I’ve never been much for comedy albums. I like to see the comedian because half of the fun is watching the person pull it off. However, Blogcritic Mark Saleski’s recent post on Triumph the insult comic’s album and other comedy classics reminded me that it was time to post a review of a couple of my few comedy album purchases – Mitch Hedberg’s Strategic Grill Locations and Mitch All Together.
As a kid, a friend and I wore through a cassette of Bill Cosby’s Himself. I don’t recall buying it, maybe it was one of my parents, or maybe, somehow, I actually wanted it. Either way, it’s one of those cherished childhood elements that seems hard to believe today – did I really listen to this as a 9 or 10 year old kid? I didn’t even understand all the humor, but man did he make us laugh. I still don’t get the joke that winds up with God yelling “Everyone out of the pool!” But it still made me laugh. Strangely, given my love for that tape, I never bought any other comedy albums – maybe I figured nothing could live up to that, and maybe nothing would. The time, the circumstances, who knows what made it all click.
This guy Hedberg, however, really caught my ear. He’s just different. His topics are odd, which is a relief – I’ve never been interested in the “my family’s so crazy!” type of topics it seems every average comic churns out (and which is what makes David Cross’ Shut Up You Fucking Baby so funny – so rudely, crassly, disgustingly, inappropriately funny.) But what makes Hedberg so entertaining is not just the odd topics he chooses – it’s his confident, yet casually fragile, nearly hippy-esque delivery. That he nearly causes himself to laugh on numerous occasions might seem a cheap gimmick with some comedians, but with Hedberg it’s as important, and maybe more important, than what he’s actually talking about. Take, for example, his observation about donut receipts (forgive me, I’m going to do my best to remember this, but it may prove that it’s really his delivery that makes it so funny):
“Why do they give you a receipt for a donut? I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would have to prove my purchase. ‘I had a donut today.’ ‘What? I don’t believe you.’ ‘I’ve got the documentation to prove it. It’s at home. Filed under “D.” For donut.’”
It’s his eyes-closed, hidden behind sunglasses, constantly brushing long hair from his face as he peers at the floor delivery that makes it work.
Plus, for whatever reason, his Strategic Grill Locations finds him accompanied by jazz bassist almost continually through the show. The guy’s weird. Best bet: buy Mitch All Together because it has both a CD of one performance and a DVD featuring his full, uncensored Comedy Central performance, which was condensed and edited for air (the edited episode is also included, plus a short piece for the channel. Half of the fun of his uncensored performance is watching him struggle for some minutes before the obviously uninitiated audience begins to pick up on his humor. Some might not buy the schtick, but seeing him deliver it really makes it work – and then the audio-only pieces will entertain you. Once you’ve seen Hedberg’s delivery, you’ll never be able to hear – or even just read – him without seeing it. I can’t say it’ll ever equal the magic of hearing Bill Cosby’s Himself as a kid, but as an adult it’s pretty satisfying.
(Unproductivity is pretty satisfying.)