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Comedian Mitch Hedberg dies at 37

Actor, who battled drug problems, found dead in hotel room
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mitch Hedberg, a Minnesota-born comedian who worked in nightclubs, television and film in a wide-ranging career, died in New Jersey, his family said. He was 37.

Hedberg, who struggled with drugs and alcohol, died Wednesday in a hotel room in Livingston, N.J.

Pending the medical examiner’s report, the cause of death appears to be heart failure, said his mother, Mary Hedberg. She said her son was born with a heart defect and frequently felt anxious about his condition.

Mary Hedberg said speculation that her son’s death was drug-related was gossip.

“We don’t know that for a fact,” she said, but added, “it’s not a secret Mitch used drugs. Whether that played a role in his death or not, we don’t know.”

A hit on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” on which he appeared 10 times, and “The Howard Stern Show,” Hedberg once was dubbed “the next Seinfeld” by Time magazine. But TV-series fame eluded him because his unique style of mumbled one-liners didn’t lend itself to the sitcom format.

Hedberg delivered absurdist, random observations in a spacy staccato. His long, dirty blond hair harkened to the image of a 1970s stoner.

Jokes about Hedberg’s drug use were a staple of his act. He took a hiatus from performing for several months after a May 2003 arrest in Austin, Texas, for felony possession of heroin.

Born in St. Paul, Hedberg rose through the ranks at Minneapolis’ Acme Comedy Co. and caught his big break through a Comedy Central special.

His rambling, non-sequitur style often drew comparisons to Steven Wright, but Hedberg disagreed.

“If I made potato chips and put them in a can, people would say I was ripping off Pringles,” he said. “But what if I put them in a bag?”

Hedberg had two popular comedy CDs, “Strategic Grill Locations” and “Mitch All Together.” He acted in the movie “Almost Famous” — smoking fake pot with Peter Frampton — and appeared on Fox’s hit series “That ’70s Show.”

Hedberg is survived by his wife, comedian Lynn Shawcroft, his father and mother, Arne and Mary Hedberg of St. Paul, and sisters Wendy Brown of Woodbury and Angie Anderson of South St. Paul.