By Rick Coates
Comedian Drew Hastings loves performing in the Midwest, especially in small towns, where he feels his humor connects. He hopes to prove that theory this week when he returns to the Traverse City Opera House for an encore performance Friday, April 22.
Born in Morocco, Hastings grew up in the Dayton, Ohio area. After high school he pursued odd jobs until the age of 31 when he decided to give acting and stand up comedy a try. He moved to Los Angeles and found himself in some development deals and television show pilots that didnt go anywhere. But what did take off for him was stand up comedy.
Hastings quickly found himself being booked on several network talk shows including receiving a standing ovation on The Tonight Show.
He took his show on the road in the form of a one-man comedy act creating a fictitious Tony Robbins character known as Jack Freeman of The Business of Living, that quickly developed a cult following around Los Angeles.
Hastings character Jack caught the attention of the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom Radio Show, and his appearances were so well-received that he soon became a regular guest. In addition to his comedy touring, Hastings also often headlines on The Bob and Tom Comedy All-stars Tour.
BACK TO HIS ROOTS
Currently, Hastings pens a weekly newspaper column, The Battles of Hastings. He tired of life in Los Angeles and returned to his native Ohio, buying a farm in the southern town of Hillsboro where he is currently running for mayor.
I have been doing standup for the past 20 years and much of my show is social commentary, with some hints of politics. The theme of my material over the past couple of years is that we have lost all common sense and that is not just one political party, it is all of them, said Hastings. As I looked around my small town of Hillsboro, Ohio similar in size to Traverse City, and very agriculturally-based, I started thinking about what life would be like for me when I am 80. Sure, I could rest on my career that has been successful, or I could add to the resume and give something back. And I decided on the latter.
So why did Hastings specifically choose running for mayor and not a more high profile state or national office?
I think that at the end of the day all politics is local. I feel I can make a difference here in my town. Over the past 20 years I have been touring towns all over the Midwest and one of the side benefits is you see what makes Midwest towns fail and what makes them succeed. Also, I have watched as many small towns have been lied to and cheated by corporations and government.
Hastings is campaigning on helping his hometown reinvent itself.
I have seen so many communities lose their identities and jobs, said Hastings. So what towns have to do like where I live is reinvent themselves. I see Traverse City as a perfect example of this in recent years. What I want to do is reinvent Hillsboro with agritainment as our new direction with heritage tourism at the center. I think every town needs to brand itself and that is a focus of my campaign.
Certainly some in Hillsboro must have thought his campaign was a publicity stunt.
Yes and that really pissed me off. When I first announced there was some suspicion that this was a PR stunt to enhance my career, said Hastings. But when people saw me going door to door talking to everyone about ideas, that all changed. If anything my celebrity has been a great PR campaign for my town. All sorts of reporters from all sorts of major media have been here covering this and I am grateful because it is helping our economy.
Hastings considers himself to be a conservative and made national news during the 2008 presidential vampaign.
I was among the first celebrities to vocally come out against Obama and immediately the media jumped on that, said Hastings. So certainly my political views are opposite of the presidents.
Hastings is in a three-way primary race with the winner facing the general election in November. He is considered to be the front runner and feels confident that he can be mayor and stand up comedian at the same time.
I see myself working as mayor during the week, farmer at night time, and doing my stand up shows on the weekends, said Hastings. It should work out perfectly and I will have the time necessary to do all my jobs.
I have no interest in taking it any further then mayor, he adds. I just spent 20 years living in LA and now I am adjusting to rural life and I like it. Plus, they have enough comedians at the state and national level.
At 66 tall, clad in a tailored black suit and trademark black horn-rimmed glasses, comedian Drew Hastings will take the City Opera House stage Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets check out www.cityoperahouse.org or call the Opera House Ticket Office at 231-941-8082.