By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER — In entertainment, the concept of a mask has a long and storied history. Look to the comedy and tragedy masks that symbolize the theatre, representing the faces of characters the actors play. In comedy this plays out as the character or persona that the comedian dons when they step on stage. Often this will be simply an exaggeration of the comedian’s actual personality, but sometimes it can be hard to tell. Nowhere is this more immediately intriguing than the case of Jeremy Hotz, whose miserable guy attitude and delivery definitely seems like a bit of a put on. He uses this tactic to milk comedy out of relatable everyday experiences; he’s an everyman easily overwhelmed and frustrated by the kinds of things we all are. He just takes it to another level. He’s a Canadian comedy veteran with numerous awards and TV appearances to his name. He can’t be that miserable, can he? His exaggerated hand covering the face shtick has to be a deliberate affectation, doesn’t it?
Hotz’s material reflects this miserable persona, from the International Man of Misery Tour, The Magical Misery Tour, It’s the Most Miserable Time of the Year, to his Facebook fanpage with the on-the-nose name of The Officially Miserable Jeremy Hotz Fan Page. His webpage entreats the viewer “Enough said, enjoy browsing the new web site and stay miserable because without you there’s only me and I can no longer deal with myself,” and his bio confirms, “It’s not an act. He really means it. See for yourself.”
Hotz explains, “Oh it’s me alright. It’s really not hard to be miserable when you look at things around you.” As time goes on and he gets older this becomes clearer. “Yeah, I’ve been doing this thing for a long time now, and there’s always new things to be frustrated by. The world keeps giving it.” And his relative success hasn’t abated it. “Like I said, it’s just the way things are.”
He’s known for a distinctive stage demeanour and a particular affectation of placing his hand over his eye and face, as though overwhelmed by what he’s just explained. “Sure that’s a bit exaggerated but it’s a just a thing I already do. I suffer from anxiety and it’s one way it comes out. I didn’t invent it or anything, it just came out organically in my act. Some shows it happens more often than others but it’s related to how anxious I am.”
This affectation and his delivery allows him to get away with being able to say things that might not work for other comedians. It’s not that he says much that’s offensive, but when he does, his delivery can mitigate the impact on the audience reaction. “Yeah, I think I can get away with more than some comics, just by the way I say some things. ‘The miserable guy,’ it’s harder to get angry at, so I can say some stuff that others might not be able to and people will kind of write it off as just part of my misery.”
Sometimes it feels like even the tour helps contribute to the misery. He regularly does midwinter cross-Canada tours (his Just For Laughs Northwest appearance is a part of that this year) which seems like a cultivation of misery. “I think my agent probably hates me or something, I’m always touring Canada in the winter.” They say misery loves company, so take some time out of your JFLNorthwest schedule and join in the misery and at least get some laughs out of the deal.
Check out Jeremy Hotz as part of the JFLNorthwest festival at the Vogue Theatre on February 26th. In Alberta, also catch him for two shows at MacEwan Hall in Calgary Feb. 19, and also in Edmonton at the Myer Horowitz Theatre Feb. 20.BC, British Columbia, Jeremy Hotz, Just For Laughs, Northwest Comedy Festival, stand-up comedy, Vogue Theatre