They say that misery loves company.
It must be true, because large crowds show up when Jeremy Hotz performs, and he's about as miserable as a spectacularly funny fellow can be.
"To be honest with you, I get up onstage, and sh-- bothers me, so I talk about it," says South African-born, Ottawa-raised Hotz, who has called Los Angeles home for more than a decade. "That's the way it is, and that's the way it always will be. I don't really plan out exactly what I'm going to do; a lot of it is just the fact that 50's coming (he's 49), and what am I going to do when I'm 50 years old?"
Mid-life crisis concerns might be souring his on-stage mood somewhat, but the fact is that Hotz has been employing a deadpan-grumpy style to great comedic effect for more than a quarter of a century. A fixture at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival for many years, he has been honoured by the Canadian Comedy Awards as the country's top male standup and has also received the prestigious Dave Broadfoot Comic Genius Award.
Hotz also received a Gemini Award for his work on Winnipegger Ken Finkleman's beloved CBC comedy The Newsroom, and recently signed on to appear alongside Jason Priestley in the fourth season of HBO Canada's Call Me Fitz.
But the focus of this phone conversation from Hotz's L.A. home is the cross-Canada comedy tour, which a press release describes as gruelling 21-city jaunt made even more miserable by the fact Hotz is making the journey in a not-so-classic pumpkin-orange Volkswagen van.
"They got a van, I did a press day with it, and they basically lied to the country," Hotz says with a laugh, confessing that his mode of transport with be decidedly more modern and airborne than advertised. "I'd never make it across the country in that thing; they barely got it in for the photo shoot.
"I mean, (driving across Canada) was a romantic notion, maybe, in 1967. But I think they were just trying to tie it all into the miserable thing -- you know, February in a van, that sort of thing."
Transportation issues aside, Hotz says he is glad to be crossing the border and taking his comedy act to a Canadian audience.
"I like going back to Canada," he explains. "First of all, I'm from there, so it's home. And the crowds understand, so I can do my act normally; I'm talking to people who are like me, so I don't have throw anything out of the act.
"Down here (in the U.S.), it's a bit different -- I'll often go, 'Oh, they'll never get that,' so I'll take stuff out. But in Canada, I don't have to change jokes. They get it."
Hotz credits his Canadian upbringing for the fact he's funny in the first place.
"I think it's a cultural thing," he says. "That's why you see so many Canadians in comedy -- we don't have any guns, so we have to make jokes. Which is better, I guess.
"Honestly, I think the Canadian style of comedy is different, maybe because when we were kids, we were influenced by all those British TV shows, like On the Buses and Benny Hill and things like that. (Americans) didn't have that stuff. And their comedy tends to be bigger, all HIGH ENERGY all the time. But Canadians try to be different instead of trying to all be the same."
Canadian comedy stardom, he adds, is a different, downscaled kind of fame.
While shooting episodes recently for Season 4 of Call Me Fitz, Hotz was stationed in Halifax, which allowed him to reunite briefly with erstwhile Newsroom castmate Mark Farrell, a former standup who has since become one of Canada's most successful TV-comedy writer/producers (with a list of credits that includes This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada, Corner Gas and the current Citytv sitcom Seed).
"That was the greatest thing," says Hotz. "We went to Yuk Yuk's and I did a (standup) set, and then we went to this bar, and this old guy came up to us and said, 'Hey, aren't you those guys from that show?' I couldn't believe it -- all these years later, and somebody remembers us from The Newsroom. We're not the young guys on that show; we're a couple of old men sitting in a bar. But he remembered. That's fantastic."
Fantastic, you say? Well, that hardly sounds miserable at all.
You can sample Jeremy Hotz's comedy style by visiting www.jeremyhotz.com.
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Jeremy Hotz -- The Magical Misery Tour
Tonight at 7:30
Burton Cummings Theatre
Tickets $41.00 and $48.00 at Ticketmaster