Food group apologizes for using dead comedian’s joke to sell product

The joke was incorrectly credited to 'Aunt Betty'. © terrynoelwilliams
A New Zealand food group has apologized after using a joke from deceased comedian Mitch Hedberg to sell a product. One of Hedberg’s most famous lines will be removed from a rice pudding package that credited it to ‘Aunt Betty’, the brand’s namesake.

The line “Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat 2,000 of something” appeared on the packaging, prompting outrage from prominent comedians including Marc Maron and Doug Stanhope.

Comedian Hedberg, famous for his unconventional style and one-liners, performed the joke at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in 2002. The joke has been viewed online over 4 million times as well as being broadcasted on several television networks.

Aunt Betty’s, which is owned by Hansells Food Group, apologized for the use of the joke by the “well-known and much loved comedian” and said it would no longer be used going forward. The message was accompanied by the hashtag #JokesArentFree.

Hedberg died in 2007 of a drug overdose aged 37. Before his death he was the rising star of comedy after signing a deal with Fox television, leading him to be dubbed “the next Seinfeld” by Time Magazine.