How Mitch Hedberg Predicted His Death

There is a handful of stand-up comics from the United States who amass true cult followings. Mitch Hedberg qualifies. Huge crowds gathered through the late '90s and early 2000s to listen to Hedberg's signature comedy style, which could be described as a stoner Jerry Seinfield calmly blasting the audience with disconnected one-liners without ever removing his shades. It's a deceptively simple yet difficult style to pull off — Steven Wright comes to mind — and Hedberg was one of the few who could turn that performance art into a career.

Hedberg never really fit well in the mainstream entertainment industry, but that didn't stop television executives from trying to bank off his persona. At one point, he was given the chance to create his own sitcom for Fox, as Slate recounts, but the project fell through because none of the writers could figure out how to turn a guy like Mitch Hedberg into a TV series. He did, however, score a bit part in That '70s Show.

For a while there, it all seemed to be coming together. He'd appeared on television, he had his own comedy album, and he was selling out venues. All in all, Hedberg was at the height of his comedy career, when things took a turn for the worse. When he was found dead in his hotel room on March 30, 2005, at the age of 37, people who'd been paying attention knew he'd called it in advance.

He didn't just predict his death, it was his preferred departure

Like a multitude of comedians and other performers, Hedberg had a serious drug problem. The comedian's drug use was something he often joked about on stage. (As Newsweek quotes him from 1999: "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.") Call it art based on life. Like so many others before him, Hedberg didn't seem too comfortable with his fame, which might be why he was known for mumbling lines, wearing shades, and keeping his head down. Drugs served as an unhealthy coping mechanism.

It was first believed that the comic died from heart failure, but postmortem examination would prove otherwise. The official coroner reports, according to MTV, state that Hedberg died of a "multiple drug toxicity" — he overdosed. Traces of both cocaine and heroin were found in his system. This death probably wouldn't have been shocking to the awkward comedian, since he called it years in advance.

During a 2001 interview (found via People Pill), Penthouse asked Hedberg how he'd end his life. The comic responded, "First, I'd want to get famous, and then I'd overdose. If I overdosed at this stage in my career, I would be lucky if it made the back pages." To contradict his 2001 statement, Hedberg told Howard Stern (posted on Facebook) that the drug use was under control. Of course, addicts don't usually admit when they have a problem. Thirteen days later, Hedberg was dead.