• Mitch Hedberg’s wife Lynn Shawcroft opens up about the couple’s drug use: ‘We both f*cked up’ (Interview)

    With a library of 291 episodes, Guy MacPherson’s What’s So Funny, might be the best kept comedy podcast secret. Using the tagline “Probing the brains of the people who make the funny,” the Canadian radio host has done such probing to the likes of Norm Macdonald, Marc Maron, Doug Stanhope and so many others. But his latest episode with the late Mitch Hedberg’s wife, comedian Lynn Shawcroft, will no doubt go down as one of the highlights of the podcast’s history. And for comedy fans, it’ll offer some amazing insight into Shawcroft’s life with Hedberg and for the first time, some deep discussion about how drugs played a part in the beloved comedian’s life and death.

    MacPherson’s interview with Shawcroft is below, and you’ll be able to listen to the entire thing on Sunday, when the episode goes live. What’s below is a fairly raw transcription of the pair’s chat; it’s got some vocalized pausing, for example, that we would usually clean up for a smoother read. We thought, though, with this content, it was important to keep it reasonably organic. As you’ll see once you start reading, Shawcroft is understandably concerned about her late husband’s legacy. She drives home the point that a person is not defined by one thing, even if that one thing is drug use. We all know Mitch did drugs. And we all know opiate addiction is a serious thing. And we all know that drugs had something to do with his untimely death seven years ago. As comedy fans and as readers of this site, I’d like to think we don’t care. What lives on and what matters to us are Mitch’s jokes and the joy he’s brought to a new generation of comedy fans and the inspiration he’s given to aspiring comedians.

    Mitch got all this money and that had to be a double-edged sword. He was able to do some things…
    Lynn Shawcroft: (laughs) Yes.

    And then also party too much.
    Well, here’s the thing. The deal wasn’t the double-edged sword. Yeah, it was a little bit. Like, meeting someone, falling in love, getting a little wild – hotels, some drugs – but, you know, that is barely, compared to the money we made later on – like, we were making great money on the road because we were working so much and you can afford to indulge in more expensive hotels – and he wasn’t a material person – first class flights, and, you know, drugs and fun and living your life.

    Yeah. Well, the drugs…

    That’s what I was getting at.
    Yeah. You’re right. Like, money, if you can afford something like that.

    I’m not drug savvy, but even I know heroin’s probably not such a good thing.
    Well, any opiate isn’t because you have to end up taking something every day. You know what I mean? I think the word heroin is equal to we all know it’s bad. The people who’ve told you heroin is bad have done a good job. … But any sort of opiate drug. It’s something you have to have every day after a while because physically… Mentally you don’t want it, but you, you know…

    People knew of it. I read there was an intervention.
    No. It wasn’t really like that. I don’t know. It wasn’t really like that. Mitch wasn’t a person you could really intervention [sic] because he was very compelling in the sense that he’s like, “I’m doing better than anyone.” Like, he was doing really well but…

    He was coping.
    Here it is: Mitch would take things like that as being negative. And he didn’t like negativity. I’d be like, “Mitch, we’re falling apart. We can’t do this anymore. We’re on the road, we’re not healthy.” Endless, you know what I mean? It wasn’t doing either of us any favors. And I think his thing was a lot of, “We gotta keep rolling, we gotta keep working.” Instead of taking a break, do you know what I mean? It was more like “keep rolling” and it destroyed us, you know? It ruined everything. But I’m putting it on him and also I was driven to be like, a little bit, “Don’t let anyone know, we’re going to be okay.” It’s a lot of mistakes along the way. But neither of us were like, “We’re doing the greatest thing. We’re cool.” None of that. We knew we were going down a hole but we couldn’t get off the… everything, yeah. A lot of things. I’ll have to write about it. Is that making any sense?

    Kind of. I mean, I can see getting caught up in it and you’re still able to make your gigs and put on a show.
    Exactly but what makes it even harder is having to fly all the time. It’s so many of these things put together instead of us just going, “Look, we fucked up, let’s get off the road and fix this.” It was just a constant never-ending thing, yeah.

    That would be hard to just get off the road and stop, right?
    Well, yeah, you could. People do it all the time. People are like, “I need six months off; let’s cancel my gigs.” I think it was so much work. Like, “What if we cancel a gig and then we’re in trouble?” Like, it just was this never-ending thing. But you know, it was us and him and me. And people were concerned, like his manager and family wanted him… Mitch was very much his own person. Do you know what I’m saying?

    Yeah. Totally.
    Yeah. Yeah. We’re responsible for ourselves.

    But also just being caught up in it.
    Yeah, and working really hard…

    And also if you are a little bit sensitive…
    Of course I am!

    No, not you. I mean him.
    Oh. Oh, oh, yes, both.

    But you, too.
    It’s my life, too.

    And stop me if I’m going too far.

    If somebody were to bring that up [in an intervention], I could see how that would be [perceived] like an insult. Maybe it’s part embarrassment.
    Yeah, but also probably protecting me. Remember I said earlier I was so concerned, like I’m with this great person and I don’t want to… It’s hard to talk about it. It’s emotional. Me being so concerned about him and his talent. We were making tons of money, working hard; I didn’t want anything to bring it down and then it become this self-fulfilling prophecy. And him pushing me. We both did the same thing. We both did drugs and we both fucked up. It’s hard.

