Take a look at the mop-topped, bespectacled mayor of Hillsboro, Ohio, at any city council meeting. You will find a person who says he is especially serious about historic preservation and serious about the town’s growth.
“But, if you didn’t already know, you probably would never in 100 years even guess that I am a professional comedian,” said Drew Hastings, speaking by phone from his town office about an hour east of Cincinnati. “But I think many people kind of expect that a comic is always going to be ‘on,’ so to speak.
“Or that he or she just cannot pass up the opportunity to show how witty they are wherever they are. But I don’t have that kind of insecurity.”
Columbus area residents can see for themselves how witty Hastings is when he headlines the YES Comedy Showcase at 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets in downtown Columbus.
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The 62-year-old standup performer has sold out Columbus shows in the past. But in nearly every interview, the Dayton area native offers a disclaimer: He is not a joke teller, but a storyteller.
He tosses out almost no punch lines, but he prefers his lines be punchy with quirky truth nonetheless.
“Do you know that a possum walking through a cornfield at 3 a.m. sounds exactly like three men with an ax?” he once quipped.
The man who lived in Hollywood for 13 years and played nearly every major comedy club and TV special has gone “Green Acres,” running a 60-acre beef cattle operation in his town of about 7,000 people.
He sometimes has told people that he shovels manure for a living — and who really knows if he’s talking about farming?
The part-time, second-term mayor said he admires Columbus’ polished way of boosting architecture for tourism, and would like to find a way to sell more of Hillsboro’s assets to visitors.
Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator at Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center which organizes the comedy series as a fundraiser, acknowledged that it’s easy to sell Hastings’ stage talent to local audiences that he has labeled “a bright bunch.”
“Drew loves interacting with the crowd and uses his sarcasm to draw in the whole audience,” Doup said. “Nothing is ‘off limits’ with Drew, from his own experiences to national news to celebrities.”
If nudged a bit, Hastings will assess his various abilities in quick order.
“I would say that I am a good comedian,” he said. “And I would say that I am a really good humorist.”
Keeping all his roles and responsibilities straight and up to date can be as challenging as balancing a city budget. The fact that a possible state-of-the-city speech must be written soon, or at least outlined, is competing for time to add newer material to his standup act. He laughs when considering that some people have suggested his 27 years of comic experience mean he can simply wing it on stage.
“There’s a lot more preparation to winging it than it ever looks like,” he said. “It’s like a jazz musician preparing for a concert.”
The best jazz artists have honed and refined their basic skills and knowledge so sharply that only then are they free to depart from a script or sheet music and let the music flow unrehearsed and unabashed.
Hastings mentioned that plenty of people in his small town know that he tackles weekend comedy gigs, including engaging a few wiseacres from the audience every so often.
“And that sometimes works to my advantage (at home),” he said. “There are very few people in this city willing to get into a prolonged back-and-forth argument with me. They know that, with my experience and because I’ve learned to think quickly on my feet, I could slice them to pieces.”
Who: YES Comedy Showcase with Drew Hastings.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 28.
Where: YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets in downtown Columbus.
Tickets: $20 in advance at YES or by calling 812-379-1630; $25 at the door.