The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 24, 2014

Funny business: Comedian Drew Hastings takes being a mayor seriously

NEOSHO, Mo. — These days, Drew Hastings holds back on some jokes, and he doesn't like it.

But it's a political necessity, he said. The comedian is also the mayor of a city in Ohio.

"I find myself holding back, and that (makes me mad) when I find myself holding back," Hastings said. "But I find that I have to do that when performing closer to home. I have political enemies who are so vindictive, they'll come to a show, tape it and find something to use out of context."

Hastings has a long career in stand-up comedy, writing and other comedic shows. He has been a featured guest on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and starred in "Irked and Miffed," a special aired on Comedy Central.

He will appear as part of the Bob and Tom Comedy Show Saturday in Neosho, along with Tim Wilson, Jack Freeman and host Chick McGee.

After living in Los Angeles for about 13 years, Hastings in 2006 moved to Hillsboro, Ohio, in order to bring his edgy, intelligent brand of comedy to more Midwestern locations. Wanting to try something different, he also started a cattle farm, which he still keeps up.

Politics found their way into Hastings' routines, but in 2012, politics made their way into Hastings' heart. He ran for mayor as a Republican and won with a more than 60 percent majority.

"I think it surprised a lot of people when I got elected," Hastings said. "Where people underestimated me is that I'm a pretty serious guy off stage. I'm a businessman, and you don't get to the career level where I'm at without being that."

Hastings said he entered into a fight, as well. Facing a budget crunch, Hastings backed a controversial effort to join a different emergency medical service district in response to a significant budget crunch.

And he's proud of his work.

"I took on a huge good ol' boy group and a union fight and prevailed," Hastings said. "Financially, we've turned around in two years unlike anything we've done in the last 10."

Edge of comedy

Being a comedian has helped him learn the ropes as mayor, he said. He gets a pass for saying outrageous things, and his past is not held to as large a degree of scrutiny. He can joke about his past drug use -- "I did everything but gargle bong water, and any other politician could not say that" -- and can handle public speaking pretty naturally.

Sometimes, the profanity of his comedy spills over into his mayoral interactions. Hastings said there are some who think he curses too much.

"My problem is that I'm an anti-authority figure in a position of authority," Hastings said. "There are some staid people around town who don't like it when I cuss a lot. But look at the f------ Toronto mayor. They should be so lucky."

He also jokes that he is used to disappointing people on a regular basis and that politics let him disappoint a bigger group of people more easily.

But when asked why he decided to go from poking fun of politicians to becoming one, he said it was to help make a difference where he lived.

"I travel all over the country, and there are a lot of p----- off people," Hastings said. "You can bitch and complain, but the best way to change things is to run for office and do something about it. I looked around and said, ÔS---, I can do better than this.'"

Hastings learned on the fly -- he said he had no idea about appropriations and general funds when he started.

Two years later, things are looking better around town, he said. A recent city council election put others in office that Hastings said will be easier to work with.

Cost of politics

The job has also changed his prospects a bit. He said that the changes he's made have been noted by others, who pressure him to run for a bigger office. And the day-to-day duties keep him from writing as much comedy as he'd like.

But he still makes room in his schedule for touring. He still performs material from his Farmageddon tour, based on the things he learned moving from Hollywood to raising cattle. He also recently got married, and that's given him a new world of comedic material. Though he feels like he has to hold back during his shows, he doesn't hold back much. He's still a comedian who takes his funny stuff seriously, he said.

"It's surprised me that people want to hear me talk about being a mayor," Hastings said. "People find it refreshing, that someone who's not a part of the regular B.S. is a mayor. And sometimes I get serious for a few minutes, expressing my own politics. I think we're being pushed too far, that there's a lot of federal overreach, and you have to decide where to draw the line in the sand. Did it hurt my income? Yes. Being a mayor took a hit in my touring, but it's worth it. I still get to do both, and I think that it's important that if you can bitch, you can also step up and do something."

 

Want to go?

The Bob and Tom Comedy tour will make a stop in Neosho Saturday.

In addition to Drew Hastings, Tim Wilson and Jack Freeman will perform, and Chick McGee will host. The show is sponsored by KXDG-FM (Big Dog 97.9)

The show will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Civic, located at 109 W. Main St. Tickets: $30, $26 in advance.

Details: 417-624-1025.

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