    And you weren’t alone in that.
    No, on the planet, no! But I probably felt more… I was ashamed and scared. And I don’t think he was as much so I think he protected me. It was like you become in this bubble where you’re together. But that wasn’t our whole life, too. We did so many millions of things: we camped, we worked, we built a home, we wrote, we created things. But we were fucked up. We could have stepped back. Easily. We had enough money. I think, too, before the Internet, he was like, “We’ve worked so hard. What if we get off and it stops going?” You know, he spent his whole life to get gigs and then he was like, “Now I have them, I can’t…”

    Keep the momentum going.
    Which is so crazy. I mean, God.

    Crazy youth.
    Yeah, but… (sigh). Yeah. Something was going to happen and it did.

    Did I step over any…?
    No, no, no. No, obviously I’ve never really talked much. I haven’t talked about it much. I’m going to write a book about it so I don’t want to talk too much. But you know that’s a mindset that was going on. It was never a “fuck you, fuck you, people!” It’s, you know, so many things that you can look back on.

    And I don’t know if it’s a function of the media or the Internet…
    The Internet doesn’t really know anything, I don’t think.

    When something like heavy drug use is out there, that’s all you tend to think: well, that’s what that person is. And as you say, “No, we do all these other things.” You’re complete individuals.
    That’s what I was saying. I remember when I was 14 or 15 and I had a Blondie poster on my wall. My sister’s a bit older. She goes, “Oh, my God. Look how fucking high they are.” I go, “What?!” She goes, “Yeah, look at their eyes. They’re on dope.” And I remember being mortified, taking down the poster, and being like, “Oh my God.” And completely thinking that was that one thing. And then later you realize, oh no, you’re a multi-dimensional person.

    But yeah, that’s why I haven’t really talked about the drugs very much at all because I want people to get away and understand… Mitch has gained so many fans over the years after he died purely on his material. I haven’t really talked too much about it. There isn’t a lot out there. I want people to get their own thing. People love him. And I will talk about it more. This is the most I’ve ever talked about it. And I will.

    I felt like it was, in stuff that I’ve read…
    People don’t know anything.

    … that it was sort of the elephant in the room that nobody would bring up and I wasn’t sure if I should.
    Yeah, people brought it up but also at the time it’s also a weird thing, too, like, we were partying with tons of people, too, or not, and we did tons of things. But yeah, I haven’t really talked about it a lot. Because when I’m talking about Mitch’s life at that point, I’m talking about my own. So it’s hard what you’re ready for. It may take some time. I’ll write about it for sure.

    It’ll be cathartic, I bet.
    Oh, a hundred percent. Of course, of course. Think about how much guilt and regret and love combined with so many things. Yeah. It’s hard…

    I can only imagine.
    … being the one, you survive, and losing someone wonderful. But I think you’re so right, I think that… You know what blew my mind is I remember Mitch dying, I’m like, “Oh my God, I can never talk about him again. What’s going to happen? It’s always going to be that drug thing.” And I haven’t talked about it for years and I’ve written some few things and I get contacted all the time by people that are so beyond that, that when I do talk about it it’s going to be about like how it really was. And like a little bit talking [with] you, drugs, sort of thing, but it doesn’t define who you are.

    Like you said, you’re not savvy, I wasn’t savvy either. You could probably know a heroin or opiate addict. I used to think that if you did heroin, you were on the ground, like dead. Do you know what I mean? But not talking about it all the time was something that I chose not to do because I want his art to speak for itself. And it does. And he has a lot of fans on their own.

    It totally does.
    But I will, yeah, I’m talking about it now but I’ll definitely write a bit more about it and really explain it.

    It’s always the undercurrent. People know this. So it doesn’t tarnish his art.
    Oh my God, yes. Mitch’s mom passed away last year. She probably emailed so many fans of Mitch’s. They emailed her. Right now, I bet if Mitch was here he’d be like, “Mom!” But it was cathartic for her to talk to his fans. And everyone knows. And they just spoke to [her] about what they loved about him because of, despite, and his material and drugs and all. So yeah. But I might be done on this… I’m good.

    It’s a cautionary tale.
    Oh, of course.

    So even bringing it out there could help.
    Um, but… Um… No. I think in itself it is. I don’t need to go to, like… People know.

    No, just in itself. You don’t want to hit people over the head.
    If Mitch inspires people in any way, that would come around, too. Like, oh my gosh, one hundred percent. But I don’t want that to be his [inaudible]. People know. I think that does its own… Does that make sense? And I don’t want to be like, “Write an essay. Kids, don’t…” Because it’s its own thing.

    That’s the worst. That doesn’t help.
    And I would never do that. And you know what? If Mitch was here, he’d be like, “Do what you wanna do in life. But also learn.” He would hate it if I was walking around telling people not to do drugs.

    Dylan P. Gadino

    Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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