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Warning: The video contains profanity that some readers may find offensive.
After decades as a stand-up comedian, when Drew Hastings turned 50, he bought the farm.
Well, not the farm, but a farm anyway.
An urban guy all his life, Hastings grew up in Kettering, Ohio, before moving to Cincinnati and eventually the west coast. He was living in Los Angeles and working as a comedian as the big 5-0 neared, he said. A regular on a nationally syndicated radio program “The Bob and Tom Show,” he performed in two Bob Odenkirk-directed movies and was even in talks with Hollywood studios to be in his own sit-com.
But something was nagging at him to leave the city life behind.
“I never really liked Hollywood… I’m a Midwest guy. I like the change of seasons. I like people to say ‘hi’ when they walk down the street,” he said.
So, he packed all of his stuff into a U-Haul, headed back to Ohio, and started looking for a place to live.
“And then I just drove around in curlicues – kinda like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ all over southern Ohio for two months,” he said. “I was looking at towns and villages when I happened to pull in to Hillsboro. I’m in a diner, having coffee, and I open up the newspaper and there’s this 50-acre farm for sale, and I’m like… maybe I could afford that…”
So he bought it. And for three months, he lived on the farm pondering his next move. Finally, it occurred to him he might not be doing it right.
“I realized, you know, you can’t have a farm and not farm. If you don’t farm, you’re not a farmer, you’re just this guy with a huge f****** overgrown yard,” he said.
Now, with his cattle and calf operation, Hastings spends his days farming, writing, and perfecting his comedy. He even spent a few years as the mayor of Hillsboro, where he worked on economic development and helping the town he’d come to love reinvigorate itself. Although elected in a landslide, he came up against opposition who succeeded in having charges brought against him for things like dumping personal trash into a city dumpster. All four charges were ultimately dismissed.
On stage, dressed all in black with thick black glasses and spikey hair, Hastings looks more like a middle-aged hipster than a cattle farmer, and his comedy reflects it. He talks about getting into the routine of farm life, barn cats, and living too far out of town to get a pizza delivered.
“I’m in the swing of it now, I’m up every morning at 10:30 and 11:00, come hell or high water,” he says during his farm routine. “I’m just like every other Ohio farmer. We all do it the same…get up in the morning, take off our sleep mask… We pull our little silk kimonos tight against the cold and make some strong coffee.”
That kind of self-deprecating humor is a hit at the shows he does around the country. Mostly performing at corporate banquets and agricultural association shows, he plays on the idea of a city boy experiencing rural life for the first time.
“I don’t know how many of you have lived rural or out in the country, but it is creepy out there. At night, when the sun goes down, it’s pitch black,” he says during his bit. “Did you know, at night, a possum walking through a cornfield sounds exactly like three men with an ax?”
While his shows are canceled now due to the coronavirus, Hastings is working on a book about his life and his time in public office, and scheduling shows into 2022. Still, he said, not being on the road has its downside.
“I don’t miss (touring). What I do miss is being out traveling and having my finger or ear on the pulse of what is going on in this country,” he said. “There is no better way, almost, to do that then to go from here to Versailles (Kentucky), and then to Muncie, Indiana, and the next night to Peoria, and you just listen to the people in coffee shops and talk to audiences. You just get a sense of where people are and what they’re thinking about…. I miss that. I miss that aspect of going out and being connected to the American people.”
Now over 65, with a wife and a year-old child, he’s pondering how many years he’ll still be doing the comedy that he loves.
Regardless, he still has his farm – even if his Extension agent once told him the best thing he could plant on it was a “For Sale” sign.