All American Villain: Tony Hinchcliffe in Detroit

Every once in a while, here in the Guardian – we’ll run a submission from an outside contributor. A friend in the industry, a fellow traveller, or a rogue reporter who was able to catch a glimpse of a show that was either outside of my own schedule or a geographical impossibility. Yes, we do leave Toronto on occasion. Our coverage of all things comedy spans from coast to coast, but we’re rooted right here in, arguably, Canada’s comedy hub. This week we picked up a piece from comedy blogger Marty Younge (no relation! Check the spelling). Her work is online and on the Twitterverse under the handle ‘The Younge Modern’. She had a chance to sit down with nefarious and notorious rising star standup Tony Hinchcliffe on tour in Detroit. Toronto audiences and our own readers may remember Hinchcliffe from his appearance here last summer on the Oddball Tour (along with our own hometown hero K. Trevor Wilson, who gets some love below).

Tony Hinchcliffe
(Photo Credit: Troy Conrad, The Comedy Store)

This was a rare instance of  a good piece looking for a home. So, here it is – Marty and Tony one on one:

Paul Provenza, the prolific chronicler and commentator of all things comedy recently made an appearance on the Montreal-based Pantelis podcast where he stated “Comedy is in this place now that music was in the sixties where a voice of a generation that feels it doesn’t have a voice or they feel like issues that are affecting them aren’t out there in any other place so people’s relationship to comedy is well…comedians are the new rock stars.”

That same episode Provenza also stated.

“Tony Hinchcliffe is fearless.”

On one hand Provenza’s analogy stands to logic the 33-year-old venom tongued villain from The Comedy Store recently embarked on the Monster Energy outbreak tour a 20 city national tour with Comedy Store co-hort and quite possibly the most talented Improviser alive Jeremiah Watkins . It is a tour that in the past with few exceptions

( Andrew Dice Clay) has featured musical acts. Also true on the most fundamental level, an audience comes to see a comedian because they listen to what they make.

But looking out on the sold-out crowd at the Magic Bag in Detroit, Michigan on the 3rd night of the tour – it is impossible to conceive a musical act this crowd could all agree on.

A man wearing a shirt from Hinchcliffe’s genre-defining podcast Kill Tony a DeathSquad hat (L.A based Comedy Collective of which Hinchcliffe is a member) and a hoodie from Joe Rogan’s ‘Higher Primate’ clothing line takes in a group of swoll dudes adorned in flip flops and UFC shirts with a distinct lack of arms (the shirts not the dudes.) who sit adjacent to a couple who smell like weed and give off that “no time for anyone’s bullshit” vibe.

Agreeing on a playlist doubtful, but on Hinchcliffe definitely. It’s an agreement expressed moments later when Hinchcliffe takes the stage to applause but solidified in a few more when the first eruption of laughter occurs.

It’s a Friday night in one of the most hard-suffering, crime-addled and economically battered cities in America and Hinchcliffe rather than attempting to distract from it he addresses it head on and the catharsis is palpable. A large imposing bouncer stares laugh-less at the crowd Hinchcliffe immediately senses the comedic damper and registers it as a personal challenge to flex his most developed comedic muscle – the roast joke. “Then we got Devils rejects Billy Joel over here…..” it’s a welcome submission of wit as the bouncer retreats several feet laughing. Hinchcliffe presides over the show with an a conversational engaging stillness when a first row heckler begins to mutter something incomprehensible. Hinchcliffe’s large blue eyes flash in the direction of his inebriated challenger, who is met with immediate (and befitting) cruel tutelage. “You can’t talk in this part or at all shut up, shut the f*ck up, no one wants to hear you, Billy Joel is standing by.” It is a patronizing summation of shame resulting in an undeniable understanding of power.

Hinchcliffe’s new material is a cohesive and impressive expansion of his sardonic writing and maniacal delivery, that demonstrates a concise understanding of all the most effective weapons in the arsenal of the art of stand-up. Combined with a distillation of the Zeitgeist of Trump era America that is distinctively his, and it feels decidedly more topically streamlined then his previous work.

The specific subject matter of which will not be revealed in this article. Sorry kids, spoiler alerts.

The show in Detroit proceeds with only one interruption, when a set up about about being single prompts a female fan to expose her breasts enthusiastically explaining “I’m with my boyfriend but he really likes you.” proving Provenza’s Rock star analogy irrefutably true.

