Happy birthday, Mitch Hedberg!

Last night at midnight I amazed my husband by singing a McDonald’s commercial I hadn’t heard since the ‘70s. Then I regaled him with a couple of Burger King riffs from the same era. “Have it your way!,” I told him. I also sang the entire Ourisman’s Chevrolet song which meant nothing to him because he grew up in Chicago and Ourisman’s was “the number one dealer with the number one deals” in D.C. I’d once again cemented my status as a jingles savant.

Long, sleep-drunken story short, he is now referring to me as “Jingles Jukebox,” but more what I wanted to say is that I woke up this morning the best way possible, with the dopamine calm of a recent good laugh. Is the timing by chance? Or is it something more cosmic?

I’m going with the latter because I’ve remembered that today would have been Mitch Hedberg’s 48th birthday. He died in 2005 of a drug overdose possibly contributed to by a heart defect.

Some call him the “Kurt Cobain of comedy.” Besides a physical resemblance to each other, Mitch Hedberg also had that ability to pull together seemingly random words, ideas, phrases and images which, once he spoke them, would become forever intertwined, their logic unassailable. Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle would have crumbled with envy, minds blown.

Jerry Seinfeld said that comedians are detectives of the moments between the moments. If so, Mitch Hedberg was one of the greatest comic gumshoes of all time. Comedians remind me of scientists, too, and Mitch Hedberg was a physicist of the absurd. He saw particles and energy and movement invisible to the rest of us until he pointed them out.

In celebration of his birthday, fans do all sorts of things. I was reminded today was the day by a news story about a fan who left a frosted doughnut and receipt on Mitch Hedberg’s grave this morning.

Last year on this day, comedian Carlos Valencia tweeted fans to make restaurant reservations under the name “DuFresne party of two” and then leave.

Year around, besides singing jingles, I like to wander around the house muttering, “But what about the DuFresnes?” If I have a mantra, that’s it. Comedy is a refuge and an oasis. Those spaces created by jokes and insights, routines and bits are immortal. I wish the comedians who wrote them were immortal, too.

For more about Mitch Hedberg, check out mitchhedberg.net, created by his widow, comedian Lynn Shawcroft. Also check out A Seat at the Bar with Mitch Hedberg by ChicagoNow writer and comedian Patrick O’Hara.

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