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Ohio Comedian Helps Save Historical Buildings

A stand-up comedian comes to Columbus' Southern Theatre tonight in a bid to help save old buildings. Drew Hastings twice left Ohio for New York City and Los Angeles. But his latest career move brought him back to small town Ohio. At age 57, Drew Hastings is a fixture in downtown Hillsboro, southwest of Columbus. He appears slightly disheveled with black, horn-rimmed glasses and a casual Carharrt jacket as he meets with contractors at Bell's Opera House on Main Street. "I don't believe in tearing buildings down," Hastings said. Hastings bought the 116 year old building even though the last live performance there occurred in the 1940s. He also keeps a small herd of cattle and is running for Mayor on the Republican ticket. "I don't care if you're a Republican, Democrat or an anarchist. You're either for helping turn this town around, or you're not," he said. When Hastings is not campaigning, fixing old buildings, or doing chores on his farm, he's preparing for live comedy performances in places like Traverse City, Mich., or Columbus. Light humor is a constant, even in casual conversations. "You know where I'm from, the situation is so bleak that between the crime, the foreclosures and the meth labs, the only thing we're missing is zombies roaming the countryside," Hastings said. "So you have to have a little humor about things." Hastings' current project involves saving and restoring the Opera House that opened in 1895. He has the chance to do that after establishing himself as a successful comedian in New York and Los Angeles. But living in America's biggest cities led him to a simple conclusion. "Ultimately, in America, everybody's from Ohio," he said. Hastings said as a comedian, he's drawn to what he calls the "unique dysfunction" of midwest families. "A typical family can have a daughter who's a doctor and then they can have a son who's in jail for arson. And then you can have a brother-in-law who's a bond trader at Shearson Lehman, and you can have a cousin over here who beat somebody to death with a shoe at Starbucks," he said. Hastings said such failure and dysfunction can often be a source for his creativity. Hastings brings his stand-up comedy to the Southern Theatre stage tonight. He shares the bill with a Jazz and Blues Trio and "Life After Elvis," an Indie Rock band from Zanesville. Proceeds go to Heritage Ohio, a non-profit that helps fund historic preservation efforts throughout the state.