"Canadians push the envelope a little there. When there’s something different and unique, it takes America a real long time to get its head around it. That whole thing about ‘Be original and be different!’, that doesn’t really work in the States."
– Jeremy Hotz
Guy MacPherson: This is Guy MacPherson in Vancouver calling.
Jeremy Hotz: Hey, Guy. How you doing, buddy?
GM: Good. Are you expecting me?
JH: Yeah. I had you on my list. Whenever I see a foreign number, I immediately dive for the phone and pick it up. That’s why I sounded so frantic, you know?
GM: Are you doing media all day?
JH: Three days in a row, man.
GM: Oh, God, we suck.
JH: It’s brutal, man. You know what it is? It’s the morning TV show. You know that whole thing that copied the morning radio show? So that’s what stretches it out because the morning radio shows are on at the same time as the morning TV shows so you can’t do them on the same day. You gotta keep going back and doing the other shit. So that’s the problem.
GM: It could be that because I’m a night person, but I honestly believe that morning radio and morning TV are attracting the wrong people. All those people go to bed at 8 o’clock at night.
JH: So you mean they don’t go out to see the shows or anything?
GM: Yeah. Who’s watching those things?
JH: I don’t know, man. People with regular jobs, Guy, who do go out, I think, right? At least that’s what I believe. I don’t know. You’re right, I don’t know!
GM: I heard you were on Strombo last night. How did that go?
JH: (chuckles) Oh, it was good. It’s always good. They’ve changed the whole format of that show, do you know that?
GM: Uh, not really.
JH: (chuckles) Oh, yeah, okay. It’s a half an hour now and it’s on at 7 o’clock. And they’ve got, like, a comedy panel thing now.
GM: Oh, so you were on the panel?
JH: Yeah. I guess it’s Valentine’s Day so it was all about Valentine’s Day. I guess they wanted me to do it because I’m miserable. That whole thing, you know what I mean? But in love I’m not that bad. It’s just life.
GM: Are you in a relationship?
JH: Well, I was. Briefly there for a while. And I’m getting better at making those go a little longer now. Maybe it’s an age thing, buddy. It’s hard. It’s hard, man. I’m working a lot all the time now so I’m never around. And girls like to be able to pick up the phone or come over and you’re just not there.
GM: But sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.
JH: Yeah, whatever that is. But the bottom line is, when you’re a comic and you’ve done it as long as I have, it’s not good to be inside your own head all the time, you know? So you really do need distractions.
GM: I think I heard you on Gian Ghomeshi. Was that a year or so ago?
JH: Yeah, something like that.
GM: Did it seem awkward to you? Was he asking really dumb questions or something? I can’t remember exactly. I just remember it was awkward.
JH: That’s his thing, man. I mean, he’s the guy that goes and digs deep into the thing, I think. Isn’t that what that show is about?
GM: Maybe, I don’t know.
JH: You know what I mean. Didn’t he just write a book? He’s trying to get the in-depth story or something? I don’t know.
GM: That’s Maron’s thing now.
JH: Yeah, Marc does that. Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know, man. I don’t know.
GM: You were on the live WTF, which is more of a straight comedy version.
JH: Yeah, normally he just sits and talks to these stars and tries to, yeah, get right in there. Which is what Gian does. He plays – you know this – he plays theatres now.
GM: No, I didn’t know that.
JH: Yeah! Bruce Hills told me that. It’s not stand-up but he tells stories. You know the Vinyl Café guy? That for a younger audience. It’s a monologue. It’s a monologue! He’s a monologist. Right? That means, ‘I can do a long time and tell you stories and it doesn’t have to be funny.’ It’s genius! Think about it! There’s really no pressure. As long as you can tell a story. And I guess all the people that are his fans from that show – I think that is a big, hot show; it’s listened to and it’s on the CBC and it carries with it an air of ‘we’re way smarter than everybody else’; that’s what the CBC does, right? And that really has turned into, ‘Hey, I’d like to see that man do what he does in person. I mean, this is the weirdest thing: when you do the morning radio now, it’s on fucking television. They tape it. It’s the stupidest thing! They tape a radio show and then they put it on TV. That’s just fucking lazy!
GM: All these years you’ve been wasting time writing and crafting jokes; you could have gone out and just told stories.
JH: It’s amazing, right? The English comics do that a lot. You’ve seen them, right?
