Sometimes vacations can go seriously wrong. For Canadian comic Ed Hill, a childhood trip turned into a Dickens-like tale.
When Hill was 10, his parents took him and his brother on a “vacation” from Taiwan to Canada. They never went home again.
Hill now mines his unusual childhood and life as a “Canasian” for humor as a stand-up comic.
Hill will appear at The Grit City Comedy Club in Tacoma on Friday and Saturday. Also on the bill is fellow comedian David Tobey from Austin, Texas.
The News Tribune spoke with Hill via phone from his Vancouver home.
Q: Why do you call yourself “100 percent Canasian”?
A: I grew up in a society where I didn’t know who I was. I’m always feeling like I’m wearing two masks. I’m not Canadian but I’m not Asian either — because the Canadian thinks I’m Asian, and the Asian thinks I’m Canadian. That’s how I view things. That’s where the humor comes from. There’s so much conflict in trying to figure out who you are.
Q: Does the dynamic change when you cross the border?
A: In the United States, race is such a big thing for you guys. (Canadians) do see the uniqueness and differences in people, but we just accept it for what it is. And so the navigation becomes more apparent in the United States: We have an Asian guy who is Canadian. What is that?
Q: At age 10, your dad took you to Vancouver from Taipei on “vacation”?
A: I remember the date, Nov. 10. The city where we moved to, Coquitlam, had no human residents. It was just forest, bears and coyotes. We were the only house on the cul-de-sac. It was snowing. I went outside and touched it. “Well, I guess this is Canada.” The next day was a holiday, and the day after I went to school. I was thinking, “Why am I going to school if I’m on vacation?”
Q: So that’s when you first began to suspect?
A: My mom made me this really disgusting sandwich because they believed white people eat sandwiches for lunch. It was bread, untoasted, lettuce and a piece of really disgusting lunch meat ham. No mayo. In a soggy Ziploc bag.
Q: What was your first day at school like?
A: Nobody caught my name. They thought my name was Ward because I couldn’t say Edward very well. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Hummel, which I couldn’t pronounce because the M’s and the L’s totally threw me off. I just called her teacher the whole time. There were two other Asian kids in the class, so she paired us up, thinking they could help me. But the other kids were Cantonese. I speak Mandarin. They ended up bullying me through the whole year because Cantonese people don’t like Mandarin people.
Q: So Ed Hill is not what you were called in Taipei?
A: No, we get to pick our names when we come here. My dad named himself Smiley. My mom named herself Candy.
Q: Your parents are Candy and Smiley?
A: When I used my parents’ Blockbuster account, they would ask, “Are you Smiley or Candy?” (sighs) “I’m neither. Can we not do this? Just give me the video.”
Q: You should consider yourself lucky that he chose Edward for you.
A: This is his explanation: He told me he had two British friends, Edward and Henry. Henry is my brother’s name. But both Edward and Henry were the only gay kings in English history. Sometimes I don’t know about my dad.
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Grit City Comedy Club, 100 S. Ninth St., Tacoma (in 502 Downtown)