It’s an act. It’s not an act.
Canadian standup veteran Jeremy Hotz has soared to the top of the comedy heap on this continent in mining his anxieties for much mirth, even to the point of bringing his emotional-support pooch Shackelton on stage with him while sharing his angst.
His stage act netted Hotz the Dave Broadfoot Comic Genius Award at the 2008 Canadian Comedy Awards, the most prestigious comedy prize in the country.
But off-stage, it’s really no laughing matter. Hotz has been battling generalized anxiety disorder pretty much all his life. The stage is one of the few places where the Toronto native feels remotely comfortable.
Hotz hits Montreal’s Théâtre Beanfield — formerly the Corona Theatre — Saturday with his trusty long-haired chihuahua Shackelton by his side. The Montreal stop is being called the Marquis de Sad show, because Hotz wanted to give it some franco flavouring. In the rest of the country, it’s called the Up Close and Miserable Tour. Hotz always had a way with show titles; many will recall his International Man of Misery tour, which dropped in on Just for Laughs in 2016.
You get the point. Yet Hotz is quick to acknowledge that misery loves company.
“Misery: that’s the way the comedy business is and has always been for me,” says Hotz in a phone interview. “My feeling is anyone who has a miserable life can be funny. Anyone where everything goes well for them, not so much.”
Hotz’s humour stylings are observational with a dose of morose. Yet he’s infectiously witty, even as he softly moans his grief with his hand half covering his face.
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“It’s simple. I wake up in the morning, and stuff always happens. And that’s how I write my act. Then I make it up as I go along,” says Hotz, who just turned 60.
Not quite so simple as that. Hotz tends to downplay, as usual.
COVID-19 caused Hotz to cancel a gig here a few years ago. One dreads to ask Hotz how he fared during the pandemic.
“It wasn’t the greatest time for me,” he notes. “But I had Shack with me, and I was extremely active on social media, because I was so bored out of my skull.
“I even considered dating a little, because for the first time I would have had no competition. But with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s very difficult to get into relationships and get married. And when I tell people this, they immediately ask ‘How do I get generalized anxiety disorder?’”
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On the plus side, Hotz points out that because he suffers from agoraphobia, it was a huge relief for him that the pandemic prevented him from having to go out a lot, apart from walking Shack.
Hotz has a theory as to what brought on his generalized anxiety disorder, and let’s just say that Freudians would have a field day with this early diagnosis.
“When I was younger, they didn’t know what it was. So they sent me to a psychologist when I was nine, and he told my mother: ‘The kid’s eating too much ketchup. Don’t give him any more ketchup.’ That’s how ignorant they were then.
“It took years to figure out what it was. When I started standup, the other comics used to laugh at me, because, before the show, I was holding my stomach, trying not to barf. I was totally out of my mind. I had horrible thoughts in my mind that everything I was doing was terrible. It was really ruining my life, because I was having really good sets and people said I was killing. But eventually I was properly diagnosed and they got me on medication. It helps with that, but I still have my days and still have too much anxiety.”
With the end of the writers’ strike in the U.S. and hopefully soon the actors’ strike, Hotz is looking forward to landing work outside the hectic standup circuit.
“I have a great rapport with my comedy audiences. They’re very helpful, and many bring their service animals with them to shows, as they can in Montreal. Just please don’t bring your service child to the show.
“But at my age, I can’t be rushing around on the road a lot. When I get off a plane these days, I unfold like a lawn chair, which is not that great,” cracks the L.A.-based Hotz, who had been a regular on the HBO series Call Me Fitz and had appeared on and wrote for The Jon Stewart Show.
A serial Just for Laughs fest performer, Hotz won a Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Show or Series for his work in the acclaimed series The Newsroom on CBC and PBS and also nabbed Best Male Standup honours at the 2009 Canadian Comedy Awards.
Hotz is most cognizant that he is far from the only one facing mental-health struggles, that they are in fact alarmingly epidemic these days.
“The bottom line is we’re all really suffering from something. I get people coming up after shows and thanking me for bringing attention to these issues. I’m just thankful I can still go out and help entertain people for a little while.”
Jeremy Hotz performs Saturday at 7 p.m. at Théâtre Beanfield, 2490 Notre-Dame St. W. Tickets: Ticketmaster.ca