Picking up where last week’s full transcript of an interview conducted in October 2004 for Las Vegas Weekly left off, Mitch Hedberg discusses meeting and traveling with his wife Lynn Shawcroft, performing at Just For Laughs Montreal, backstage preparations, drug use, his possession arrest, Comedy Central releases, gambling, hotels, his beloved log cabin and RV, his relationship with his parents and more.
I know Lynn will travel with you; open for you. How did you guys first meet?
Well she was doing comedy up in Toronto, and she ended up going to the Montreal Comedy Festival the same year I went in the New Faces. And she got a lot of attention and I was starting to get my own attention, so we didn’t really hang out, but that’s where I first found her. I had my own girlfriend at the time; she had her boyfriend. But then about four years later I was up in Toronto just working, and she was down at the uh, Toronto’s version of Largo — I forget the name of it, but it’s a cool room they got up there — I went there and I saw her.
I always thought she was really funny, and the other comic that was with me kept trying to get me to stay away from her because he liked her or some shit. It turned out that I just clicked with her right away. I had a long-time girlfriend who wasn’t a comedian and was very rarely on the road with me. It didn’t really work well, and I find this to work much better. To be on the road with my wife is I think the only way it can work for me. I think maybe my days of, I don’t want to sound like a dog or anything, but maybe those days are over of where I was on the road and they weren’t. But I just know I like being out with this person a lot. And the only way I can do that is to have a person that can be on the road, and that’s a comedian. So it’s perfect.
Or a musician.
Or a musician!
Or a vacuum-cleaner salesperson.
[Laughs] Yeah, there’s got to be someone else, right? There’s got to be some other travelers out there. But nonetheless, I picked the perfect one, a comedian. And I also took her out of a cool comedy scene and made her suddenly have to play, like, some bar in fucking Mobile, Alabama, so I made her do these shows I don’t think she ever wanted or intended to do. But nonetheless, she’s gotten pretty good herself. I think she’s a pretty sharp comic, and I hate that she has to…I think she should get her own attention. She’s always talking me up and stuff, and I’m like, “Man, you’re your own thing, man!” And in a way I think she’s so talented that she should go off and get her own attention, ‘cause I get a certain amount of attention and a lot of people, they won’t realize just how amazing she is. She is really good, man. I think she deserves…I think she could go very, very far, and I don’t think she should live in my shadow. And she doesn’t, but she’s always supporting me. She’s just that type of person, you know what I’m saying? But she’s really, really funny, and that was my first attraction to her.
That was at your very first Just for Laughs when you met?
Yeah, my very first one. When we were first up there, we were…that was back in the day when Just for Laughs was just all about huge development deals, everyone was just getting all this money.
…you mean they’re not anymore?
No, it really ain’t. It happens, it’s just died down. It got outta hand for awhile. Nobody cared about the comic; it was just about the most money with the biggest offer. I think all that crashed and burned when the sitcoms with the comics started to crash and burn. Suddenly there were like Margaret Cho and Tom Rhodes, one year and they’re off the air, and this is happening over and over, and not so many success stories like Roseanne and Tim Allen. So I think what happened was a big feeding frenzy that died down. Now to come to the festival is more just about doing comedy again, which is kinda cool. You just do miss that $500,000 deal, you know?
I was up at Just for Laughs this year; caught you at the big Caroline Rhea show.
Absolutely. Yes, that’s right. Exactly right, the gala. Those are fun, man. Those are wild. Those are always really good up there, man. And you know what, those shows are way too long, too. I feel bad for the audience. But they hang in there, you know?
Well, for something called a gala, you gotta give ‘em a pretty big show.
[Laughs] You’re right, you’re right. Galas can’t be thirty minutes. I never thought of it that way. I think they’ve kind of grown, though. But you know what I never can stand? The host always gets ripped to pieces up there in those Montreal presses, shredded, and that’s not fair, because they have to do so much comedy in those shows, you know what I’m saying, man? I mean, they don’t always gets ripped to shreds, but they’re so harsh, man. That’s the one thing about the Montreal comedy festival, is man, if you want to read something about your act for once, which comics really don’t get to do, we don’t get reviewed that much, but man, once up there you can read six or seven different viewpoints, know what I mean?
I read one thing where they were rating New Faces, and they were doing them on a Zero to Ten point scale, and the zero was a picture of a bomb, and it was like, “Oh my God, you cannot do that to comics. They’re going to kill themselves.”
Well they’ve got to be witty.
Yeah. [Laughs] But it’s horrible.
Well I guess the whole fact that these huge names are coming in and it’s their gala, expectations are raised a lot more than should be.
That’s true. Point taken there, absolutely.
Let me back up a bit here. What’s the scene like backstage, especially when Lynn’s there? How do you prepare?
