Peter Hyman recently penned an article in the January issue of Spin (unfortunately NOT available online) which focused on the trend of stand-ups forsaking comedy clubs for touring more like indie-rock bands. The piece also revealed the circumstances behind Mitch Hedberg’s death last year, causing some of the late comic’s fans to complain about opening old wounds.
Along with authoring The Reluctant Metrosexual, a very funny collection of essays, Peter Hyman is a stand-up himself and host of a new talk show series at NYC’s Makor. The first installment starts tonight at 7PM and is entitled “A Laughing Matter: A Comedic State of the Union”, where the current comedy world will be discussed by humorist Andy Borowitz, stand-up Eugene Mirman and CBS Vice President of Development Lisa Leingang. Tickets are $12 in advance and are available here or call (212) 601-1000.
Peter and I recently corresponded over email about Mitch Hedberg, his Spin piece and, of course, tonight’s show.
The piece was originally conceived as a profile of Mitch Hedberg but changed into a piece on stand-ups preferring indie-rock style tours rather than comedy clubs. Do you feel the noise from the revelation of the circumstances behind Hedberg’s death would have been blunted if you could have done the fuller portrait you intended?
No. I don’t think so. If anything, a fuller profile might have provided more context for that revelation. I’m not suggesting that in any way I would have deigned to try to determine why Hedberg did what he did. There’s no way to ever know. All that I saw fit to do was to factually state what I had learned from official sources, because I believe that there was an unanswered question regarding his death. A longer profile would have painted a fuller picture and the news might have, to some, seemed more fitting in such a piece. However, I was not trying to make “noise” in any regard. My intention, and my obligation, was to report the truth. How that truth is received by any audience is beyond my control. But, simply having some awareness that a certain segment of the audience might be upset by the revelation is not reason enough to avoid printing such facts.
John Belushi, more than twenty years after his death, has finally received the biography he deserves. ”Belushi” assembles anecdotes and stories from John’s family, friends and collaborators in the oral history style of “Live from New York”. The form befits “Belushi” more than “Live,” fitting the form of a scrapbook where the phrase “Eat a Bowl of Fuck” is the norm. I talked with Tanner Colby, co-author of the book with Judy Belushi Pisano, via e-mail about the book and the man. You can meet Tanner, Judy Belushi Pisano and the webbed wonder Dan Aykroyd at
the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble (66th & Broadway) tonight at 7 PM for a signing/discussion.
As a comedy writer who didn’t have the chance to work with John Belushi, did collecting these interviews ever make you feel like the guy who arrived late to the party (i.e. “You shoulda seen this guy…”)?
Quite the contrary. I was six years old when John died, so the chances of my making it to that party were fairly slim. Collecting the interviews, and helping Judy set down the definitive portrait of John and his era, let me be a small part of what went on in those days, which was pretty damn great.
Obviously this book will be contrasted against “Wired,” which could have been about Len Bias or anyone else who died of an overdose. It’s not about Belushi the man or the artist. Yet, the book doesn’t shy away from John’s dark side. It’s a complicated portrait. Was there any temptation to remove the warts to balance out Wired’s portrayal?
We never wanted to remove the warts. We just made the editorial decision not to put them under a laser microscope. Everyone knows how John died. It’s old news. We chose to focus on the good things, and, given the inevitable ending, that made the story all the more tragic.
Recently I had an opportunity to talk via e-mail to Larry the Cable Guy (real name Dan Whitney) on the release of his new album The Right to Bare Arms. The transcript after the jump is unedited.
Sorry about all the SHOUTING.