GM: They pepper it up, though, with humour.
JH: They pepper it up but seriously it’s not as many jokes as the North American guys do. They tell these long stories that have a few jokes in them and they come up with a new hour every five minutes because of that. Completely unfair!
GM: You tour, it seems like, annually out here. You tailor each show to the city you’re in and there’s a lot of improv and talking to the crowd. Is that because you just can’t possibly come up with a new hour all the time?
JH: Ooh, but I do come up with quite a bit. It depends, if I get really hot, on a roll in a city with stuff, I’ll go long on that. And if not, then I’ll do the thing. Yeah, I do the audience thing and talk to them but that’s how I write. You realize that, right? A lot of guys will sit down and they’ll pen it out. Like Louis, for instance. He’ll do it in the same order over and over again a lot of the time and he’ll write it down and everything. I, on stage, write and listen to it afterwards and then put it in. That’s always been my process. If you do it that way, for some reason it seems much more impromptu even though some of the stuff is not. You know what I mean, right? You’ve seen enough shows to know that, okay, he made up about half of that.
GM: It’s the illusion. That’s when it’s great, when it seems fresh every single time. When you say you write on the stage, do you ever take something you’ve come up with in an interaction and write a whole bit on it where you don’t need the interaction?
JH: That’s my act. You just explained it. That’s my process. That’s it. Then it becomes a piece because it just went on for so long and then the guy really doesn’t have to be there and you just tell it as a story. That’s the whole thing.
GM: You’re coming to Vancouver near the end of your tour.
JH: Yeah, always I do that. When I’m the most tired, you know what I mean, Guy?
GM: (laughs) Yeah, we get the best.
JH: (chuckles) That’s the truth. I guess because it’s the closest to L.A. I’m starting in Newfoundland and I’m ending in Kelowna. I always end in British Columbia.
GM: That is gruelling.
JH: Yeah, it’s a long one. But, you know, it’s six weeks and then I can go and just stand there for a couple of years. I don’t have to work that hard! And let me tell you: it’s grueling. Well, you know, you’ve talked to guys. The tour that I’m doing right now is particularly grueling.
GM: Why is it moreso?
JH: Because it’s at the worst time of year. And they do that because of the whole misery thing. I mean, you know, you’ve seen me a million times. It’s the misery thing so they send me at the shittiest time of year. Or they don’t like me. One of the two. But that’s what they do.
GM: It would be more grueling than one of their JFL tours because you’re carrying it; it’s not everybody doing 20 minutes.
JH: I think it’s better to do it yourself. To do a whole hour is better than to just do 20 minutes. I actually prefer to do the longer amount of time, to be honest with you. I think the reason Just for Laughs did that – I’m very flattered and everything I’ve got my own thing and it’s just me – but I think it’s because I did their Just For Laughs tours and I think that the other comics don’t really like hanging with me for six weeks. So they had to send me alone! (laughs) ‘Just send him out and don’t send anyone with him except one other guy that we don’t like and then he’ll learn.’
GM: How long have you been in the States?
JH: Sixteen years now.
GM: I first spoke to you in 2000.
JH: I’ll tell you some great stories, man, that’ll blow your mind. It all happened over the last three weeks. I was down at the Laugh Factory pretty much every night. I was warming up, getting loose, you know. You’ve been out to L.A., you know what the scene is there. It’s not like New York where you can go from club to club and you can actually make a living just playing the clubs. So you gotta go on the road a bit. You have to do it. And that means theImprovs and stuff. And most of the time when I’m in town, I’m at the comedy clubs and I’m working. And people come in. And I gotta tell you, man, what happened. Two things, back to back – they came about a week apart – that were amazing. You know Rihanna, the singer?
JH: I don’t listen to that kind of music. She’s Top 40, right?
GM: I think so, yeah.
JH: She’s like… um… for the kids. Right?
GM: She’s one of those people who of course I know the name but if she walked into this room, I’d say, ‘Hi, can I help you?’ I don’t know her like that.
