Mitch Hedberg: a comic’s death in Livingston

“I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”
— Mitch Hedberg

As a teenager, Mitch Hedberg left home and moved to Florida, where he slept on the beach. He’d phone his parents on occasion to fill them in on a pamphlet he’d been writing. It was called The Drifter’s Handbook and it contained advice like how to get a shower for free: “Sneak into hotel rooms when someone checks out.”

Over the next two decades, Hedberg would live that drifter’s lifestyle. Gaining momentum as a standup comic, the impish young man with the odd sense of humor would tour the country, living from hotel to hotel as he performed a growing collection of unique non sequiturs.

“I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted
to sitting in a semi-circle.”

“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.”

Here’s a clip of Hedberg’s standup from 1998:

In 1999, Hedberg met and married fellow comedian Lynn Shawcroft. According to Entertainment Weekly, the two started traveling and didn’t stop. They lived in their own world of rented cars and fast food. Retiring to the hotel room after the show, watching horror movies and ordering chicken burritos. “They fancied themselves American outlaws, comedy’s answer to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love,” reported the magazine in an in-depth article that ran in the summer of 2005.

Hedberg’s world included heroin.

Nobody is sure when he started using hard drugs, but Entertainment Weekly reports that Shawcroft said he had tried heroin before he met her. Despite an arrest and hospital stay in 2003, Hedberg continued using heroin, cocaine and alcohol.

In March of 2005, Hedberg performed six shows at Caroline’s in New York City. He was the headliner for singing comedian Stephen Lynch, below.

After Hedberg’s final performance, the comedian and his wife began hotel hopping in the New York metro area. They avoided contact with family and friends, who grew increasingly worried about Mitch.

Hedberg and Shawcroft ended up at the Hotel Westminster, 550 West Mount Pleasant Avenue in Livingston.

They most likely passed this sign:

Sign near front entrance to the Hotel Westminster, 550 West Mount Pleasant Ave., Livingston.

The front of the hotel, facing the main highway in Livingston.

Here’s a look at the front doors of the hotel from inside. Hotel front desk is to the left.

After checking into the hotel on Tuesday, March 29, 2005, Hedberg kept using drugs. By the next night, he was dead. An autopsy would later confirm he died of “multiple drug toxicity.”

Shawcroft recalled for Entertainment Weekly how she found her husband:

“We had been in New York for all these days, and we had kept jumping hotels…. It was the most confusing night of my life. I was in the bedroom, and then I went in the bathroom. And when I came out he didn’t look right. So I grabbed him and tried to give him mouth-to-mouth and called 911.”

Did Mitch Hedberg drink here? The bar inside the Strip House, the hotel restaurant.

Strip House menu.

Seven years after his death, the walls inside the hotel’s restaurant are lined with celebrity photos.

Abbott & Costello are among the celebrity photos on the wall of the Westminster Hotel restaurant.

Martin & Lewis on the wall near the bar of the hotel where comedian Mitch Hedberg died in 2005. There are no photos of Hedberg in the hotel.

By the time he died, Mitch Hedberg had been on David Letterman 10 times. George Carlin, Dave Chapelle and Lewis Black were admirers. After Hedberg’s death, he gained cult status across various age and ethnic groups worldwide.

But ironically — or perhaps by design — in the hotel where Mitch Hedberg died, there is no mention of him today.

Mitch Hedberg: a comic’s death in Livingston.