Tag Archives: Mitch Hedberg

Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #3-2-1

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

Maybe the most amazing thing about my list – and I didn’t realize what was happening until after I locked everything down – is that nine of the top ten were debut albums. That is partially due to the likelihood that an established seller will more likely get the financial backing for a DVD project. But it also signals the fact that a group of brilliant writers and performers (many of whom have been staff writers for successful and established shows and performers) are getting an opportunity to get their unique voices out there. 

It’s heartbreaking to realize how many great comic minds we’ve lost in recent years, but it’s reassuring to know that so many have picked up the torch.

Finalizing a top ten was tough, determining the top three was exasperating.

But here we go…

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#03: Kyle Kinane, DEATH OF THE PARTY

Great imagery and material; immediately captivating with an incredibly original style. Sure, he looks and sounds disheveled, but this album straddles the line between stream of consciousness riffing and nuggets of cosmic gold. I will always marvel at the way Mitch Hedberg’s brain worked for puns and one-liners; and I think Kinane’s storytelling presentation is on that same level of greatness.  (A Special Thing Records)

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#02: Anthony Jeselnik, SHAKESPEARE

He might be the smartest writer out there; if you don’t believe it just ask him! Deliberate slow pacing, where he clearly enunciates every word to squeeze every nuance, silence and twist for maximum effect. You have to be very skillful to present yourself as an arrogant know-it-all constantly baiting the audience, but when your CD is one perfectly constructed joke after another, you are acquitted. (Comedy Central Records)

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#01: Auggie Smith, SMELL THE THUNDER

A great combination of social exasperation, political/religious commentary and brilliant writing. Smith’s album is a blend of Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope – basically everything I like about standup comedy. Great pacing, exceptional delivery and inflection, and even his throw-away lines are hilarious. In a year when many strong comedy albums were released, this was the cream of the crop. (Rooftop Comedy)

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Next week: The Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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R.I.P. Greg Giraldo

I was all set to type an essay about Arthur Penn, the distinguished director who just passed away at 88, when I received word that Greg Giraldo passed away this afternoon. Arthur, you’re going to have to be patient with me.

I was saddened to hear that you passed on today, but you’ve had a long life filled with achievements and recognition. When you’re pushing 90, the news is sad but not shocking. Giraldo, on the other hand, was literally half your age. This year, thanks to some major network face time, it seemed like his career was finally transcending from revered cult audience to the widespread acclaim that he so richly deserved. And now he’s gone, forever, four days after being rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

I am heartbroken.

My condolences to his family and many friends, as well as the millions of people around the world whose days – hell, lives were brightened by his comedy.

Video: Just For Laughs

Greg, I hope you are finally at peace.

I hope you can tell Mitch Hedberg how much we miss him. Please give Richard Jeni a hug, and I’ll bet Robert Schimmel could use one as well.

And please confirm that Andy Kaufman is really up there. If Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix could hold their tongue for two years, there’s still a chance Andy is laughing his ass off somewhere in Minnesota. With Elvis.

There will be a hole in my heart every time I watch a Roast knowing how much better you would have made it. But I can only imagine how great the roasts are on the other side, with Hedberg and Kinison and Pryor and Hicks and Lenny and Carlin and Rodney…that room is a little too full, if you know what I mean. Tell the people in charge we need the giants down here, especially now.

And thank you for every smile you put on my face, every laugh that overtook me, every tear that flowed from my eyes because I was doubled over and gasping for air. You had a gift and you shared it with me. I’ll have to make do with the albums and DVDs and internet videos…and memories.

Rest in Peace, brother.

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Remembering Robert Schimmel

Another great one left us far too soon.

I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it; I had been travelling and hadn’t even known he was in the accident the week before. The first time I checked in to see what was up on the news, there it was. I knew I wanted to write something about his passing but I needed time to collect my thoughts. Like most sudden shocks, I think a part of me was hoping that it was just a bad dream.

Goddamn it.

