Mitch All Together / Strategic Grill Locations
Hail to the one-liner, for it is still strong. We’ve come a long way since the days of stand-up comedians who offered raspy eyebrow-raisers like, “Take my wife, please,” always punctuated with a drummer’s ba-dum-bum. Now, our best comedians are empires, the Jerry Seinfelds and Drew Carreys, with enough television specials and product placements to make any attempt to follow their careers a full-time job. Their routines are winding and woven, setting an example for future comics who will inevitably take notes and reproduce what’s already successful. So how beautiful it is to see someone like Mitch Hedberg come along – a man full of awkward one-liners, his jokes nothing more than inane observations crammed into weird, repeatable sound bites, hilarious and universal and at a slow, slow burn.
“Last week, I helped my friend stay put. It’s a lot easier than helping someone move. I just went over to his house and made sure he did not start to load shit into a truck,” he says on Strategic Grill Locations, one of two albums released since 2002. And then, with no attempt at a segue, he says, “My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana, and I said no. But I want a regular banana later, so, yeah.” The crowd eats it up.
So does the crowd on the newly-released Mitch All Together, which contains a CD and a DVD of his Comedy Central half-hour special. But the crowd on the DVD’s uncut version of the special captures Hedberg perfectly, because their reaction slowly, painfully turns from confusion to laughter. It takes them a while to really understand what he’s up to, and they watch him for about 20 minutes with standoffish amusement, like witnessing zoo animals mate. Hedberg keeps going, clearly nervous.
Hedberg’s delivery is clearly shtick, and he seems to be going for something between the stoners from Dazed and Confused and the surfers from every movie set on the California coast. His hair is long, he wears dark glasses and he’s got a scruffy look that says, “did I just sleep for two days straight?” (Appropriately enough, he once made an appearance on That 70’s Show.) He laughs somewhat nervously, makes consistent references to his being recorded for the CD and DVD and seems altogether unprepared to make an audience laugh.
But then the crowd starts listening to him, and realizes what he has to say is genuinely hysterical. His jokes sometimes take a few seconds to kick in, because they’re often so off-kilter. There’s no time in the world of one-liners to set the audience up for a joke. “I haven’t slept for ten days,” he says, “because that would be too long.” And that’s it. Next joke. And once the first one is funny – and really, they’re all funny – the next one is funnier. And the third is, well, you get the point.
Comedy Central released both of these records, which contain a lot of the same jokes, and they’re wise in doing so. Mitch Hedberg is bound to be a franchise someday. He’s infectious. His jokes feel like trading cards – so unique and easily repeated that you want to collect them all. And you’ll laugh each and every time you hear one.