JH: Dude, listen to the story. I’m the same guy. So they go, ‘Oh, Rihanna’s here.’ And I’m a little worse than you. I’m like, ‘Oh, she’s a singer, right?’ And they’re all looking at me: ‘She’s the most fucking famous singer in the world, man!’ I’m like, ‘O-o-o-okay.’ Anyway, she’s in the room. They hustle her in the back door of the Laugh Factory, which I’ve only ever seen used once before when the owner of the Laugh Factory was yelling at somebody. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen it used. Anyway, she comes in with four other people: another really beautiful woman, and these three giant men with that thing in their ear like they’re guarding the president. They come hustling in. She’s in the middle of these big men. And I go, ‘Who’s that?’ And they go, ‘Rihanna.’ And I go, ‘Okay.’ And she goes and she sits down. She stays for the show. And with maybe 20 minutes left on the last guy, she gets up and they hustle her out, again by the back door because I guess they don’t want a disruption with people running up and wanting to take pictures. I guess someone like that gets mobbed like the Beatles, right? I would assume. So she’s going out the back door and I’m standing at the bottom of the stairs of the Laugh Factory right near that rear door. I was just standing there and she comes by and she grabs my arm. I’ve come off like 20 minutes and I’m in my own head and I’m just not paying attention. The usual Hotz: not paying any attention to what the hell’s going on. So they’re leaving and she grabs my arm and she goes, ‘You were amazing.’ And I kind of half look up and I go – to Rihanna – ‘Thanks, sugar.’ Like an asshole! I called her sugar! Because I didn’t 100 percent make the connection. And then she smiled and went out the back door. And then I found out this from Twitter: I guess there was a guy from the Rolling Stone magazine there that night who was doing a cover story on her and that’s why she was there. It was Rihanna letting her hair down and having fun. They wrote it. They wrote the whole incident.
GM: Ha! Has that come out yet?
JH: Yeah. It’s the one with Rihanna on the cover of it.
GM: As you were talking, I just Googled her. I didn’t realize what she looked like. And she’s from England.
JH: She’s a stunningly beautiful woman. Seriously. Very tall and elegant and the whole thing. So that was really cool. And then the next week – this is the really interesting one. This is the one that I really won’t ever forget. Jerry Lewis comes into the comedy club.
GM: I saw your picture with him! What was he doing there?
JH: He’s shooting some indie – this is what he said – he’s shooting some indie. It’s a drama. And at 87 years old, he’s acting in this picture.
GM: He looked good.
JH: Didn’t he? Didn’t he look great, man? Anyway, so he’s there and that’s a guy that I watched when I was a kid and shit. And he comes up to me afterwards in the lobby of the Laugh Factory as they’re hustling him out early so nobody bothers him, and he looked at me and he points – because he was talking to I think it was Dane Cook – and he points and he goes, ‘You! You were great. Your face. You have an amazing face.’ Like that. Jerry Lewis is yelling that to me. And I took the moment and I said, ‘You are a childhood hero of mine! I know you don’t like to do this, but can I have a photograph with you?’ And he went, ‘Absolutely!’ And he came over and we took the photograph and I posted it on Facebook. What a great moment. I actually felt in awe. And emotional.
GM: It’s probably the only time anyone’s ever told you you have a great face.
JH: Yeah, that you didn’t want to go after: ‘What do you mean by that?!’ (laughs)
GM: It’s funny how we get with anyone we watched as a kid, no matter what level they were at. It’s a big deal.
JH: Isn’t it amazing? And now you kind of understand your own fan base a little bit. You’ve been doing it long enough and you get it. I know what you mean. No matter how small, like if I saw Darryl Sittler, who used to play for the Leafs, I would mumble words. I wouldn’t know what to say to him, I’d be so in awe.
GM: You must come across celebrities all the time.
JH: I do, but it was so extreme for that week when these two things happened. It was like, ‘Wow!’ It was the bang-bang. And it was good timing for me because I got the anxiety; that’s how I’m wired. I’m always walking around nervous about something or other and that just takes you out of your head and you’re okay. That Jerry Lewis thing, I was okay for about a week. (laughs)
GM: Did you see Rihanna or Jerry Lewis while you were on stage performing?
JH: You couldn’t. They’re really good about that. They sit them in a place where the performers can’t really see them.
GM: Because that would have been funny if you started talking to Rihanna and asked her what she did. Like you do.
JH: But you know what? It would have destroyed, huh, if I would have done that? Yeah, you’re right. The dumbest man in the world.
GM: You’re from Ottawa and there are some great comics from there, like Norm Macdonald and Jon Dore.