Talk about irony – one of the funniest routines on Robert Schimmel’s first album was about his daughter cracking up her car (and his solution for how to pay the bill let you know immediately which side of the PC fence Bob was sitting). Now, tragically, Robert died not from the cancer he had suffered from, but from injuries suffered in an automobile accident, his daughter behind the wheel. Maybe God has a twisted sense of humor after all.

I think those of us who followed his career figured that he was bulletproof by now. Diagnosed with cancer, Schimmel not only fought back but made lemons out of lemonade, using his personal tragedies as the source of brilliant material in both his stand-up act and his book Cancer On Five Dollars A Day.

Video: 1994 Las Vegas special

My good friend Bill and I have long enjoyed turning each other on to new comics we come across, and when Schimmel hit the radar it was Bill who was on board first. As always, he was on the horn to me as quickly as possible with his stamp of approval, an imprimatur that I consider gold. And he was spot on – one listen to Comes Clean and I was sold for life. Here was a guy who suffered no fools, especially himself, and made no bones about the fact that we all engaged in some strange and stupid behavior on a daily basis.

No letdowns after that debut album, either – If You Buy This CD I Can Get This Car, Unprotected and Life Since Then (much of the latter also parsed as Reserection) skewered everything – religion, family, social morality, sex, celebretards and…did I mention sex? Bob had flawless delivery and could spin a great story, but somewhere in there he’d weave in a bit about bestiality or masturbation or porn films like other comics tell airplane jokes.

Video: Total Gym

Most great comics suffer pain, and Schimmel had anything but an easy life – divorce, heart attack, cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis C infection – even the death of his young son. But nothing was safe when it came to his material, and to be able to knock back those challenges with humor is almost superhuman.

Schimmel was uncompromising – sexual, sarcastic humor flowed out of him so naturally that even some who would normally be offended by such topics and language would have to laugh. Like all great comics, he spoke truth – exaggerated truth, sure, but his material rang clear and genuine. If you’re going to do edgy stand-up, you need to see life through a different prism than most everyone else. Why would we waste time listening to someone who can’t?

Video: The All Girls School

Rodney Dangerfield gave him an early break – as he did for so many up and comers – but thanks to the tone and content of Bob’s act, network television was not in the cards. He was a huge success on pay cable and uncensored radio, but watching this guy work a room was the only way to truly appreciate him.

Naturally the cancer treatment affected his performance; his voice was a bit weaker and his stamina and energy had clearly waned. But his mind was as sharp as ever, and he learned to shift down a gear to still dazzle with great inflections and impeccable timing.  Sixty wasn’t an age, it was a speed.

Schimmel story about Rodney Dangerfield

Schimmel story about George Carlin

I know people die every day, we all lose them, it happens every year and as one gets older the list of those gone by gets staggering. But that doesn’t make it easy. I was shook when he was diagnosed, but I got to see him perform and speak with him briefly not long afterwards and he had the same manic glint in his eye as before. Seeing that recharged me, and frankly I believed that he had kicked cancer’s ass…or at least scared it away for a little while.

Video: Hollywood Squares

Now I’m remembering the countless times I have all but done a spit-take listening to his routines. I’m thinking about the time I saw him play a small club and gradually win over an audience who had no idea what they were in for when he first took the stage. I’m thankful that I have so much of his work available to pull out and watch and listen to whenever I want. And I’ll always remember that look in his eye after that last show.

So many gone. George Carlin. Bill Hicks. Sam Kinison. Richard Pryor. Rodney Dangerfield. Richard Jeni. Mitch Hedberg. Now Robert Schimmel.

I’m sad. I’m pissed. But I feel blessed that I was here to see him first-hand and enjoy his masterful work. R.I.P.,  Bob.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Comic Clips

We’re a little more than halfway through the fourteenth season of Comedy Central Presents; this year two new episodes are aired every Friday night at 11:00pm and 11:30pm Eastern Time. There have been a few minor changes from previous seasons, but the channel remains committed to putting fresh comedy out there on a frequent basis, and for that they should be applauded.

