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Goodbye, Mitch

Justin Tardiff | Friday, April 1, 2005

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in LaFortune eating Subway with three of my friends. I looked down at my Sun Chips and immediately smiled.

My friend, sitting across from me, didn’t miss a beat.

“But don’t bother ringing it up, it’s for a duck. There are six ducks outside, and they all want Sun Chips,” he said.

Mitch Hedberg, the comedian who penned the “Ducks eat free at Subway” joke, as well countless others, was in many ways the next great thing in comedy until his untimely death Wednesday morning at 37 years old.

Instead of writing 500 words about how important a figure he was in contemporary comedy, I’m going to recount other memories of Mitch – which, all in all, will do him greater justice anyway.

The first time I heard Mitch, I was in my friend’s car. “Bob, you gotta hear this guy, he’s hilarious,” he said.

The CD was “Strategic Grill Locations” and I was hooked when Hedberg started ranting about Koalas.

“My apartment is infested with Koala bears, it is the cutest infestation ever, way better than cockroaches. When I turn on the light a bunch of Koala bears scatter. I don’t want them to, you know. I’m like, ‘Hey hold on fellas, let me hold one of you – feed you a leaf.'”

It was that quirky sense of humor, comments that your lazy friend might make when you are sitting around watching TV that made him so hilarious. But it was his unprecedented delivery that made him memorable.

Jokes rolled off Mitch Hedberg’s tongue, in a way that cannot really be described without actually hearing him.

“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.”

I remember buying both of his CD’s shortly after hearing him, the other being “Mitch All Together,” and playing them for my brother.

I believe it was the joke about frozen banana that did it for Dan.

“My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana. I said, ‘No, but I want a regular banana later, so, yeah.'”

I think Mitch Hedberg would be happy with his legacy. He never quite made the leap to the point where he was a household name, but he did impact anyone who ever listened to his album, went to see his show or watched him on television.

That’s not to say he wasn’t on his way to bigger things (he had an HBO special in the works, which actually was his dream) but the way he made people smile was more important than any further success he could have accomplished.

Mitch once said, “So, I sit at the hotel at night and I think of something that’s funny. Or, if the pen is too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of wasn’t funny.”

Well, Mitch, what you said was always funny.

And your fans will remember that forever.