“What comedy brings is the ability to ask the right question. I don’t have the answers, I just have the stories, but I think people will find the answers through these stories,” says comedian Ed Hill.
This year’s Vancouver Taiwan Festival will host live comedy for the first time as part of its programs. The upcoming show, Rethink Asia – dialogue through comedy, will debut with Ed Hill, Aidan Parker, and Asian Canadian improv troupe Fistful of Kicks.
“The show goes with the festival theme of rethinking Asia for the past few years,” says Hill “There have been a lot of stereotypes about what Asians are. The festival really tries to have a dialogue between different people and different cultures to show there are more similarities between us than differences. We also bring different forms of comedies [from standup to improv], so even comedy can be translated in different ways.”
A dialogue through comedy
Hill, a seasoned comedian, has toured all over the world and won a number of accolades for his performances. This year he became the first comedian of Taiwanese Canadian descent to release a full one-hour comedy special titled “Candy & Smiley”. The show is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV and was named “Top 10 Comedy Special of 2021” by Paste Magazine.
He has also launched a new podcast with Aidan Parker earlier this year named Model Mythology. Season 1 hosted nine guests of Asian descent from all walks of life. Season 2 has just started recording recently.
“We are kind of skewed to the model minority myth; we are still not the norm. That is what we are trying to do with the podcast, we are trying to break through, to show we are just people like everyone else,” Hill explains.
He adds that the biggest impact of stereotypes is on the next generation when people are limited by their beliefs that there are things they are not supposed to be involved in.
“For example, I am not supposed to be an actor, these fields are not for me. It goes micro to mental health issues. As an Asian, to be successful and to be an achieving individual, I shouldn’t have certain weaknesses.”
Hill chose comedy as a profession out of his desire to connect more deeply with people after working as a DJ. He cites the most rewarding aspect of his work is when he gets emails or when people come up to him to thank him for telling the story.
“Humour makes it digestible; people are not so on guard when it comes to the subject matter. Not everything has to be a debate with people going around looking for an answer when they don’t even know what the question is,” he says.
The son of Candy and Smiley
Humor is close to home for Hill, his parents named themselves Candy and Smiley after the family moved to Canada. His style is observational, satirical, and highly personal, drawing from everything he has lived, usually with a strong reference to his family.
“We all have a family. I am not just me; I am this unit that I am part of, who I am has been shaped by the people around me,” he says, “When I did my first podcast, the son of Smiley, it was to record these childhood stories with my parents. I really just don’t want to forget them.”
Working as a professional comedian is not without obstacles and frustrations. He shares a pearl of wisdom from his father that kept him going.
“If you get to do something, you gotta do it to the end. What he means is you have to participate fully, either you win or lose; that doesn’t matter. It is going to be worth it in the end; that is what I carry to my whole life,” he says.
As a man maturing into life and his profession, Hill is increasingly citing influences from women in his life such as his mother and his wife and the strength he draws from them. He hopes to explore further gender roles in his new comedic materials.
Rethink Asia – dialogue through comedy will run on Sept. 5 at the Annex. This year’s Vancouver Taiwan Festival will kick off on Sept. 2 with a combination of in-person and virtual programming that will last for 10 days.
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