Comedians often find humour in personal stories and experiences. For Ed Hill, his first comedy special Candy & Smiley drew upon his experiences as a first-generation Canadian.
“My parents immigrated here from Taipei, Taiwan when I was ten,” the comedian starts in a promo for the Amazon and Apple-TV special. “When you move from a country that doesn’t speak English to a country that does speak English, you can pick a new name. . .my mom named herself Candy, like the dessert. My dad named himself Smiley, like an idiot.”
While the immigrant experience and relationships with family may not seem like typical material for a successful comedy special, Hill’s style of comedy- personal and introspective- has become his trademark. And it’s worked, earning accolades from NPR, who called Candy & Smiley one of the “best of 2021.”
The recording and release period were an “emotional roller-coaster” according to Hill. Two weeks prior to film the special, COVID-19 shut down much of the world. Instead of postponing the recording, Hill worked to find a way to record and tape the special in a different format that could accommodate restrictions. The end result is a taped special that doesn’t show the comedian alone onstage. Instead, Hill is seated in a wide circle as his family and a few friends sit around him, resembling a group therapy session. It turned out to be the right choice.
“With the high-level of uncertainty and the experimental nature of the production, we were unsure how the audience would receive it, and if it would be appropriate for the times” Hill recalls. “Fortunately, the special was able to capture the emotional essence of the period. It was, however, very strange to get feedback that most people cried after watching the comedy special.”
Following the special’s success and the reopening of venues and festivals, Hill began work on a new show. The result, Stupid Ed is currently on a North American tour, with Hamilton as one of its stops. The show is featured in July’s Hamilton Fringe Festival, playing daily at the Players’ Guild of Hamilton between July 22-26.
Like Candy & Smiley, Hill dives again into his personal relationships- this time, focusing specifically on the female figures in his life, including his mother, grandmother and partners. Using his introspective and comedic style, Ed learns the value of love in the form of self-acceptance.
The message, and its delivery, has been one that has resonated with audiences across North America. In addition to Hamilton, the comedian has additional stops in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Arizona, New York, North Dakota and Georgia this summer. As part of his busy touring schedule, Hill is already booked to perform in Washington, D.C, Nova Scotia and more in the fall.
While Hill maintains that airport chairs are the worst part of touring, he’s clear that the best part are the people he meets in each community, and the time he’s able to spend with audiences.
“I hope they’re able to connect with the moments in my life in some ways as we share this moment together. It is the ultimate gift someone can give you: their time.”
Who: Ed Hill
What: Stupid Ed
Length: 60 minutes
Where: Players’ Guild of Hamilton (80 Queen Street South)
When: July 22 – 26, 2022; various times
Tickets: $12 through the Hamilton Fringe Festival Box Office