Through an odd mix of circumstance and humor, Laughs Comedy Spot briefly played host last week to a national tribute to honor one of their own, comedian Mitch Hedberg.
The Totem Lake club hosted hundreds of guests Sept. 9 for a tribute comedy show and a Comedy Central CD release of “Do You Believe in Gosh,” a collection of material from some of Hedberg’s last performances. The show was one of several across the country that hosted the Comedy Central CD release. Both a Comedy Central film crew and a documentary team were on-hand to film the event.
Originally from St. Paul, Minn., Hedberg called Seattle home in his formative years, regularly appearing at Pioneer Square’s Comedy Underground Club. Known for his off-beat humor and free-wheeling style, he appeared several times on NBC’s Dave Letterman Show and cable channel Comedy Central. He passed away after a drug overdose in 2005 at the age of 37.
Comedy Underground owner Ron Reid, acting as emcee for the event, said the late-comedian was defined by his “comedy of awkwardness and embarrassment.” He related a story about comic approaching Comedy Central executives at their New York City offices and demanding to get air time.
“’It doesn’t work like that,’ they’d say,” said Reid. “So he just said, ‘I’m staying here until you put me on TV. Trust me, people will like it.’”
Comedy Underground was set to host the tribute, but the club had recently relocated from it’s former Pioneer Square location, so Reid reached out to his old friend and Laughs Comedy Club owner Dave Dennison.
“They couldn’t get open in time so they passed the baton to us,” he said.
Ever the comedian, Reid quipped “This is a historic moment in Seattle, ladies and gentlemen. Two comedy clubs cooperating to make this happen.”
The tribute featured segments of previously unreleased footage (from the newly-released CD), showing Hedberg in his element of absurdist humor with a large amount of audience interaction.
Illustrating his style, he quipped, “I like rice. Rice is great if your hungry and want 2000 of something.”
A number of Hedberg’s closest friends and up-and-coming comedians inspired also performed from the club’s stage.
One of them, Billy Wayne Davis, 27, remembered Hedberg from briefly working together at a comedy club in Nashville, Tenn. before he died. The title of the CD, “Do You Believe in Gosh,” was a phrase typical of Hedberg’s off-beat sense of humor, turning common phrases on their head. Moving to Seattle in late-2006, Davis said he was inspired by his friend to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time comedian.
“He told me, ‘If you want something, you have to go get it,’” Davis said.