Post show Hinchcliffe and Watkins do a meet and greet where they sign limited edition tour posters when an exiting patron is over heard saying We’re damn lucky he’s on our side making us laugh. If he was a politician or a cult leader we’d be super f*cked”

Tony Hinchcliffe sat down with comedy blogger Marty Younge post-show at Sneakers in Detroit.

Y: So you have a new hour?


How long did it take to write? When did you know it was ready?

You never know if it’s ready. Things always get better and you keep working growing and doing shows every night but I started writing it immediately after I taped One Shot in March of 2015 it came out on Netflix January 15th 2016 so I guess you could say the process goes to January 15th 2018 and by that time I’ll have a new special taped ready to be released.

I’m a Toronto girl so I have to ask. Despite losing to K Trevor Wilson on Roast Battles at Just for laughs last year there’s no real animosity right?

I love K. Trevor Wilson. Not only have we always gotten along in my opinion. We had a lot of fun doing Oddball together in Toronto. Got to hang out with Brian Regan. We all got on his tour bus drank a lot had a lot of fun. I love K. Trevor.

A lot of comics believe this myth that they can move out to L.A and work their way up at the comedy store as a comic who’s actually been through the process what is it like?

There is no making at The Comedy Store. Here I am 10 years after starting at The Comedy Store and I’m still doing interviews in the cold windy tundra of Detroit Michigan. Because the adventure never ends. There is no making it there.There is only working and communicating and trying to reach out to people in hopes they are going to find a show they are going to really love… like Kill Tony that happens every Monday at 8 p.m. In the main room.

But what was your Evolution like there? Was there a night you had to pitch Kill Tony like really sell it?

Every night. To me it’s an every night adventure. And every night I want to be better than any episode that’s ever happened before. So I had to sell it to everybody to myself my friends to the guests. My goal at the end of every episode is to have the guest say they had the most fun they can’t believe it’s already over and they wanted to play more.

What was the night they started to take you seriously at The Comedy Store?

There wasn’t one. It was a very slow path fast but slow. I got a job there after performing at the open mic for 2 months

Was there a bit that landed that?

No. You have to consistently kill over and over again at The Comedy Store. That’s the answer. There’s no moment in the beginning that puts you over the top. You have to just keep doing good and having people like you. Have the employees root for you and have everybody want to see you do well. There’s no overnight success in this and I’m only 10 years in. It was a slow burn before anybody recognized what was happening.

Is that all you’ll say about your time at The Comedy Store?

It’s my everything The Comedy Store is my favorite place. I go there every night I can. I was very lucky to have such a bond with The Comedy Store that they let me do Kill Tony there.

Has it changed since Mitzi’s health has declined?

It’s always evolving. The Comedy Store is way ahead of everything. Mitzi is involved in the biggest ways she designed the building and she designed the structure.

You’ve enervated and written such great content on Comedy Central. As a writer what is the relationship with the jokes you keep versus the jokes you write for other people is it something you feel sacred about?

Ann Coulter at the roast of Rob Lowe it’s extremely disappointing. When someone disregards your work for their own selfish reasons.

You didn’t get to write her as a heel.

I didn’t get to write her as a heel.

But everybody else has been receptive to your writing?

Yes, for the most part, and I like that I like crawling inside someone else’s head and getting to write from their perspective.

What was it like to write on The Burn it was such an inaugural show.

We had an absolute blast we felt like that show was extremely funny and extremely unseen by the people that it deserved to be seen by.

How do you balance authenticity as your career expands?

I’m always looking to expand and I get to do that by doing stand-up every night. If I’m lucky enough to get a movie gig during the day i’ll probably take it. But I’ll always do stand up at night.

What director do you want that movie gig to be with?

Quentin Tarantino.

Do you know who Comedy Central is roasting next and will you be on the Dias?

Wouldn’t you like to know……and I certainly hope so.





About Dean Young 37 Articles
Dean Young is a writer, comedian and radio host based in Toronto. When he’s not covering Canadian comedy and showbiz, or taking the readers of the Guardian into the green room for an inside look at Toronto’s booming independent standup scene, Dean can be heard weekly on AM640 and coast to coast on the Talkhole Podcast Network. Dean is the host of the live show Tinder Tales. And he’s the proud father of two feral cats named Hunter S. Tomcat and Catton Oswalt