style essentially made him peerless; making his death of a drug overdose on March 29, 2005 all the sadder. Prior to his death he was performing new material that he eventually hoped to turn into a third full-length album. Clips from various gigs at The Improv in Ontario, California, recorded in January of 05, were spliced together and the album “Do You Believe In Gosh?” was born. Though not a completed work, the album at least gives a respectable farewell to a man who was more than deserving of the title of comedic genius.
It should be stated up front that much of the material on this album is rough. Had he not been killed this would have been a very disappointing development, but since tragedy did strike, it actually proves to be quite endearing to hear him on stage doing what he does best with great enthusiasm so close to the time of his death. He even has fun with his unfinished material. After a joke basically deteriorates into nothing he says “I gotta work on that, but trust me, it’s so fucking funny. Go into my head and come back out and tell me I’m wrong.”
Despite the unpolished feel of the show, there are moments of sheer brilliance. Whether it’s his rapid-fire one-liners (highlights include, “I can read minds, but it’s pointless because I’m illiterate,” and “I walked by a record store and the sign out front said they specialized in hard to find records and tapes; nothing was alphabetized!”) or more drawn out material (the best joke of the disc is a story about Lola, a girl without arms who doesn’t know the meaning of can’t) there are several moments on “Gosh” that are as funny as funny gets.
Also strong as ever is Hedberg’s impeccable delivery. If 99% of the world’s population uttered the phrase “I would imagine the inside of a bottle of cleaning fluid is fucking clean,” it wouldn’t even sound like a joke. Yet when those words are uttered by Mitch Hedberg, they are hilarious.
When someone dies of “multiple drug toxicity,” it creates an image of them lying sprawled out in a dark room, completely sheltered from the world waiting for death. It was great to hear that two months before his death, this was not an accurate image of Hedberg. It’s fantastic to hear the enthusiasm he has for performing shine through even as he was about to meet his demise. He even sort of cornily, but endearingly, states at one point on this album, “I try not to smile on stage but it’s fun. Performing’s fun.”
Though he wasn’t exactly a household name (because as he put it, “most of my fans live in apartments”) there is a real timeless quality to Mitch Hedberg that should secure him a devoted following for years to come. I will state, however, if you are new to his material, “Do You Believe In Gosh?” is not the album to start with. Rather, you should first seek out his previous, more well-defined albums “Strategic Grill Locations” and “Mitch All Together.” But if you are an established fan, this album is a very worthy companion to his past work. The only disappointment is that he didn’t survive long enough to finish it.
- A strong testament to Hedberg’s memory
- The rough edges prove to be a sad testament to his death
Material: 8.0/10 (Would have definitely been stronger had he had time to smooth over the rough patches, but still funny.)
Delivery: 9.0/10 (Possessed the ability to make one laugh at almost nothing.)
Originality: 9.0/10 (Hard to pinpoint anyone like him.)
His Death: 0/10 (I can think of no living comic funnier than him and it’s a shame he’s not still around.)