Jeremy Hotz is coming to British Columbia, starting with a show in Kelowna on Feb. 25. (photo from Just for Laughs)
For a man whose current show is the International Man of Misery Tour, whose CTV special was What a Miserable Show This Is and whose DVD is called What a Miserable DVD This Is, Jeremy Hotz is a very funny and upbeat guy. He’s also really pleasant and cheerful on the phone.
Hotz spoke to the Jewish Independent on Jan. 27 from Toronto, where he was doing a press run for his show, which is being presented by Just for Laughs. The month-long Canadian tour started in Jasper, Alta., but then Hotz returned east to perform in Newfoundland. He is now making his way west and his first of four shows in British Columbia is in Kelowna on Feb. 25. The trip has him performing almost every day, sometimes twice in a day.
“I don’t work in the same order or anything,” he said. “A lot of stuff I make up is specific to the city that I’m in, so it’s quite fresh for me every single time I go on stage. I’m a very free-form comedian. I include the audience in the performance so they’re part of the show. It’s like a comic working without a net. That’s what seems to work the best for me, even though a lot of comics will tell you, ‘you should never do that.’ But, of course, everything that I’m told I shouldn’t do, I do. I put my hand in front of my face, I turn my back to the audience, I do everything wrong, but if you do all those wrong things together, I guess it works.”
Whereas many comedians have their prepared routine and will perform the same jokes from show to show, Hotz has several concepts that he carries from one performance to another – complaints about getting older, for example – but the content will be different. “That’s because I can’t remember the damn jokes,” he said.
He explained that he doesn’t plan anything out. “Planning gives me anxiety,” he said. “I suffer from this generalized anxiety disorder … and what happens to me right before shows when there’s stuff looming and coming up, it can get very bad, almost debilitating…. But, once I get out there, it just melts away, it’s gone. I feel much more comfortable in front of a theatre full of people than in a one-on-one conversation with a stranger.”
He said that he ended up being a comedian in part because he never really got any other jobs when he was younger. “I had to choose stand-up because it really was the only thing that was working for me.”
Humor has always been a part of his life.
“We were Jews, so when we got together for dinners, it was funny,” he said. First starting out as a comedian, “I didn’t even know there were comedy clubs. I didn’t understand why people would have to go to a club to see funny, and then I realized, oh, not all families are funny, I get it.”
While he had a bar mitzvah and attended Jewish school for six years as a kid, Hotz said, “My dad was the one that held the Jewish thing together in the family. My mother, of course, was Jewish as well, but she came from South Africa, like he did, and her family wasn’t observant. We observed the High Holidays, the Yom Kippurs, we had Passovers, things like that, but as far as going to the synagogue every Saturday, we didn’t do that.”
Born in South Africa, Hotz was a year old when the family moved to Canada; he has an older brother and a younger sister. He remained here until he moved to the United States in 1997.
“What happened was I went to the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal and then these people from Disney gave me this big deal,” he explained. “They just threw a whole bunch of money at me to stand there and do nothing for a year. I guess they were keeping me off the market and they were saying they were going to do all these things with me. They did nothing, but they gave me that chunk of money and, on that money, I moved to Los Angeles.”
Joining his household soon will be a purebred long-haired chihuahua named Shackleton, after the polar explorer. Hotz is getting him from a longtime friend and had just seen the puppy while in Toronto for the press run. “We went on Canada AM and he was a fantastic little star,” said Hotz. “He’s only three months old.”
At best, Shackleton might be five pounds at his adult weight, Hotz added. “His nickname, of course, will be Shaq, which will be very funny because Shaq [O’Neal] is the big giant basketball player and this dog will be about five pounds.”
After the Just for Laughs tour, there will be a few projects to which Hotz will return his attention.
“We’re right now working on this documentary that’s going to bring to light this anxiety thing that I suffer from because it’s no joke,” he said. He described it as being “like an evil man that waits around the corner and can just pop out at any second.” While fine on stage, it’s generally “in full force” before the show, so he brings his brother, who’s a psychologist, on the road with him, at least for the beginning of the tours, “to get my head thinking about the right things.”
Even when acting in TV or film – Hotz is in Call Me Fitz, and has done other television shows and the movies My Favorite Martian and Speed 2 – the anxiety affects him. He was diagnosed about two and a half years ago.
In addition to the documentary, Hotz said he and his writing partner, Brian Hartt, have a couple of projects that they would like to have produced. On his wish list for himself is an HBO special.
“I’ve pretty much done the Lettermans and the Lenos and other specials, Comedy Central … but I’d like to do one HBO special. That would be something for me to do,” he said.
Hotz is looking forward to performing at Vogue Theatre. “I think it’s one of the best venues,” he said, “and I really hope that a lot of people are there. I know that there’s a comedy festival [jflnorthwest.com] going on at the right time, which they’ve made me part of, so hopefully that’ll be neat. And it’s a Just for Laughs thing, so that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because they kind of launched my career. It’s very difficult to get out of Canada – because of Just for Laughs and the festival, that’s how I did it.”
While Montreal isn’t on this tour – and Hotz hasn’t done the main Just for Laughs festival for awhile – he said he’ll be there this July. While locals will be able to watch that performance on television, no doubt, his B.C. dates are a rare opportunity to see the award-winning comedian in person. Hotz is in Kelowna Feb. 25 (Kelowna Community Theatre), Vancouver Feb. 26 (Vogue Theatre), Nanaimo Feb. 27 (Port Theatre) and Victoria Feb. 28 (McPherson Playhouse). For tickets ($45.50), visit hahaha.com/en/jeremyhotz.