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Comedian Ed Hill Is Running on a Full Tank of Marbles

Following up a successful debut, the rising performer road tests his latest stand-up special, Stupid Ed.

by Lukas Purm

Over breakfast in snowy Nelson, BC, comedian Ed Hill and I are approached by a woman with a thick French accent the morning after his first sold-out show of 2023. She expresses gratitude for his performance, bemoaning the rarity of touring comedians coming to this small Canadian hideaway while he casually sips his morning coffee.

The road forward is long, hard, and pretty much never ending for Hill. Connecting the dots of his expanding tour is easy to do when you’re watching from the sidelines, touring with him as his opening act. You start to notice a trend pretty quickly, where no venue is too small or too big, no audience left untouched. Recent stops for HIll have included Victoria, Honolulu, Austin, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Hope, Squamish, Vancouver, Albuquerque, and New York; each one better than the last. 

In March 2020, after 10-plus years refining live material about growing up as a Taiwanese immigrant in Canada alongside a family who were equally a maze and a map throughout his search for connection and identity, Hill filmed his first special, Candy & Smiley, a heartfelt homage to his parents. In front of eight family members and close friends facing him in a semicircle, Hill found himself exposed, authentic, and confronted. “What we do on stage is insane when you think about it,” Hill says. “Complete strangers pay to listen to us share our innermost thoughts in public.” 

After its release on Amazon Prime, Paste Magazine declared Hill’s cherished and hilarious string of snapshots “one of the 10 best specials of 2021.” Shifter described the work as the “most personal and intimate comedy special yet.” His new show, Stupid Ed, a letter to himself, debuts off-Broadway in New York and runs from March 30 to April 2.

Hill prefers connection and intimacy with audiences over size and sales, commonly performing at breweries, cafes, fringe festivals, and art houses where audiences range from 40 to 120 people, almost always at full capacity. Aboard the pre-dawn ferry from Victoria after the successful preview of his new work in mid-January, Hill reclines the car seat and shuts his eyes prior to the seven-hour trip to Vernon. “I’m gonna nap down here,” he tells me. Moments into the sailing, duelling car alarms compete for his attention. Five minutes later, he heads up to the main deck in time for sunrise, laughing at his fortune. 

On the blustery highway to Edmonton after discovering mochi doughnuts in Calgary’s Chinatown between shows, he describes starting from scratch for the first time in over a decade while competing against himself for the first time ever. “The reviews were incredible. I was very happy, but the year that followed was the darkest of my career because the process stopped. The focus wasn’t about me anymore, it became this creation I had to live up to.”

He chuckles and changes lanes, passing a large semi-trailer. “God punishes you by giving you everything you want. The toughest person to love is yourself. The first step is to embrace your humanity. You need to learn certain things, like ‘why am I doing this?’ I focused on the struggle of building back up, suffering when some material works and some doesn’t. I love it, it’s harder now in some ways and softer in others. Unknown moments bear the biggest gifts.”

A spring calendar full of Canadian dates include tapings at the Just For Laughs Northwest festival for CBC, and the exclusive Vancouver preview of Stupid Ed earlier this spring Kafka’s Coffee Roasting on Great Northern Way.  

From his performance at The Tank in Manhattan, Hill travels to Ottawa for a Comedy All Stars presentation with Toronto’s Danish Anwar at the National Arts Centre on April 8. Then it’s back to BC for shows in Kelowna, Grand Forks, Osoyoos, Prince George, Williams Lake, Gibsons, and Sechelt. 

“I went for brunch with my parents recently,” Hill shares. “My Dad shared stories he’s never mentioned, how they learned and changed a lot as people when they had me and my brother. What!? I never saw that, he was always a hard-ass. But they knew that love, that care will translate through action. We will feel it, we won’t see it, but we embody it.”

The first step, according to Hill, is to embrace your humanity. The gift of connection comes full circle when no moment is too small or too big, and Stupid Ed is here to help you see the whole picture. 

For more information and to get tickets to a live stand-up show near you, check out kingedhill.com