Well backstage has always been my area for me where I’ve always had high expectations of um…good times. I’ve always wanted to have it just right. I’m really into putting on some music that the whole audience can hear, and if I can do that, I’ll do that. Most of my backstage experiences are in these little rooms in comedy clubs. Now that I have a theater actual-backstage area, I would say my backstage preparation…I’m trying the massage technique, I brought a lady in who does massages on one of those chairs, you know those chairs? So I paid for her to come in for an hour, and everyone’s entitled to ten, fifteen-minute message, whatever they want. And I thought that helped me out. That was my last show, actually, and I’m doing it again tonight. So I’m doing massage, I love to have a couple of drinks before the show. I like to walk around. I love to drive before the front of the theater before the show to see the people mingling about; hopefully there are people there, know what I mean? And I also, man, I’ll just listen to some music.
I kind of wish that…I ended up kind of getting a bad reputation in the business, drug-wise, which was kind of hard for me. Any time I try to talk or bring up drug use; I think mild drug use is okay and I would love to sit backstage and just do some moderate amounts of drugs with some friends and have some good times, but you know you’ve got to keep that stuff…you’ve got to walk around with a water in your hand, which is sad. But that’s the way it is, man, so you know.
So it’s massages, and some fruit, and some alcohol – a little bit of alcohol – a little bit of waltzing around, and just kind of listen to the crowd mumble, and then some music.
What kind of music pumps you up?
Mmm, man…not that intense shit, I’ll tell you that. That’s a good question. What pumps me up? Stuff that pumped me up ten years younger scares me now, so I’d have to say just something new and kind of poppy, you know?
You mentioned drugs. Have you learned anything on the subject since your possession arrest?
Oh, that was a horrible arrest! Yeah, sure I’ve learned something…most drug stories are bad stories, and there’s plenty of them. Right now, you know who I read a lot about, that guy from the Libertines, Pete Doherty? He gets a lot of drug press, and that’s not the kind of press I want, man. So that’s what I kind of mean by I kind of wish…I’ve gone beyond the point where I can’t even associate myself with drugs in front of anyone because that’s what everyone expects of me. Not everyone, but a lot of people who know me.
So I guess what I learned about that is I don’t want to be written about any drug point of view, you know? Because I think that kind of thing is just…no one nowadays ever keeps to themselves. Everyone talks about shit, and you can’t just do stuff these days without someone talkin.’ Those days are over. As far as what I’ve learned, I guess is to stay under the radar as far as possible and just, you know, I mean, I’ve definitely learned over the years that you can’t do copious amounts of drugs and stay alive; that’s not going to happen. So not all drug use has tapered off, much to many people’s misunderstanding, but I’ve learned just to stay under the radar, and do what you do and keep it in check and just not talk about it too much, you know what I mean?
Yet that drug press always still has that glamorous slant to it.
Yeah, that mystique about it. But I’m just to the point nowadays where if I do something…because I got arrested, if I fuck up something that’s just an honest fuck-up, it will go immediately to, “He’s on drugs.” So that’s where I’m at now. I just can’t fuck with that no more. I’ve got to stay under the radar.
Mitch All Together has been getting a pretty decent response. I know on your first album, which you recorded yourself and was re-released by Comedy Central, you had an anti-editing thing where you wanted to keep the show just as it was. What was different about the recording experience for Mitch All Together?
Well, you know, I would say that the period of time that was recorded, it was not my favorite time of the way I was on stage. So therefore I had no control; I mean, it was going to be released whether I liked it or not, so I had no control on it. But it was fun and I want to do it again. I think it’s a lot better that, you know, when I first got a record deal or a CD deal or whatever, it was like, “Man!” Not that everything’s about money, certainly not, but the lucrativeness of a record deal versus selling them yourself is amazingly different, you know what I mean? You can make a lot of money yourself versus having some company release it. I thought,”Man this sucks,” but the amount of CDs they sell is so many more and so many more people have access. You find out how many people actually don’t like to send in money to get something. They want to go down and pick it up and actually have it in their hands. You think everyone is willing to send in money and then wait for it to come in a package, but that’s not true.
I’ve read some good things about my second album, I’ve read some bad things, and the bad things really hurt me, man, because I don’t know, man, I mean, they were based on delivery style and the fact that…the stoners were mad at my new CD because they thought it was too loud and too fast. They don’t think I sound as stoned on my second CD as my first. People thought I was stoned and maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t; I don’t know. I don’t remember, but the thing is, that’s not what it’s about to me. To me, it’s about material. I was definitely recorded at a time when I was talking faster than I wanted to on that second CD, and I had no control over the fact that it was getting released, and if I would have had any say in it, I would have probably done it again, but that’s Twenty-Twenty hindsight bullshit, you know?
You have a page on your site dedicated to hotels, and I know you even used to live in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. What is the nature of your relationship with hotels, not even taking into consideration that you’re on the road all the time?
You know, when I was growing up and my family would take us out and we went to hotels, I just immediately loved it. I don’t know if it really stems from that or it stems from the simplicity of hotel rooms versus the disarray my home is in. Staying in hotels is so easy. It’s just about when you walk in, everything is in a bag and everything you own is right there and it’s simple. But I’ve been in so many hotels now that my mind is starting to play tricks on me, and I’m starting to get freaked out my bedspreads and shit now, too.
