“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” - Mark Twain
by Chason Gordon
- The Capitol Hill Times-
Brett Hamil is a local comedian and a podcaster and a guy I make quality small talk with at the clubs. He also writes for City Arts and has a dog named Wheezy. That’s a pretty full plate. What’s important, really, is that he’ll be headlining the great Laff Hole at Chop Suey on Wednesday, Feb. 6. I sat down with Hamil (over the phone) and conducted a little Q&A, because it’s much easier than writing a full, well-reasoned article.
You were on the road. Where were you and how was it?
I was in Medford, Oregon. I think it’s the meth capital of the country. They spell Medford “Methford.” I didn’t see a lot of meth heads, but I stayed in the “nice part of town.” I went to check out the downtown and it was all cash for gold places and car audio places, which should give you a good idea of the economy.
Can you talk a little about your background and how you came to comedy?
I’ve always drawn comics and cartoons, and have always been obsessed with the writing end of it. I was in a band in the early 2000s, the mid-aughts, and I enjoyed the adrenaline of performance, but I found myself enjoying the banter between the songs more than playing them, and I wasn’t a really good musician anyway. That dovetailed nicely into comedy. I’ve been doing it for about six years now, a year fulltime.
One of my musician friends once told me that it’s very easy for him to get laughs onstage because no one expects musicians to be funny.
Oh, the bar is so low.
What was it like to make the decision to pursue comedy fulltime?
I think I waited a good long time, and I hated my day job. I was production manager for a picture-framing company; there was some having to deal with the public, which was corroding away at my soul every day and making me become a legitimately bad person. I worked about a half a mile away from where I lived, and I would drive to work because I had a parking space – I would literally get road rage within that half a mile drive home. That’s when I knew.
There are about as many podcasts as ears. How is yours (Ham Radio) different?
When I first made the podcast I did it with the intent of going in the opposite of everything everyone else was doing. So I decided I was going to do a 20-minute, tightly produced sketch comedy podcast, which would reward active listening. It wouldn’t be something you just put on on the treadmill and just turn your brain off and let the chatting lull you. I also play with the conventions of it being a podcast, so I’ll have Brett from the future call back to the past and give me warnings, like, “Hey Brett, you better get that freckle on your dick checked out.” There was one episode where almost everything that happened on it was because I left the microphone on, and then it was me teaching my dog to seig heil.
Can you tell me a road story that would inspire a person to do stand-up comedy, and then follow it with one that would detour someone from doing comedy? Just to keep a balance.
So I’m in Idaho Falls. The show there is rumored to be one of the roughest rooms in the northwest, and this guy comes up to me before the show – he seemed a little off, like there might be some brain damage there – he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to mess with you man.” And I was like, “Hey, don’t do that.” So I get on stage and he’s sitting right in the front row center, just staring and smiling, and I was like, “Aww, Jesus.” I did my whole set and he did not say a single word. I was like, “Oh, thank God, I wonder what happened there.” “So dude, you didn’t heckle me or hassle me during my set. What happened?” He was like, “Oh, the bartender gave me $5 not to say anything.”
Wait, is that the good story?
I don’t know if that’s the good story or the bad story…One time in Medford there was some drunk rural lady sitting right up front. She just wouldn’t shut up; she basically tanked my whole set. I did what I could. It turns out she was from a town ten miles away from where I grew up in Central Florida, so it was like, “Jesus, I can’t escape these people.” I moved all the way to the Northwest to get out of Florida and now there’s someone basically from my hometown heckling me. I’d have to say the good story in any comedy show is when you’re in some rural, shitbucket town, but there are a couple younger, hipper kids that like you and get you and maybe for a minute don’t feel as alone, stuck out in the country or something. Those are the nice moments. You can tell they’re just kindred spirits, trapped.
Yeah, but then you just leave town. What are they supposed to do after that?
That’s their problem.
I have friends who are musicians and filmmakers who’ve gotten grants from the government to pursue their work. What annoys me is that comedians don’t get grants to do stand-up. Don’t you think comedians should get grants?
Absolutely! Or at the very least, healthcare. That is something that impacts comics in a huge way. Let’s get this started, man. If we can pass a plastic bag tax in Seattle, then it’s time for us to abuse the initiative process. It’s not just for Tim Eyman.
You live in Capitol Hill. What are your impressions? I have to ask because it’s the name of the newspaper.
Capitol Hill is home. I like the diversity, I like the pretentiousness. I hate it and I like it. I saw a couple the other day that had matching streaks in their hair, and I was just like, “Jesus, I give them three years.” But, I also like getting one of the best cups of coffee available to humans a few blocks from my house.
Tell me a little more about the show.
It’s going to be a great show. I’ve handpicked the other comics on the show, new and younger comics I’ve seen and liked. It’s hosted by The Humor Program guys, Devin Badoo and Dan Duarte. Devin is – for my money – the funniest comedic actor in town, and Dan is the king of Seattle comedy Twitter. They always do something crazy and weird, and I get to come up at the end and make fun of everyone for it.