Hedberg experiments with hit, miss comedy

Tina Peng

Two people were sitting in Ryan Family Auditorium at 4:50 p.m. Thursday holding a sign that requested backstage access as they waited for comedian Mitch Hedberg to come onstage.

When Hedberg appeared on time, two hours later, the auditorium was packed with an audience that cheered and clapped throughout the comedian’s hourlong performance.

“Fish are always eating other fish. If fish could scream, the ocean would be loud as shit,” he said, drawing lengthy applause from the audience.

The A&O Productions-sponsored show sold out Monday, and many audience members arrived well before it began, A&O Chairwoman Natasha Little said.

“There were about 15 people here at 5:30, and there was a line forming by 6:30,” said Little, a Communication senior.

Hedberg was introduced by his wife, comedian and native Canadian Lynn Shawcroft, who poked fun at Canada’s free health care system.

“Now that I’m in the states,” she said, “I have to coincide my illnesses with what’s on sale at the drugstore.”

The comedian began his performance with several references to his audience, which was predominantly composed of Northwestern students.

Food was a popular topic, as Hedberg went on to talk about hamburger buns, chocolate bars and rice.

“I like rice,” Hedberg said. “Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want 2,000 of something.”

Weinberg sophomore Kevin Braden said Hedberg’s humor was rooted in his creativity.

“He’s got a lot of original jokes, and he was really spontaneous,” Braden said.

Hedberg’s jokes were predominantly based upon personal observations and experiences — such as a hotel he once stayed at.

“I think the hotel is haunted, because I saw a sheet on the floor,” he said. “It must’ve been a ghost that passed out.”

He paused.

“So I kicked it.”

When his jokes provoked little audience appreciation, Hedberg was quick to play them off.

“All right, you guys aren’t totally on board on that one,” he said. “This will be funny in the morning.”

Alden McLellan, Weinberg ’03, attributed Hedberg’s occasionally botched jokes to the nature of a live performance, noting that Hedberg’s Comedy Central stand up special was heavily edited to include the most successful parts.

“Obviously it wasn’t as fluent or polished, but he was trying to do new things,” said McLellan. “And that’s why you go to the show.”