By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Taiwanese-Canadian comedian Ed Hill released his first comedy special, which is now available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. The special, which was originally scheduled for a live audience last spring, was changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The life of a standup comedian is made up of traveling to comedy clubs in a city to perform one or two shows, and doing it all over again the next night in another location. However, with the worldwide pandemic, Hill’s tour ended.
“It’s been different, I can probably speak for most comics that it’s been a whole lot of nothing,” reflected Hill on the downtime.
He has tried to stay creative honing his craft through podcasts, online shows, and comedy shows outside in a way to abide by local social distancing and gathering rules.
Hill’s last performance in front of a live crowd was March 13, 2020. A frequent traveler to the U.S., Hill’s last tour was in Florida, two weeks prior to the lockdown of travel and closure of businesses.
“Thinking back, probably not the smartest thing to do,” Hill said of his last trip. “It’s been a year of very few shows.”
With the U.S. border closed during the pandemic, it meant that Hill has yet to return to a lot of the normal comedy clubs that host him. Although he has pushed back his schedule, the end does not appear to be in sight.
“It seems as though that the break is becoming longer than we anticipated.”
It also meant that Hill came up with a different concept for his scheduled comedy special, which was to have been shot at the University of British Columbia. The university closed down two weeks prior to the scheduled taping. Instead, Hill had a more intimate gathering of family and friends this past July to shoot the special. The show was produced when social distancing restrictions were eased. Hill indicated that there were limits as to how many people were allowed in during the shooting.
“What you see now, in the special, is what we came up with and what we can deliver in a way that doesn’t lose the essence of the story.” In his special, Hill has a ‘story circle’ with different people from his life coming in at certain times during the special.
Hill said that the family and friends in attendance did not expect the level of vulnerability and “emotionality” that is tied into this format. Over the course of one day, the special was shot in 20-minute snippets for what is the one-hour special.
Since the name of the special was named after Hill’s parents, Candy and Smiley, his parents came on at the end of the filming. He noted that it was the first time that they attended one of his comedy shows live.
“I’m happy they came,” said Hill, who noted they played a big part in the special.
He said the director helped with most of the instructions for his parents.
“I kind of just helped them understand it,” said Hill. His mom had a lot of questions and his dad, who he has a close relationship with, asked why he had to be there.
During a time which has seen a lot of anti-Asian sentiment due to the misinformation about coronavirus, Hill notes that racism has been a part of his life. Hill immigrated to Canada from Taiwan when he was 10 years old. As a young kid in school in Canada, he recalled being told to ‘go back to China’ on the playground. He noted that recently his cousin in Vancouver was elbowed in the head by someone while he was walking down the street.
“Do I talk about it in my comedy? I have to say ‘no’ because I’m not a political comic. I don’t do objective observation.” He said that he does not want to ‘botch it.’ However, he makes sure he talks about Asians and their experiences in two ways in his comedy.
“It’s the human condition. We are human beings. We have the same trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs.”
Hill added, “I always paint the Asian community in a perspective of strength. Even if there’s a stereotype that’s floating around them, I paint it as a misunderstanding. Everything that is happening around them is part of who we are and we are people that are trying to do the best that we can.”
In conveying these messages in his comedy, Hill witnessed that his stories on stage went from people laughing at him, to laughing with him. Feedback has been positive as audience members came up to him after the show to tell him that his comedy resonated with them as they had someone in their lives that Hill described in his comedy.
Candy and Smiley debuted on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+ on March 2.
For more information on Ed Hill, visit kingedhill.com.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.