Comedian David Heti is in our Spotlight Interview this month!
Other than getting more people out to shows, what would you like to see happen to the comedy scene in Canada?
What I think I would like to see is the diminution, and perhaps even decoupling, of the comedy powers that be. What makes for a good comedy scene is a wide variety of comics and comedy. What happens, though, when there is a single nation-wide comedy club chain, synonymous with what most Canadians might think of as comedy? What happens when there is a single corporation now running the biggest comedy festivals in the three largest Canadian cities? What happens when there is a single satellite comedy radio station?
I’m not at all trying to say that I don’t appreciate what each of these organizations has done for Canadian comedy—far from it, as each has been invaluable in their respective ways—but, at a certain point, I think the specter of a sort or monolithic comedy landscape arises.
I’m not sure at what point big becomes too big, but certainly you don’t want only a handful of people deciding what for a nation is comedy. (A comedy power, a comedy institution is almost antithetical to the very spirit of comedy, is it not?)
I’m a bit wary and worried of there being too much homogeneity, but just generally speaking, in most all areas of life. I think that the more little stand alone clubs and festivals, the better.
Your podcast I Have a Problem, With David Heti has you sitting down with a friend or acquaintance who then proceeds to air a grievance with you or flat out admonish you for flaws in your character. Why on earth would you subject yourself to this sort of experience?
Well, I mean, I suppose that I thought it would be funny.
Your 2013/2014 YouTube series What Went Wrong With Last Night’s Show is incredibly honest and funny. Is there any hope of seeing more of these episodes in the near future?
It got to a point (perhaps of enjoying the serious too much, in part) where I would go out to do stand-up, almost actively thinking about what might go wrong, hoping for something to go wrong, filtering my experience through the idea of the next episode, etc., and I just hated it. It perverted my nights and my reason for going out, which was stand-up. The series became too performative and self-aware. Also, in the last episode I explain that I sort of came to see every night as fundamentally ok.
I kind of loved that series, but it also became a bit precarious professionally. I kept wanting to talk about other comics and people whom others might recognize, and that wasn’t going to work out so much long-term.
It could come back. I don’t know.
What topic do you find the most difficult to speak about on stage?
I’m not really sure, as I suppose I don’t talk about those things which I find most difficult to talk about. Probably material surrounding sexual assault and obesity, in addition to some abstruse philosophical references are hard to get over most audiences. Certainly for different reasons they don’t go over so easily, but, all the same, it’s my own failings. It’s always wild, though, when the people certainly don’t want to acknowledge the fatness thing. But, fatness is a thing. They would rather hear a Holocaust joke.
The big question to ask you is why, out of everything else you could do, do you want to be a stand-up comic?
Well, I’m not really sure what is the presumption as to what are the other things I could do. There’s never really been any other thing which I’ve been able to bring myself to do for as long as I’ve done stand-up. That is, it’s not so much about aptitude as it is just not losing interest.
I suppose stand-up continues to keep my interest for many reasons. I enjoy the simplicity and immediacy of the form; I enjoy the degree of control I have over what I do and put out into the world; I like the travel it allows me; I like the having-nothing-else-to-worry-about which it allows me; and I get to mess around with people and screw about with ideas in a way which I can’t elsewhere, so far as I understand it.
You’re doing good things, you’re putting out something of value into the world, but then also nothing at all. It’s a very simple existence.