Let it be said that the art of funny isn’t something you can find in Aisle 11 at your local Wal-Mart. Nor can it be inherited when that creepy uncle with his endless supply Irish whiskey in the kitchen cupboard finally kicks the can as a result of liver failure.
While opinions vary on constitutes as funny, most agree a combination of crass observation, idiotic irony, and maddening misfortune tend to be the key ingredients for rib tickling humour.
So when John Hastings woke up one day to find himself nominated as Best Newcomer at the Canadian Comedy Awards and then fingered as one of five top comedians to watch for in 2010 by the Comedy Network, he new his stand-up dues were paid in full.
The Montreal transplant has made his rounds throughout comedy clubs for four long years and now calls Toronto his home. Success has treated him well which is why he’s offering TorontoStage.com readers his bodily fluids at a discount price by visiting www.johnhastingscomedy.com.
Those not fortunate to have Internet access may just want to bring an empty jar to Yuk Yuk’s in January where John Hastings makes his headline debut.
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Do you remember a tell tale sign growing up that hinted at a stand-up comedy future?
I grew up as a fat kid. The first time I ever felt acceptance from peers was through a sweet lady laughter joke.
During 5th grade recess this guy said to me, “I bet you get your jollies from food.” I responded with “at least I can get my jollies.” There was a burst of hysterical laughter all around me
In fact that bit has served me for a long time. That kid still tours with me and we close with that exchange every time.
Who has been your greatest stand-up comedy influence?
Patton Oswalt was a huge influence. When I heard his album “Feelin Kinda Patton” it was a big awakening for me because it was jokes relating to things that I often thought about.
I also read a lot of L. Ron Hubbard and his jokes about the Thetains really pointed me towards the bricks of a comedy club.
John Hastings is said to be in this for the long haul. What do you feel powers this addiction to the comedy craft?
This is a quote used by a lot of comedians and I feel it especially relates to me “I am horribly unqualified to do anything else”. I have a theatre degree and my only jobs were Camp Counsellor, Barista and Telemarketer.
Stand up is just an intensely rewarding job. I get out of bed each morning with an urge to create jokes and to also make sure I can get my act to a place where I do not feel stuck.
Otherwise I’m at risk of being forced to go to dirty northern Ontario race tracks for a $100.
In January 2011, you are headlining your first comedy event. This accomplishment brings joy and anxiety, I’m guessing?
I am pretty excited and scared. I hope I don’t suck. I’ll probably vomit and cry.
How do you describe your approach to comedy?/em>
It’s a lot of stories, some observations and very little focus.
I have been called observationally funny, shockingly funny and a damn funny storyteller. I like to tell people I am kind of funny but mostly amusing.
Your approach to stand-up has evolved over the years. Has your creative process changed during this time as well?
For sure. I never used to write jokes out. I would write an idea or a couple of buzz words and find what’s funny through exploring various tangents or tracks of thinking.
Now I script it all out and try hard not to be distracted by something in the room before spewing out my thoughts..
Anyone who has seen John Hastings live knows you’re a cusser. Some comedians use this as a laugh technique while others don’t rely on it at all. What do four letter words add to a comedy routine?
I use swear words because that is how I talk, it is not like I am trying to be rude. I just feel that if you stub your toe and you do not say ‘F*ck!,’ you are repressing an emotion. And repressed emotions can cause cancer, I don’t want that.
I would love to tell you that there is philosophical reason I use the F-word, the S-word and the B-word but I just like the way they feel hanging in the air.
Do you have any special warm up exercises before you go on stage?
I drink 30 cups of diet coke and bullsh*t with the other comics.
Oh and no matter the gender or sexual orientation, I flirt with the club owners and waiters/waitresses in an aggressive manner.
You’ve performed in every comedy club across the country it seems. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about the comedy craft?
Just to be yourself. I am a city guy who like fart jokes, who is constantly distracted by my surroundings and pointing out stupid details.
If I try to be anything else it comes off as cheap. If I am performing for the Queen of England in a barn surrounded by unwashed hillbillies, fart jokes are happening. I should also mention I just farted on a crown.
What was the defining moment in John Hastings’s career when he knew he was good?
My last show as a Montreal comic is notable. I was in front of a sold out crowd in the club I got my start in. I had the whole room in stitches. It felt like I made a career leap that show.
The second big moment was winning the Just For Laughs Home-grown Comedy Competition in 2010. It was the scariest week of my life, I was competing with 8 strong comics. For the judges to say I was a smurf’s hair better than the rest was a fantastic feeling.
JOHN HASTINGS * Jan. 12 – Jan 16. 2011 * Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club 224 Richmond Street, Toronto ON * Tickets $11.50 – $19.47 416- 967-6425