Gone are the (usually) elaborate backdrops and sets, which usually added some flavor to the event; in its place the comic’s name is smeared across the upstage scrim so that the feeble-minded among us can remember who we are watching. This in turn allows the comic a graceful exit instead of stopping by their small marquee sign by the stage right curtain to do the obligatory turn and wave so their name is visible in the background. (One would hope that the patrons seeing the show live could simply stare at their ticket stub whenever the need arose).

So maybe that saves them a few bucks, or maybe last-minute negotiations with the set designer went horribly awry and they decided to wing it; either way it’s no big deal. What does matter is who is in front of that curtain and what they do. In 2010 we’ve gotten a good sampling of talent; it’s been great to see some of the up and comers get their shot.

Here is the list of Season 14 performers.

So as I get ready to strap myself in again this week, I thought it only appropriate to present Ten Comic Clips from the season 14 performers. Like any year its been hit and miss, but there have been a couple of standouts so far – and there are some great names yet to come. So in totally random order

* Rory Albanese is yet another writer from the Daily Show factory. Classic old-school look and delivery.

* Jon Lajoie was very strong. I usually get bored by comedians who play music – I get the puppet gag reflex – but he’s an exception. “Regular Everyday Normal Guy” is a classic.

* Amy Schumer totally knocked it out of the park with her set. Excellent timing and a twisted mind behind that very pretty face.

* Pete Holmes (no relation) does exasperation really well; I’ve never seen a set of his I didn’t like.

* The Sklar Brothers were pretty good; the material was decent on its own but when they act out scenes between them it’s far funnier. Closing with the Diceman bit was huge.

* Rob Riggle had a decent set, but I’ve seen him do better (like his small scene in The Hangover), but in fairness I did have the bar set way high for him.

* Myq Kaplan is scheduled for the end of April; his album Vegan Mind Meld is out this month. Great wordplay – maybe the best since Mitch Hedberg.

* Rachel Feinstein knows that a forward lunge is never attractive. Great voices and physicality to back up strong material.

* Jon Dore was phenomenal! Great set-ups that he twists into something dark and sick, and even when you know something is coming, he gets you anyway. With Schumer, the show of the season so far.

* Matt Braunger is on tonight; I reviewed his album a while back. His material is great, his energy is amazing, and he’s fast becoming one of my favorite comics.

Click here to see the list of every CCP special.

Comedy Central website

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Stand Up Wit…Dwight York!

(It’s never too late to pimp a comedy CD. This review was submitted to a magazine that never left the drawing board. Now it’s here for you.)

Dwight York does not want to waste your time.

As the title suggests, York is a rapid-fire guy firmly in the laughs-per-minute mode. Him starting a show by saying “I hope you like jokes” is like Butch Cassidy telling The Sundance KidI hope you like water” after they jump off that cliff…because here it comes, ready or not.

Quickies is certainly funny enough to appeal universally. York isn’t constantly mining the deep subtleties that a Steven Wright (or even Mitch Hedberg) base their punch lines upon, but he is clever as hell. In other words, you don’t have to think below the surface all the time, but often you’ll be rewarded if you do. His laid-back nature and off-putting style looks casual, but his persona is the result of almost twenty years of grinding it out from part-time comic to joke writer to performer.

Between his dramatic enunciation and his twisted logic, his style is most reminiscent of Emo Philips; if you like Emo, you will love Dwight York. He has the skill to drop a corny but funny line, follow it with a subtle but filthy joke, and then toss up an ironic statement (which those getting the subtle joke a second too late are still laughing over, of course). Then rinse and repeat – he’s got a million of ’em, and the gold far exceeds the clunkers.

Listen to some clips on Amazon.

Although most of his  jokes are short and sweet, he resists the temptation to blast through them at a machine gun pace. He’s got great timing and delivery, and although he’s the antithesis of the storyteller comic, he does weave in some great call backs. You’ll find yourself wanting him to keep peppering your brain with zingers even though part of you is crying out for a chance to breathe.

