During my summers as a young teen I was tragically placed on a neighborhood swim team where I almost never swam and spent most of the meets huddled under a blanket listening to music or reading a book. Instead of any athletic prowess, I racked up a bunch of participation ribbons, but also an obsession with the comedian Mitch Hedberg. The release of the iPod mini in 2004 coincided with hours of Saturday mornings spent listening to his quick-witted one liners, often sharing headphones with the other non-athletes by the pool.
Hedberg was one of my first comedic obsessions. I was a fan. I identified with his humor and knew that I understood him, say, more than the average 14-year-old backstroker. When he passed away from a drug overdose a year later, in 2005, I could barely wrap my head around it. This man who made me laugh so much, who helped me further figure out my own sense of humor, no longer existed. Because of that, and because of the more clear-cut intervals with which we existed as children and teens (school years, summer breaks, birthday parties, etc), I consolidated Hedberg into that period of my life.
This past week, Herdberg’s widow, Lynn Shawcroft, announced plans to release never before seen footage of her late husband’s work as well as some of his notebooks. GQ had previously published some of his notebooks, and reading them undoubtedly left any fan of his hungry for more. It was also a beautiful insight into the delightful clutter of a mind that produced such sharp and small quips.
The footage was shot on 16mm film and “notebooks” is a loose term for stuff scribbled on receipts and airplane vomit bags. Shawcroft paired with a production company to digitize the unfinished and unreleased works of her late husband, but still isn’t sure how she’ll let them out into the world. She ended her guest column for THR with the following confession and hope: “It's taken me a long time to get to this place, but I think I'm finally ready to become a better widow. And that means at some point soon, all of you will be hearing and seeing Mitch again. And I'm betting he'll still make you look at the world in a slightly different way.”
I’m personally looking forward to reacquainting myself with the comic who exists frozen in my 14 year old mind. Shawcroft described Hedberg’s work as “timeless.”
“He'd do a joke about bananas or pancakes or cars — things that aren't going away,” she wrote.
Hopefully, the release of his unseen material will be a chance for many of us to revisit the enchanting and hilariously upside-down way he made us look at the world.