Hollywood to Hillsboro
Comedian Drew Hastings gets pastoral, political
By Zac ColemanPublished July 1, 2012
He might be the second most famous standup comic to say, ‘f*ck it,’ and move to an Ohio farm (after Dave Chappelle), but Drew Hastings is the more eccentric of the two.
Soured by the stench of unfunny pervading Hollywood, Hastings cut his own path, moving back to Ohio to learn the ways of the farm at the young age of 50.
Quite literally the only man in the country that can boast the titles of comedian, farmer, AND politician, the current Mayor of Hillsboro chatted up (614) over the course of a long drive through southern Ohio, toggling back and forth between what seemed to be his two favorite topics: possums and L.A. (He despises both).
How are the roads today?
I’m driving and I was thinking about roadkill. There seems to be a lot more roadkill on the road this summer than usual.
Why do you think that is?
Suicide. I think a lot of animals that are on the side of the road, they’re roadkill that people just think are running across the road and getting killed. I think they’re suicides.
Interesting. What influenced your decision to move back to Ohio and start a farm after living in L.A. for so long?
The sad thing about Hollywood is that there is a lot of great talent that works out there, be it musical, comedy, writers, or whatever, and then they proceed to homogenize you and take the edge off of you and make it so that your product will appeal to the lowest common denominator and ultimately you end up with a sitcom called Honey, I’m Home and it’s all sh#t. When I decided to leave L.A., reality television had taken off and was in about its fifth year. If you’re a comedian looking to get into television, the sitcom is what you historically look to get into. Suddenly reality television knocked out 90 percent of all sitcoms so there was no reason to be in LA anymore. I looked at the writing on the wall.
I’ll never forget one day I was sitting at a traffic light and I looked at a billboard. Whatever was on the billboard was very funny for the product that it was advertising, and I thought to myself “When the billboards are funnier than what is on television, the f*cking game is over.” I saw that reality TV was probably going to live for a long time. I never thought that it was going to live for this long.
I was never in standup comedy to chase fame … I was in standup comedy to do standup comedy. It’s the last 20 square feet of politically incorrect space in America that you can tell the truth as you see it. Because that’s what I do, there was a realization that I don’t need to be in L.A. for this. I really can be in the Midwest, where it’s a lot easier to tour from.
What was the best part about coming back to the Midwest?
The quality of life. If you’ve been in the Midwest all of your life, you take it for granted. The culture in the Midwest is just much friendlier. In L.A. everything is about ‘I’m in L.A. for a reason, get the f#ck out of my way.’ That is the way L.A. is. I have a saying that at the end of the day, the sun doesn’t set in Los Angeles; it just gives up and drops into the ocean with a bitter hiss. There is a lot of truth to that, I think. I remember there was about a one-week period when I came back where I was fearful. I was like ‘Oh f#ck, everybody’s going to think that I gave up.’ ‘Oh he gave up, he quit Hollywood, he quit show business.’ I thought of the negative connotation that it would have. That lasted for about one week and then I was over it. I said to myself ‘No, it doesn’t f#cking matter.’ And when I let that go, it all was good.
Dave Chappelle did the same thing, and people had the same reaction. Years later, no one cares.
That is kind of an interesting scenario. It’s ironic when you think about it. Me and Dave Chappelle, not that him and I are anywhere near the same level, both moved back to Ohio out of Hollywood and bought farms. Dave Chappelle is on a farm 40 miles north of me. He did it around the same time, maybe a little bit before me. He got a farm outside of Dayton, Ohio. I got a farm outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. About four years after that, Zach Galifianakis left L.A. and bought a big farm in North Carolina. Maybe there is some weird thing about comedians trying to rebel and backlash trying to go to the exact opposite of what our lifestyle usually is, which is a country-pastoral setting. I don’t know. That is for a sociologist to figure out …
I just saw another suicide; it looked like it had a note attached to its fur. It was a possum. I hate possums. They have pointy teeth and they have a pouch. That is unnatural in the Midwest. What are you hiding? I don’t like it. They’re filthy animals.
What is the story behind the name of your tour Farmageddon?
It was Armageddon with an F. (Drew bursts out in laughter). It was that f#cking simple. It’s cute and clever and it sums up what farming is like for me. It’s a complete catastrophe.
What do you think an actual Farmageddon would be like?
A combination of a prairie fire, your tractor turning over and crushing you, your livestock getting out on the roadway and getting splattered by cars, and you spilling a 55-gallon drum of pesticide poison out in your barn and having it roll down the hill and into your pond all at the same time.
Are those things that have happened to you all at once?
Not simultaneously, no.
What do you think the future holds for you? Are you set doing what you’re doing, or are you going to pick up something new?
(sighs) I don’t know what the future holds for me. The Mayor thing, I have a feeling, is going to springboard to something else, only because it is a stage for activism and I think some interesting things are going to happen in this country. In a lot of ways I’m conservative, but in a lot of ways I’m an anarchist. There are a lot of weird movements going on in this country. I hate the EPA. I hate the Department of Labor and a lot of other government institutions, and a lot of my citizens and I don’t want them telling us what to do. That, right off the bat, puts me in a very possibly highly visible position because we are like, ‘F*ck you. Stay out of our business.’ I don’t know where that is going to lead. I really still would love to write … I love David Sedaris. Before I became mayor, a lot of my standup was heading towards essays and stories similar to the style of Sedaris. I’ve always thought that that was what I’d like to do. Instead of memorizing material, I could just write it and put it all in a book that I could read out of on stage. Then I would get to call myself an author and it’s a lot more legitimate.
Hastings will headline the final night of Shadowbox’s Brew Ha Ha comedy festival on July 18th. For more information, visit www.columbusbrewhaha.com.