Recorded at the Skyline Comedy Club (Appleton, Wisconsin), Quickies boasts great production quality; everything is crystal clear even though the audience is laughing hard from start to finish. And since it clocks in about 50 minutes, you (like them) should be prepared for aching ribs afterwards.

Visit Dwight York on MySpace and at his his website.

Dwight’s page at Stand Up! Records

The Vile File (Jokes too Sick For The Stage). Excerpts here.

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And R.I.P. Malcolm McLaren, fashion impresario and partial ringleader of the circus known as The Sex Pistols. Whether you believe the story told in The Great Rock And Roll Swindle, The Filth and the Fury or There’ll Always Be an England, McLaren was anything from an opportunist to a Svengali. But he was in the middle of it all, wasn’t he?

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Mitch Moments

I miss Mitch Hedberg.

I don’t know how his brain worked (or didn’t) to make so many unique oddball thoughts come out of it, but I’m glad I got to see him live a couple of times. I’m also happy that there are a few recordings available for posterity so that people will always have the chance to get a little bit of Hedberg magic in their ears.

Next year will be the fifth anniversary of his death from a heart attack at 37. It still seems like yesterday. Would he have been able to keep up the pace had he lived to a ripe old age? Would he even have wanted to? We’ll never know. Like the old adage, he left us wanting more.

Mitch Hedberg on Letterman

His stoner demeanor and seemingly random thoughts were really a combination of brilliant writing and nervousness. His cadence and delivery were unique, and once you got into the flow he had you. Mitch made it look effortless but there was a lot of work behind the act, and although he skyrocketed once in the public eye he didn’t just happen overnight.

I imagine that a artist wants their work to live on. Although Hedberg’s body of work was cut short, people will be quoting his one-liners for a long, long time. Here are ten of my favorite Hedberg bits:

*Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupus. One of those two doesn’t sound right.

*Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.

*I tried to walk into a Target but I missed. I think the entrance at Target should have people splattered all over it.

*I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.

*An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.”

*I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut… I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this.

*I bought a house. It’s a two bedroom house, but I think it’s up to me how many bedrooms there are. Don’t you? “Fuck you, real estate lady, this bedroom has an oven in it!”

*My friend was walking down the street and he said, “I hear music.” As if there is any other way of taking it in. I tried to taste it, but it did not work.

*On a traffic light, green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the fuck did you get that banana?

Bonus: The Restaurant Waiting List bit

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Mitch’s site – updates on memorial shows, buy his albums.

Old interview from Shecky Magazine that proves Mitch was a smart guy.

EW Article that ran after his death.

Hedburgh – excellent Mitch tribute site.

Montreal Just For Laughs 2004

Rest in Peace, brother.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Laughs

 This week a little cheating – a couple of the clips feature multiple performers and as usual I can’t count to ten. Sad to think that Sather, Hedberg and Jeni are no longer with us; sadder to realize that two were suicides and the third might have been. Every one of these guys has made me laugh so hard that fluids tried to escape my body against my will. Enjoy!

comedy mask

Dave Chappelle doesn’t like Sesame Street very much.

The late Drake Sather was a great stand-up and comedy writer.

Norm MacDonald is effin brilliant.

So was the late Mitch Hedberg; this from the Just For Laughs Festival.

Another guy I miss, Richard Jeni, riffing on Michael Jackson.

Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops on Who’s Line is it Anyway?

Banter between Colin Mochrie and Ryan doing the classic “Greatest Hits” ads.

Nick DiPaolo on drinking, driving and smoking.

Gilbert Gottfried can squeeze every last drop out of a funny line.

Craig Ferguson is funny on his show but his stand-up shows are killer.

Bonus tracks:

Eddie Izzard and the Evil Giraffe.

Jim Carrey channels David Caruso.

Life is short. Laugh every day!

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