Ed Hill on Turning Family “Quirks” Into Comedy and Making Stand-Up Mentor Louie Anderson “Proud”

Ed Hill is a stand-up comic also learning to stand up for himself.
Ed Hill is a stand-up comic also learning to stand up for himself. Photo by Brandon Hart

It’s been a long pandemic, and Canadian comic Ed Hill is finally ready to get back out of the house. “I basically haven’t been anywhere for the past two years, so the last time I was in Houston was about four years ago,” the comic explains over the phone. Hill, who will be the headlining two nights at the newly comedy focused Rudyard’s on April 29 and 30, is coming off releasing his first special and gearing to tape the next.

Family is a primary focus for Hill’s material – and he says his parents are at different levels of “acceptance” about that fact. “My dad is always like: ‘Why do you even go out on stage – why don’t you just have me go out there and talk? You just talking about me anyways,’” Hill shares, not quite laughing. “My mom is a little different, she’s more excited about the whole thing. I don’t know if she’s excited because she’s involved, or excited because I’m doing this. Especially after my last special, my parents make an appearance at the end of my last special. When it first came out, my mom sent me a text saying she was just gonna fast forward to watch her segment, and that she would watch the rest later. To that I said: ‘Touche.’”

The emphasis on storytelling can be a double edged sword for the busy comic – the more successful you are, the less time you have to actual go out and live (and make new stories possible!) Hill counters: “Yeah, a lot of these stories are from my childhood. I used to think that way where I had to go and purposely – and it's nice to spend time with people, don’t get me wrong – but to purposely go and see my parents just so that I could get new material. I just realized I was not living in the moment, that I was just there to do field research.

“What I realized was that any moment the most interesting stories and most introspective moments I could come up with are actually the most minute trivial moments. Almost like since there was essence of meaning to it, but when you actually look behind it, there is so much meaning to it and I just wasn’t aware of it at that time. Something as simple as what I talk about with my mom, where she always taught us to stand up for ourselves and there was this place she always took us for ice cream. And for some reason, my ice cream was always smaller than everyone else – and I thought it was fine, no big deal.

"But she would make me go back to Dairy Queen to get a bigger one. So I would go and come back and obviously they gave me a different ice cream, like a dip-cone as an apology, and my friends are all astounded. I’m like you stand up for yourself and this is what you get. And they’re like, no, we didn’t go to Dairy Queen – we went to McDonalds. Did you go and rob this store?”

Hill's background is more musical than his career as someone who performs spoken words might lead you to believe. "I was a battle DJ, a hip hop DJ, so I don’t know how the two can compare," he laughs. "I do have a music background, I got my performance degree in piano when I was 16, actually. My parents wanted me to have a skill I could use that would be helpful in the future, and uh, that’s definitely not a helpful skill. I can play now flawlessly but it hasn’t done anything for me financially. I think they were just trying their best.

"But I think, it's interesting you brought that up because yesterday somebody told me that my set, my show, is kind of like a symphony. It’s got its beginning and end, but it kind of interweaves its themes throughout and that really is how I try to construct my shows. I’m telling my story, and there are stories within the story, and it all kind of comes together at the end. And that’s really how I experience life too. I see that there are individual moments, but these smaller moments consolidate into one big overarching experience."

After his first special Candy & Smiley dropped over the pandemic and earned high critical marks, Hill teased the new hour he’s building as a sequel of sorts. “Dominantly, the show is about my relationship with female figures in my life,” Hill explains. “It’s an extension of my last special which was about me being synthesis of my parents, and now this is about my relationship to the women. It could be about my mom, my wife, my grandma. And also, the ultimate female figure is North America. Because if Asia is my father, then North America is my mother – and the value I’ve learned, I’ve learned on this land.”

The special brought Hill many new fans, it was one person’s opinion that soared above the rest: Louie Anderson, the Emmy-winning comedy great who tragically passed away on January 21 from complications related to a long battle with cancer at 68.

“I started actually just taking a comedy class, just outside my university at that time when I was going to graduate school. I was a nightclub DJ, but I was kind of moving away from music, but I wanted to be on stage somehow. So I took a class to see what I would like and ended up doing a bunch of shows, and really my mentor through this whole time was actually the late-great Louie Anderson. We met in LA, and he’s actually been mentoring me through out.

One thing he really taught me was to focus on my family. He saw that there was a lot of things with my family that he knew a lot of people could resonate with, because we all have a family. Those quirks, those differences, you know? Yeah, that was one thing he really got me to focus on, and I truly thank him for that. You know, he was fair. He was not there to rescue me or pamper me, he made it very clear, you know – early on in my career, I think we all want to be cool, we all want to be edgy. And he’d be the one to ask: ‘Is that really you, Ed? Who are you really?’ He knows me, and says ‘You are genuine, you are kind, you are funny in your own way. Just be who you are and I think people will really enjoy who you are as a person.’ So I’ve always followed that guidance ever since.”

Continuing on, Hill says he wasn’t aware of Anderson’s private battles with cancer, but had the opportunity to see him at one of his last shows. “I think only a handful of people knew, specifically his family,” Ed explains. “So yeah, I was quite surprised myself. You know, the last thing was... he was in Vegas, and because of the restrictions, I couldn’t make it down there. And one of my good friends was actually there, he wanted to see him for the last time and that was when my first special came out, and he apparently watched it. He sent me a text saying he enjoyed it. And the last thing he said to my friend was that he was proud of me for what I had been able to do for that special. So it was very touching.”

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m Friday, April 29 and 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at The Riot Comedy Show at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh. For more information, call 713-264-8664 or visit $15-100.

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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee