Hubris didn’t lead stand-up comedian Ed Hill to choose his Twitter handle or the name of his website, but in retrospect, he realizes it might come across that way.
Hill has a perfectly good explanation for why he involved royalty in his online persona and it has nothing to do with him actually wanting to be a king. In fact, during a Tuesday afternoon phone interview, Hill was humble and funny, two traits rarely associated with monarchs.
While he does a lot of dates in his Vancouver hometown, Hill, originally from Taiwan, also spends many weekends on the road, including a run of shows in early May at the Cape Fear Comedy Festival in Wilmington, N.C. That’s where I first saw him and we talked about what sets Cape Fear apart from other festivals, his piano playing prowess, why he is the safest of safe drivers and much more.
Tony Castleberry: You’re King Ed Hill on Twitter and it’s the name of your website. Are you self-appointed royalty or did the citizens of Vancouver elect you king?
Ed Hill: [laughs] A lot of people have brought that up like, “Don’t you find that a little conceited, calling yourself king?” The reason why I picked King Ed Hill is because there is a street in Vancouver called King Edward and I thought it would be funny if I used the name of the street and then later on I realized, wow, I just look like a dick because most people don’t live in Vancouver. [interviewer laughs] Most people don’t even know that street exists because it’s not a huge street. It’s not even one of the biggest streets in Vancouver so I just look like a giant egomaniac.
TC: Well, now we can explain it and get the word out. Did you enjoy your sets in Wilmington and what do you like most about the Cape Fear festival?
EH: I think it’s one of the most well organized festivals and probably the most well attended for its location because I don’t think Wilmington is a huge town compared to Austin or Chicago or some other (comedy festival) locations. My experience has always been amazing at the festival. Either at the club shows (at Dead Crow Comedy Room) or the outside club shows, I always have a good time. People are very down to earth. It feels like a Southern town, but not dangerous, speaking as a minority. [Hill, interviewer laugh] I always enjoy going back.
It’s a very supportive environment and I think they understand what comedy is. Some festivals are put on by people who are not necessarily comics so it’s more business than the art. (Stand-ups Matt Ward and Timmy Sherrill run Cape Fear.) That’s why I really appreciate that Matt and Timmy put something together that’s so amazing.
TC: Do you remember when you first thought about doing stand-up?
EH: Probably 15, 16. I was watching the Chris Rock special. I forgot what it was. I want to say it’s the one when he was in the leather jacket, but he’s always in a leather jacket.
TC: [laughs] It’s like saying the Eddie Murphy one where he’s in the leather pants. That’s all of them.
EH: It’s the one where he talks about there are black people and there are…this. You know what I’m talking about?
EH: That special. I watched that many, many times. … So that was my first impulse to get on stage, but I never knew how they did it so I never got on stage (at that time). I thought, “He’s coming up with this stuff off the top of his head. There’s no way I can do that.” I never understood what stand-up was until later on in life when I found out, “Oh, it’s actually written.”
I was always interested in music so I did a lot of DJing work, production work, stuff like that so I got on stage. I understood music was pre-written so I guess I went that route.
TC: Which is more challenging: piano or stand-up?
EH: Currently or back then?
EH: Currently it’s definitely comedy because I’m good at music now.
TC: [laughs] Understood. You’ve put in the time.
EH: My parents forced me to play piano for like 20 years of my life so I think I conquered that stage.
Looking at it objectively, not through my current skill set, they have similarities where I think both are equally tough. A lot of things translate over. In piano, you start with the classics. You start with the foundation, the core, the technique. Then, as you progress through that and you become more acquainted with your skill set, you improvise. Now, I can improvise like there’s no tomorrow. It’s unbelievable.
With comedy, I feel like it’s the same thing. I’m trying to get the skill set down pat to the point where I can just jazz it up. … With performance arts, there are a lot of similarities, except my parents don’t want me to do comedy, so there’s your difference. [interviewer laughs]
TC: How did you discover you were allergic to alcohol, marijuana and nicotine? Did you just try them and they all affected you terribly?
EH: I’ve never first-hand smoked marijuana or cigarettes, but I’ve been around people who do and when I’m in that environment, I just feel awful and I later found out it was an allergy. I got it tested and stuff.
Now alcohol, I definitely drank it and the doctor definitely told me not to do it.
TC: Crazy. I love that whole bit. Does something like that come easily, like a spark one day, “Oh, this could be a joke?”
EH: I had a joke before about how my dad was paranoid. I think it’s probably my whole family, but he bought the same car that was in the movie “2012” because he thought we would survive if he bought that car. He has the exact same car, exact same model, same color, same year, everything. I used to do a joke about how it was the first time in history an Asian person thought driving was going to keep them safe. [interviewer laughs] It didn’t really work as well as I wanted and then I realized, I can’t drink or smoke so I’m always driving sober and I linked those two together.
That’s always the process of my writing. I always start in the third person and then move toward more personal stuff. When it becomes about me, it works a lot better, but it’s always hard to talk about yourself, because it’s like, “I really don’t want to tell people this. I don’t think people will like me if I tell them.” That’s just my insecurity.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes:
It’s official. The most honest sport is professional wrestling.
— aaron blitzstein (@BlitznBeans) May 27, 2015