Mitch Hedberg sounds like a slacker. Even stone-cold sober, on his way to a gig near his hometown of Minneapolis, the easygoing standup comedian mumbles like the marijuana-smoking teens in those "Just Say Nah ..." radio ads.
It's probably just the fumes from a career in overdrive. This year alone, Hedberg has wowed audiences at Montreal's prestigious Just For Laughs Festival; schmoozed with Letterman on the Late Night couch; had Sundance Film Festival accept a film (Los Enchiladas!, which he wrote, directed and starred in); and scored a sitcom development deal with Fox.
He explains the effects of his newfound supersuccess only half jokingly: "It used to be like you went on stage, and you were all drunk, and you fucked around a lot, and I'd get yelled at or something ... But now they put up with it."
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Hedberg's act is actually low-key. Deemed the next Seinfeld by Time, he gets laughs with witty and offbeat observations about, well, nothing. He thinks that "Pringles' initial intention was to make tennis balls" and that "Bigfoot is blurry." He hates turtlenecks ("It's like being strangled by a really weak guy -- all day") and switched from buying M&Ms to carrying aspirin, because "if you give your friend two aspirin, he doesn't think you're being selfish."
Hedberg laughs off the compliment, saying that he's not really like Seinfeld -- except that he would love to have a show on the air for nine years. Lots of comics, including Hedberg's Houston performing partner Tom Rhodes (remember NBC's one-season wonder, Mr. Rhodes?), fail in their attempts to conquer TV. But Hedberg, in classic form, doesn't seem too worried about his show, which will probably be based on his independent film about a drifter who gets a job in a Midwestern Mexican restaurant. "I'm just going to try my best to look good no matter what happens with the show. So, therefore, if the show sucks, hopefully I'll still not look like an asshole," he laughs. "I'll just jump to another sitcom."
-- Lauren Kern
Mitch Hedberg plays the Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, with Tom Rhodes, Wednesday through Sunday, December 16-20, at 8 p.m. Additional Friday- & Saturday-night shows at 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows are $12; all other nights, $8. Call 524-2333 for reservations.