It's all about bouncing back

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Early Review of Mitch Hedberg's "Do You Believe in Gosh?"

Watching Mitch Hedberg perform was always a creative delight. I loved his pithy beatnik style, the imaginative spin he put on each premise and the unexpected twists he delivered that the audience never saw coming. The heart of his charm, however, was his warm, happy and playful stage presence. No bitterness or anger -- when Mitch was performing, the evening was warm, gleeful and fun.

So, like all of you, I miss him. And I was happy to hear that I might be able to enjoy a few more magical Hedberg moments through the upcoming release of "Do You Believe in Gosh?" on Septemeber 9th. "Gosh" will feature a performance recorded nearly two months before Hedberg passed away in 2005. It includes material that he was developing for what would have been his third CD. When I was offered a chance to give the performance an early listen, I was thrilled; though I'll admit I was also initially a tad bit nervous about peeking at a work that the artist tragically hadn't been able to finalize in every detail.

Those concerns, however, melted away by the end of the first track. I adored "Do You Believe in Gosh?" - and I think other Hedberg fans will too. Everything we all loved is here -- the concise observations, the whimsical digressions, the simple love of fun. The performance is almost entirely new material. (Out of forty minutes, I only counted three brief jokes that I had heard before). Even better, the vast majority of the new material is polished and effective. Yes, a few jokes were still in development; but Hedberg dismisses them quickly with his signature giggle and almost seems to relish labeling them "retarded" and moving on.

Frankly, the mix of new, classic and still-under-development material is a surprising part of the performance's appeal. It's actually a treat to hear someone so creative and professional in the process of developing new gems. The recording feels intimate and even includes some audience work and improvised bits, which add to the cozy nightclub atmosphere.

Yes, if you were a dedicated Mitch fan, there is a small chance that you'll shed a tear by the end (or maybe that was just me), but I also predict that many new bits on this CD will become oft-quoted fan favorites. One of my top choices: "I had a piece of Carefree sugarless gum and I was still worried. It never kicked in." That is classic Mitch.

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