JH: Jon Dore I see because he works at the Improv now. He lives in Los Angeles. I don’t see Norm ever. He started before me but we are friends. I used to run into him. But he’s not around. He doesn’t play the clubs. Did he move to New York? Am I wrong?
GM: I think he’s still in California. He just played Yuk Yuks here a few months ago.
JH: He did? Wow.
GM: Yeah. Five shows in three nights.
JH: Wow! So Norm’s doing stand-up again? Like religiously?
GM: I think so, yeah.
JH: Okay, good. Did he go to Vancouver to play Yuk Yuk’s?
JH: Okay, that’s neat. Yeah, Norm is good, man. He’s been doing it for longer than me even. How’s he look, man? I haven’t seen him in years.
GM: He looked good.
JH: He was always really handsome, huh?
GM: Who did you start out with?
JH: Chris Finn, Mark Farrell, a guy named Big John Woodbury…
GM: Don’t know him.
JH: You don’t know him, huh? (laughs) So many stories about that guy. I mean guys like that. Lisa Gay Tremblay. I’m just trying to think back. It’s so long ago. Who else was in that class of people? There weren’t a lot because I came out of Ottawa. I was one of the regulars of the club that wasn’t the main club at the beginning of my career. So at that time at Yuk Yuk’s it was the basement of the Beacon Arms Hotel. It was on Albert Street. I was on pretty much every weekend. You would hear things as they introduced me, as I walked up, I would hear, ‘Oh, this guy again.’ Over and over again. (laughs)
GM: Small town! And Tom Green was from there.
JH: Yeah, he was way after me, though. He had an internet show that I did. And I don’t know if you heard about Mike MacDonald. Terrible. I did a big benefit for him at the Laugh Factory that I threw together and packed out with stars and we ended up raising, like, 15 grand for the guy. And I spoke to him a few times. I know he’s very close to getting a new organ and he’ll be okay again, right?
GM: We hope, yes.
JH: It works, though, doesn’t it, the organ transplant? The guy then goes and lives a normal life, right?
GM: I don’t know anything about it.
JH: Neither do I. He was the king when I started. Around Canada. He was like the big, big, big deal. He was also a big, imposing man.
GM: Both him and you have these careers where you’re big stars in your home country, and you make a living in the States as well but not nearly as known. Is that fair to say?
JH: Oh, yeah, totally. America’s got a different sensibility. They’re a different kind of thing. I understand it now. It changed a little in the last little while because I got pretty popular in Australia, as well, on top of it all, which is good. And now America’s kind of coming along. Comedy’s always about longevity. You just keep doing it and doing it and doing it and eventually people come around. I don’t know if you know this, but becoming popular in America in stand-up, it doesn’t last very long. Have you noticed?
GM: There’s a flavour of the month every few months.
JH: Yeah, it’s the YouTube generation, I guess. Remember those boy bands that came out and were hellishly famous for a couple of years and then you never heard of them again? That. It’s gotten into comedy now.
GM: Michael Keaton was talking about Canadian stand-ups on Maron’s show recently. He said they’re either really funny or not funny.
JH: But you know what that is, though? That’s because Canadians push the envelope a little there. When there’s something different and unique, it takes America a real long time to get its head around it. That whole thing about ‘Be original and be different!’, that doesn’t really work in the States. Even if you’re an actor. When they’re casting for a sitcom, it’s always like, ‘We want this type of character.’ If you come in with something they’ve never seen before, good luck to you. No matter how funny you are. Canadians try to be different from everybody else. Don’t you think?
GM: I guess. I haven’t really thought of it.
JH: I still hear it even after living in L.A. for 16 years. After my shows, without talking about it or anything, people come up and go, ‘You’re Canadian, right? I can hear it in your voice.’ I always thought it was the ‘eh’ and this and that, but maybe we speak with a tiny more air of intelligence. Bah-hah! (laughs)
GM: Your Wikipedia entry still says you live in Tarzana and I know that you never did. Can you believe the internet makes such mistakes?
JH: They get my age wrong, they get where I was born wrong. Whoever writes that thing is a liar, that Wikipedia fucker.
GM: But at least they’re talking about you.
JH: No, it’s fine. It’s just, tell the truth. Shit. I guess anyone can just write anything they want on that thing and they just put it up there. Is that how that works?