It used to be that I could live in a Motel 6 for a month, but now I have to be in a certain style or a certain level of hotel to feel comfortable, so that’s sad. I miss the days when any old hotel would do. It’s sad. But I love hotels, I do. I think there’s something cool about the, I dunno, just the fact that I think everyone is happier in a hotel. Most hotels. There’s certain hotels that are located in the seedy parts of town where shady things go down, but most hotels I think people are happier there. And I love room service. And I love not gettin’ mail. And I love not gettin’ phone calls. And that’s things that a hotel can provide for you.
What’s the corresponding attraction of your home proper? What’s going on out there with your cabin?
It’s cool! I’m surprised it doesn’t become the place to be. Like you can buy a house where I live, or I guess “cabin” is a better word, for well under $100,000. And I’m surprised a bunch of comics or musicians don’t move up there because it’s pretty cool up there. I hate the town itself where I live, because they have a whole like “Ye Olde” type of a facade, you know what I’m talking about? I hate that and they have way too many shitty little craft shops, but other than that, it’s a pretty cool little town. They need to get, like, a cool grocery story and maybe a little juice shop. I love fresh-squeezed orange juice, carrot juice, shit like that. But they don’t have that, unfortunately, which the big city can always provide for you. But I think it’s cool up there, and I think more people who…you don’t need to be…you can buy yourself a little house and a little piece of land for a pretty good price. I wish more young, not “young” necessarily, but some more people would move up there. A lot of my friends I wish would move up there, I really do, because there’s a lot of availability. [Laughs] A lot of houses for sale. [Laughs]
Well if you get lots of people up there you’re going to blow the whole mystique of the place.
The thing is it’s cool to be in the mountains. When I first moved out there, and I’ll make the trip to L.A. a lot ‘cause that’s where my manager is and it’s good to see each other there, but I don’t make the trip enough and I’m going to end up having to buy myself something or rent something in L.A. I’m just going to hafta. Unfortunately the cabin in the woods dream has kept me a little bit elusive, you know? Well not elusive, but just not there.
Out of the loop.
Out of the loop. There you go.
Back to Vegas again; what’s your game; what do you like to do in Vegas?
Well you know I’m pretty simple on the gambling tip. I like the classics like, I hate to say it, Blackjack and slot poker, man, that’s about it. But I want to get into the dice; I think Roulette’s a good crock of shit. I don’t know about some of those card games because I’ve tried the three-card poker, three-card whatever, but what I like to do mainly is what I call shark-attack gambling, you just zoom in, you put down a big bet, and hopefully you win, you walk away, and then you walk around and feel happy for awhile, you know what I mean? If you lose, you walk around and feel saaad for awhile. Used to be more about gambling for long periods of time, but now it’s like a 2twenty-minute gambling stretch is stretched out over the course of five periods. It’s like, you know, eating three big meals a day as opposed to five small ones, you know what I mean? So I’ve kind of turned back; I’ve kind of taken the carbs out of my gambling.
Very nice. So after this tour winds down, what’s up next on the horizon?
That’s a good question. I’d probably say back to the clubs, back to the colleges. I don’t mean back to it in a bad way, but I mean it’s just going to be stand-up. But mainly, I think, man, I just realized I’m talking about myself and I hope you…you’ve got to in an interview situation, but man, I know what I do doesn’t matter, but I did just buy an RV. I’m excited about that. What I was basically trying to get there at a second ago is I know it’s about career, career, career, but I have some other ambitions. And I have an RV that I want to tour with always. I love the RV lifestyle, and I had a small one for about two years, and I got hooked on pulling into a campsite and plugging it in and relaxing. And now I’ve got a nice one, and I just want to ride around and chill out in some of the classic American parks.
So with the rise of the RV, will this mean the decline of the hotels?
Well that’s definitely in inner-turmoil there, that’s the truth. Because I’m the kind of guy who will rent a hotel a mile from his house, so I can see myself parking the RV in the hotel parking lot and getting a room for the night and just kind of alternating back and forth. [Laughs] So I think I’ll keep both. I don’t think it will be the decline of either; I think it’ll be an evening out of both.
Any other broad thoughts on life, love, happiness?
Well I wanted to say as far as final thoughts that um, uh, I’m always writing new material and I always focus on things beside my career, and I suppose that…I always wanted…in the words of Troy, the opening of Troy, you know, we’re going to fight like warriors and love like, I dunno: I think it’s the two lines that open the movie Troy that best suit me, even though I can’t come up with them now. [Laughs] But other than that, I’m happy, and I just want to stay happy, and as long as my mom and dad are alive I want to have a relationship with them that stays pretty good, ‘cause that’s always a touchy live wire there, so it’s just a matter of I want to live and let live and be let-lived to let live. So how’s that?