Jeremy Hotz sweats the small stuff.
Annoyances of any kind will do: shopping at Ikea (“What the hell is wrong with that place? How do you get out of it?”), or donning damp jeans removed too soon from the dryer and feeling a yeast infection forming in one’s nether regions.
Hotz even put his interview with J. on hold momentarily while he yelled at a truck driver who blocked the street with an 18-wheeler.
“I walk down the street and feel I don’t fit in,” says the Canadian-born comedian from his L.A. home base. “Things happen to me. A situation will come up, and it’s usually not a happy situation.”
With any luck, Hotz will turn all that whine into laughter when he co-headlines Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, San Francisco’s annual mashup of Jews, stand-up and Chinese food. The 22nd edition of the popular event takes place Dec. 24–26 at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown.
Hotz isn’t the only comic on this year’s lineup to hail from the Great White North. Ophira Eisenberg, best known for hosting the NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another,” is also Canadian. And funny. The third comedian at Kung Pao this year, New York’s Simon Cadel, is a mere 14. Kung Pao founder Lisa Geduldig hosts the show, as always.
As for Hotz, he grew up in Ottawa, attended Hillel Academy Jewish day school and studied Hebrew throughout his childhood. He credits that experience, in part, for his eventual chosen profession.
“In school I became the class clown,” Hotz recalls. “They were teaching us Hebrew half the time, and in Ottawa I knew that wasn’t ever going to [be used]. So I concentrated on being the funniest guy.”
Later on, as he tried to break into the Canadian comedy scene, he found himself amazed that people would pay good money to laugh. “Jewish families are really funny,” he says. “Around my family we laughed all the time, with everyone trying to outdo each other.”
Over time, Hotz developed his unique on-stage persona: the super-neurotic complainer with the constant face palm and quavering voice. “It’s just an extension of my personality,” he says of his character. “It’s me at my most neurotic.”
In the process he elevated the art of the kvetch to new heights, emerging as a perennial favorite at Montreal’s annual Just For Laughs festival and a two-time top winner of the Canadian Comedy Awards.
He likes to joke about the differences between Americans and Canadians (“Americans have no clue about us. They think we’re nice. They think we like them”).
Off his joke menu are Jews, Judaism and Jewishness.
“I don’t really believe in the comic going out and talking about his heritage,” he says. “So, for example, I don’t like it when black comedians just talk about being black.”
Like so many stand-up comedians, Hotz has also developed a resume as an actor, having landed roles in films such as “Speed 2,” Comedy Central’s “Married Life” and HBO Canada’s “The Newsroom” (not the Aaron Sorkin show of the same name).
Despite that success, Hotz stays comically sharp by remaining easily annoyed. He dubbed his last string of dates across Canada his “Magical Misery Tour.”
Though he returns to Canada every year to tour and see family, Hotz — who moved to L.A. in 1996 — finally bit the bullet and became an American citizen. And now he’s behaving like any other red-blooded patriot.
“Like every other American,” he says, “I have to find out a unique way to avoid jury duty.”
“Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” runs Dec. 24–26 at New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., S.F. Two shows nightly, 5 and 8:30 p.m. $45-$65. (925) 855-1986 or www.koshercomedy.com