GM: I think so, yeah. They heard your old joke about it and decided it was true.
JH: Yeah, I had an old joke about Tarzana. You know what, Guy? I read the sign. That’s it. That’s where the joke came from. That’s it. There’s a thing of famous people that come from Tarzana and I’m listed there. It’s like, come on, man! Unbelievable. Do a little research! (laughs) It’s just a lie. That whole fucking thing. And it comes out on press releases. They’ll say, “I see you were born in Ottawa.’ Well, no. Over and over again. (laughs) Incorrect.
GM: You’ve had such success since moving to the character you do. Do you ever feel now that you want to go back to yourself?
JH: No, because it’s just what I do. I mean, it’s not so much a character. The hand in front of the face sort of thing. I do that in real life when I have anxiety. It’s just a thing. I didn’t come up with it, man. It was just a natural evolution of my act. That’s it. And some nights it’s on more than others. It depends how I’m feeling on that particular evening. Honestly, that’s all it is. I don’t plan it.
GM: You did at first, though, didn’t you? You told me that you tried different styles that didn’t work and when you hit on this one…
JH: Yeah, but the thing I ended up settling on was a combination of all the little things I was doing. And most importantly how I was feeling at the time.
GM: And it’s true to you; it’s just an exaggeration.
JH: Absolutely an exaggeration. And it’s also a comfort zone for me. I feel more comfortable when the hand is there.
GM: You have anxiety but do you get it before shows?
JH: Crippling. Crippling anxiety. Yeah.
GM: What are the fears? That you’re going to suck?
JH: No. I think stand-up at this point just triggers it. It isn’t any specific thing anymore. It’s just I’m doing it so I feel like this now. That’s it. But I get it when I’m not doing shows, too. It’s the new big word, I guess, that’s running around the world and everyone’s going, ‘Everybody suffers from anxiety.’ But I have a nasty brand. And I think that’s because I’ve done stand-up for so long so I’m constantly feeling that nervousness. Then I notice, ‘Hey man, I’m not on tonight and I’m feeling it. What the fuck?’ (chuckles)
GM: And you felt it before you ever did stand-up?
JH: Uh, I don’t know. I was thinking the other day when some reporter asked me, ‘If you weren’t a stand-up, what would you do?’ I think I’d just stand there. I’ve done this so long, I don’t know how to do anything else. I really don’t. You mean for money? Uh, nothing. I’d be homeless, I guess. I don’t know. Don’t give me anxiety! Don’t make me think about that shit!
GM: Are you working on any television these days?
JH: I’m working on Call Me Fitz, the HBO show with Jason Priestly. They called me and said, ‘We got this character. He’s really miserable and he’s a social worker. We’ve been trying to cast it and can’t find anybody.’ They found my manager and said, ‘Can he put himself on tape.’ And she went, ‘Yeah, sure.’ So she calls me and she goes, ‘Can you put yourself on tape for this Call Me Fitz show?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I don’t have a camera. What am I supposed to fucking do?’ And she goes, ‘Just get somebody to tape you on your iPhone.’ I swear, Guy. On your iPhone. So I get Tanya Allen who was on the Newsroom with me and two of my friends to come over and tape me on the iPhone. And we do it. I’m sitting on my couch in the living room. It takes us about two-and-a-half hours to upload it to the internet so they can see it in Halifax. About half an hour later they called and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ It was a one-off; just a single episode. And then they turned it into four episodes or so. I think I’m a regular on that program now. So if you’re a young actor, here’s my advice: if you’re trying to get a part, get an iPhone.
GM: So you can do other things.
JH: I like doing the acting thing. It was a lot of fun. It reminded me of being on The Newsroom. And the cast was really good. And Priestly was great. That’s when I realized The Newsroom was such a forward-moving show because I was immediately respected when I got there. I wasn’t just some joe. They all kind of knew, which was great. I was included. It was a lot of fun, man. It was like the olden days working at the old CBC there, getting up at 5 in the morning and then getting on set at about noon. Same shit.
GM: Do you do research before you hit a city with your stand-up?
JH: I don’t research; I walk around. I guess that’s research. And I look around. And it comes to me naturally. People really like to hear about where they live. They love that, I’ve noticed. They really enjoy that a lot. And it also makes the show seem a little more personal for them as opposed to just this guy who does the same shit every night. I don’t want to be that guy.