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  • Annette Dawm

The Comedy World of Hunter Collins

For Hunter Collins, his life is sometimes “a bit of a battle” between being an offensive comedian and a good person. “The person I am on stage is different than who I am off of it,” he said. “Even though there's a Tourette's-like compulsion in me to say these things in my stand-up, I'd never talk about my period at the dinner table.”

Occasionally, depending on the venue, Hunter is required to tweak his act for the audience. For example, performing at college during lunch time is different from performing at a comedy club at night, but for the most part, he stays as close to his original material as possible: “….I think most comedians are capable of making a few adjustments to maximize their chances of success without compromising their artistic integrity. I'm not the proverbial tiger who can change his stripes, but I'm the tiger who'll put on a top-hat and G-string to give the crowd something closer to what they want,” he explained.

As a “juror” for Much Music’s popular TV series, Video On Trial, Hunter worked with “a great bunch of misfits” that he really liked. However, he soon found out that the television world was not without its challenges: “Going to the Much Music Video Awards and walking the red carpet was a trip. I brought a little plastic dinosaur on a leash and told everybody it was Kelly Clarkson. But ultimately, I learned that being able to write, perform and direct your own material was a rare treat in this industry. You're lucky if you even get to fart the way you want on TV anymore. It was also fun to tell viewers that pop music is all written by a lone computer in St. Louis and that watching music videos without critical thought puts Alzheimer's holes in your brain."

In 2018, Collins hosted The Canadian Comedy Awards where he roasted many of the people in attendance. He felt this was nerve-wracking, but overall, he deemed it to be a positive experience: “Like time always tells, standing behind your jokes always translates and I think the audience winds up respecting your audacity and craft. It was all in good fun and restored some of my faith in comedians' sense of humor. Also, the drummer from Our Lady Peace called all the comedians bitter and I got to call him a ‘long-boarding freak’, which was satisfying."

While Hunter eventually won over the audience at the awards, often times, the job of a stand-up comedian still goes unrecognized as a craft. He explained, “Good comedy seems effortless, so I assume some people think you're making it all up on the spot. The most common question I hate is ‘You do comedy, huh? But what's your real job?’ I usually tell them comedy is my real job and then ask them the same question, then act real surprised when they tell me they're a nutritionist or whatever and go, ‘Huh, you don't look like a nutritionist. You can actually make money doing that?’”

As a child, Collins saw that people could actually make comedy into a career, which pushed him to do the same. “I would stay up in my bean-bag [chair] as a kid and watch all the comedy I could get my eyes on: Kids in the Hall, SNL and a lot of Canadian stand-up like Just for Laughs and CBC’s,Comics! I really aspired to be as funny as guys like Tim Steeves and Lou Dinos. I also got my hands on Eddie Murphy's Delirious at a young age, so we were regurgitating those lines around the house all the time; same with Denis Leary's No Cure for Cancer and the early Adam Sandler sketch albums. After doing comedy for a while, I learned a lot from my friends, classmates and peers the likes of Nick Beaton, Bryan O'Gorman, Jason Rouse, Marty Adams and Steph Tolev, but my main influence growing up in a Ukrainian household was Popo the Enchanted Talking Pierogi."

Following in the footsteps of Adam Sandler, Hunter has released two sketch comedy albums, Nincompoop and its follow-up, which is aptly titled, Nincom2oop. Self-proclaimed as “one of the top five most respected stand-up comedians in the universe”, Hunter realized that he had to “make sure this sketch album was really good”. In addition to his own voice-work, Hunter said, “on the album, you'll hear: Aisha Brown, Nick Beaton, Cal Post, Jeff Paul, Nitish Sakhuja, Jackie Pirico, Ian Gordon, Rodrigo Fernandez Stoll, a group of vagrants called the Transient Boxcar Harmonica Boys, and ‘Meth Addict’ Larry.”

While the cast included his girlfriend, stand-up comics and one sketch-comic, Collins had a preference as to who he worked with: “I like using stand-ups in sketch because our delivery is a little more believable and less buffoon-ish. If any sketch comedians are reading this, I hope this offends you to the core of your Ninja Turtles T-shirt that you're wearing at age 38.” He added that the creative process behind a sketch comedy album is “really just a different mindset you have to adhere to that you don't really use as much with stand-up…. [It requires] being mindful of establishing your setting and making the action of the scenes clear to the listener.”

When asked what he was looking forward to in 2018, he replied: “Good question! I have a short zip through Yuk Yuk's clubs in the Maritimes coming up and some really exciting new writing gigs; I'm writing the commercial to end all commercials and without revealing too much, just know that the tag-line at the end is gonna be ‘Where's The Wazzuuuuuup Don't Leave Home Without I'm Loving It Trivago Make The Donuts?!’”

Finally, Hunter Collins offered the following advice to other aspiring comedians: “Make sure you're always having fun and don't worry about what other people are doing. You can be aware of what others are doing, but don't use their success as a measure of your own success. There are too few many comedians doing this because it's fun anymore. It's down to me, Seinfeld and Popo the Enchanted Talking Pierogi."

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Photo courtesy of Hunter Collins.

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