For the last eight years or so, Jeremy Hotz’s schtick has been his misery. If you don’t recognize his name, you surely know him to see him — he’s the Canadian standup comic who, his right hand to his face to appear distressed, takes everyday observations and presents you with the downside of them.
From public transportation to the Canadian flag, Hotz can find the misery — and deliver the comedy — in anything.
“Can you call me back in three or four minutes?” he asks, when The Telegram calls at the appointed interview time. “I’ve got to give my dog his pills.”
His dog is sick, he says, and doesn’t like taking his medicine.
Hotz hopes his beloved pet is “still kicking” when he returns home at the end of March from his five-week Magical Misery Tour, which begins at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre Feb. 19.
He’s heading out in his dilapidated van (“I’m not really driving a van, I’m flying — they just made me pose for pictures in front of an old van because it looked more miserable,” he explains) for a 21-city tour that will take him from here to Kelowna, B.C.
Hotz has been performing comedy for about 20 years, and the whole misery thing came about, he has said in the past, after he one day starting putting his hand to his face and talking about dismal things, and audiences loved it.
“Ever since, I’ve just been that guy. They call me miserable. It’s a unique take on things, you know? I’m walking the dog, some shit happens, and I put it in the show. Come see me, make yourself feel better.”
Hotz’s real life isn’t quite as bad as he lets on. A veteran of the Just for Laughs festival, Hotz has won a Gemini award for his work on CBC’s “The Newsroom,” as well as multiple Canadian Comedy Awards.
His last tour, “What a Miserable Tour This Is …” sold out across Canada and resulted in a DVD.
He’s been a staff writer and performer on the “Jon Stewart Show” and starred in his own half-hour special and the four-part mini-series “Married Life” on Comedy Central.
“I’m miserable, but good things do happen,” Hotz admits.
Not long ago, for example, he was performing at L.A.’s The Laugh Factory when pop star Rihanna came in. Also in the audience was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine.
“After the show, she grabbed my arm and said, ‘You were amazing,’ and the guy wrote that in Rolling Stone. That was cool,” Hotz says. “Another time recently, Jerry Lewis was at the club. I listened to him when I was a kid. He let me take a picture with him and I put it up on Facebook. He was a really nice man.”
The best thing that can happen to a comedian like Hotz, whose material is largely improvised on stage, often happens in Newfoundland, he says. People here love to participate in comedy shows, heckling and answering rhetorical questions, and for Hotz, it’s gold.
“When that happens, it’s the greatest thing ever. It obviously fuels my act,” he says. “I improvise huge chunks of my act. It’s like walking a tightrope — it’s more exciting for me. If it doesn’t happen, then I just kind of concentrate on the material, but people who come to see me now, they know what I do. People like it.”
Although standup is where his heart is, Hotz enjoys acting and will appear this fall in Season 4 of HBO Canada’s “Call Me Fitz,” shot in Halifax, starring Jason Priestly of “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame. The show is centred around Priestley’s character, a used-car salesman. Hotz plays Leonard, a social worker.
“He’s probably the worst social worker you could ever think of,” Hotz says, laughing. “He’s an old dad with a new child, and he’s gay on top of it. I like him because he’s so interesting. He’s not miserable, but he’s so profoundly disappointed.
“I like playing a character. I worked on ‘The Newsroom’ and I know how to act and stuff, and the ‘Call Me Fitz’ people are the nicest group of people ever. I came in as the new guy, and they really took me in and made me part of their family.”
On the “Magical Misery Tour,” Hotz plans to do mostly new material, because jokes he’s already done before are old by this time.
“Everything I ever say in Canada is on TV immediately,” he says.
After that, once he checks in on his dog, he plans to take his first vacation ever — and he’s not sure he’s up for it.
“My friends keep saying, ‘You have to go on vacation,’ but really, me on vacation is just going to be me standing near a palm tree, still miserable.”
Tickets for Hotz’s show in St. John’s are $42.50 (taxes included, plus surcharge) and are available at the arts and culture centre box office, by calling 729-3900 or online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.