JEREMY HOTZ at the Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge). Saturday (January 26) at 7 and 9:30 pm. $45.15. 416-872-5555. Also at the Living Arts Centre (4141 Living Arts). January 31 at 7 pm. $41. 416-905-306-6000. Rating: NNNNN
If you think you have it bad, you obviously haven’t seen Jeremy Hotz onstage. His sad sack, put-upon alter ego is one of the most original acts in modern stand-up. His misery obviously attracts company.
Just don’t confuse that guy onstage with the razor-sharp artist who creat-ed him.
“It’s all an act!” laughs Hotz, on the phone from a casino in Palm Springs, California, which he describes as a bunch of the oldest people in the world. In the background I can make out the sound of bells and yells.
“Actually, I’m quite happy,” he says. “Everything’s fine. I’ve got a dog, a border collie. And, yes, he does resemble me – he’s miserable, doesn’t listen and pretty much does his own thing.”
Hotz is also in a relationship, which he admits is difficult for somebody in his profession.
“As a stand-up you really don’t take shit from anybody,” he says. “You’re the only guy onstage with a microphone, and people listen to you. In a relationship, there’s no mic. And the other person can actually be louder than you. So you just have to find the right kind of person.”
Hotz, who started off in local comedy clubs but now lives in a place called Hancock Park (“I know,” he moans) in L.A., has been in the business 16 years. “Not that long, actually,” he says.
His kvetching stage persona, who slouches and buries part of his face in one hand, evolved over many years.
“I was a high-energy act for a while, but I found that utterly exhausting,” he says. “Then I just stood there for a while with absolutely no energy, and that was just remarkably boring. Then I found this thing in the middle that seemed to work for me. It’s how I feel about everyday life.”
What’s always kept Hotz’s act fresh is his spontaneity. That downer guy is quick on his feet.
“I make a lot of it up,” he says. “I don’t have to sit in front of a compu-ter and write jokes. I’ll talk about Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. It’ll just be what I thought of that day while I was there.”
Neither does he feel limited by his stage persona.
“It’s quite liberating because I’m so used to it,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll see something and wonder, ‘What would he think and say about that?’ Then I get onstage and I’m that guy.”
TV audiences likely know him as Jeremy from The Newsroom, one of the straight characters orbiting around creator Ken Finkleman’s funny guy. Don’t hold your breath, however, if you’re expecting a sitcom based on Hotz’s stand-up persona.
“I don’t think CTV or CBC has much interest in doing that right now. My show would have to be a little edgier than Little Mosque or Corner Gas. I don’t want to be the father of two screaming kids. I’d be open to what they have to say, but right now they haven’t come.
“In the meantime, selling out theatres across the country isn’t a bad thing either.”