Comic Mitch Hedberg dies

April 01, 2005|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,SUN STAFF

It seemed like just another on-air phone call. Shortly before 10 a.m. yesterday, the hosts of the Kirk, Mark and Lopez morning show on 98 Rock (WIYY-FM) dialed the number of standup comedian Mitch Hedberg, who was scheduled for a phone interview. The nationally known jokester was booked for five straight shows at Baltimore's Improv beginning last night.

A distraught-sounding woman answered and said that Hedberg wasn't available. She hung up.

The mystery wasn't cleared up till midafternoon yesterday, when the comedian's publicists announced that Hedberg, 37, had passed away the night before. The cause of death was still unknown.

Stephanie Drummond, producer of the drive-time show, was grappling with her disbelief yesterday. Hedberg, who had become a semi-regular on such national TV shows as Late Night With David Letterman and Late Late With Craig Kilborn, had appeared many times on the station, which works closely with the Improv chain.

"He's a wonderful guy," she said. "His delivery is so dry. He's like [deadpan comic] Steven Wright, with a little bit of hippie in him."

The show was bombarded with e-mails asking about Hedberg yesterday, many wondering if it was an April Fool's joke. It wasn't.

"We'll be playing a lot of his highlights on the [Friday morning] show," she said. "He'll be missed."

Just two weeks ago, the long-haired comic had tried out a few new jokes on the Howard Stern Show. Some were about satellite radio, which he said he was beginning to hear frequently during his cross-country travels. "There's a reason you can curse" on satellite radio, he said. "Nobody's listening."

The Improv announced yesterday that comedian Randy Kagan, who was slated to open for Hedberg, would be headlining tonight through Sunday.

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