Cincinnati-raised comedian Drew Hastings will bring his hilarious and self-deprecating brand of comedy to The Talent Factory in Nevada on Saturday, July 8.
The city boy and businessman turned comedian at age 31, who now owns a farm and is also the mayor of the rural Hillsboro, Ohio, community, has appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno four times and been to Nevada, Iowa, once before.
About four years ago, he performed on the stage of The Talent Factory in a last-minute gig that wasn’t publicized, he said.
This time, The Talent Factory owners Larry and Cindy Sloan are publicizing big-time for the arrival of the nationally known funny guy, who bills himself as doing observational humor and commentary on the American modern life, and who, after totally changing his life by purchasing a farm in his early fifties, now puts a lot of ag/farming humor into his shows.
“I’ve been to Des Moines a number of times,” Hasting said in a telephone interview last week. “I have a large farm and ag following … and that’s just in the last five to seven years.”
In fact, the Monday after he does his show in Nevada, he will be at the National Junior Angus Livestock Congress to give a big, but private, show at the event.
Between Nevada and the Livestock Congress show, he’ll hit a favorite coffee spot in Des Moines, Java Joe’s, not to perform, but to drink coffee. He loves good coffee, he said, and then has a story of how he hopes to bring good coffee to his town of Hillsboro some day. “It really bothered me that we didn’t have a coffee place (in Hillsboro),” he said, so now he’s trying to rectify that. “Something like Cracker Barrel meets Starbucks,” he thinks.
As for being in Iowa soon, Hastings loves the state. “Iowa is my third or fourth most visited state. My first following in stand-up comedy was in eastern Iowa — a whole string of small towns going from Keokuk all the way up to Anamosa,” he said. He performed in little clubs, opera houses and little theaters. Iowa was a great place to get started in comedy. “People are really friendly (in Iowa). I consider it (Iowa) to be kind of the quintessential Midwest.”
In fact, when he decided to leave Los Angeles and move to “the country,” he said he considered Iowa, actually the Dubuque area. “I love Dubuque. It has great views,” Hastings said. He likes that most of the city sits on bluffs, and it offers a lot of old architecture.
But it was Hillsboro, Ohio, where he ended up. Hillsboro, when you Google it, is similar in size to Nevada.
“When I turned 50 and decided to leave Hollywood, I wanted something completely different, so that would be rural living. So I bought a farm, and it kind of grew on me. I knew nothing about farming, so I would just pester neighboring farmers,” he said. He’d ask them anything and everything, like “how did you lose those two fingers? I don’t want to lose my two fingers.” The inflections in his voice as he says some of these things, make it clear that in interviewing him, you get bits of his comedy routine, too.
When he’d ask local farmers questions, even silly ones, “they would answer me, because they’re all really nice, old guys. They were just really helpful. Some of them rolled their eyes a little bit, but I think they knew I was genuine, and wanted to start some aspect of farming.
“I once went out to start my tractor and it wouldn’t start,” he continued. “My first thought was I need to call Triple A … shoot, they don’t have triple A.” So he called another farmer and they came to jump his tractor. And then it hit him why they don’t have some of those services in the country, he said, “It’s because they do things for each other.”
This is where Hastings gets a little deep and real with his thoughts. He realized that before moving to the country, “I never really cared about anybody before.” When he was living in the city and someone died, it was “the woman” upstairs, or “the man” down the street. “When you’re in a small town and someone dies, it’s very personal,” he said. So about five or six years into living in rural Ohio, “that’s when it started — first time in my entire life — that I had a sense of community. I didn’t really know what a sense of community was, and I got one late in life.” That is what led him, he admits, to running for mayor of Hillsboro, a position he still holds. “I’m in my second term,” he said.
As mayor, he said he tends to run the city like a business — before turning to full-time comedy, he ran his own trucking business. His style as mayor, he said, “I’m very outspoken and opinionated, and that is probably why I got elected by a landslide, because the seniors all voted me in… They have a good BS meter and they know when people are BS’ing or being honest. And I’m very blunt, very honest.” Hastings said he tends to be very conservative on a lot of issues, and he’s also a strong proponent of local control. He doesn’t like people or government from the outside telling locals how to do things. “People want America to be one size fits all, and it’s not. I think it’s very import that when you represent a city or community — it’s important that you represent that city (and what the people there want). I guess that makes me somewhat of an activist mayor.”
People who attend his comedy show on July 8 in Nevada are likely to hear some sexual remarks, some swear words and his take on life, sometimes without political correctness. While he now does a lot of “family-friendly” shows, he said his public shows are “a little more risque, if that’s the word…there’s no limits to what I would talk about. A lot of fans want to hear about my farming adventures. I also do a lot of social commentary on the state of America; that’s part of my show. I talk about being a very unlikely mayor, just as I’m an unlikely farmer.”
When he hears from people who come to his shows, he said, “the one thing that generally stands out, in the last few years, is [they say] wow, thank you for saying some of the things that I think and believe in, that I’ve never heard anybody talk publicly about. And that almost has a political hinge to it. I probably cover enough areas, that there’s something that might upset somebody, but it’s all part of comedy. The ironic thing is that (if you take away that stuff) that pretty much negates comedy.”
Hastings said he doesn’t plan to be doing stand-up comedy after another year or so. He’s transitioning, he said, to being an author. He’s writing a book about short stories and his “misadventures in life” and will then hope to go around the country giving book talks and signings. As an author, he said, his writing will be “like the dark side of Garrison Keillor” when it comes to his thoughts about the Midwest.
Tickets are on sale now for Hastings show. Advance tickets are $20, and can be ordered at: www.iowatalentfactory.com. They are also available the night of the show for $25 at the door.