Shawn Hitchins is the hardest working gay in show biz. Just last year, he released a feature film version of his one-man show Ginger Pride, and just last month he released his first book, A Brief History of Oversharing.
Some of you may know Hitchins as the ginger comedian. His bright red hair and blue eyes make for an unforgettable visage. "I'm totally exploiting this ginger identity until my hair falls out," he admits. But its his awesome talents as a writer and performer that make it work. We meet at the Second Cup, and sit at the only table with a flower arrangement. It just seems right for us. Then we chat. I tell him I am a huge fan of his work. A decade ago, when he started writing for fab Magazine, I actually wrote him a fan letter. Few other writers ever made me laugh so hard. When I heard he published a book, a 'sort-of' autobiography, I had to get it. "It's all based on my life falling apart," he tells me.
A few years ago, he was just another struggling gay comedian, but everything changed when he took his show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. While there, he noticed a lot of other redheads, so he threw a spontaneous Ginger Pride march. It was so big it ended up on CNN and in The New York Times. "It hit everywhere, except Canada," he says. "We tried to do it again the next year, but it would have cost $20,000 in advertising, staging, security, so I let the people take it over."
Rebranding himself as a ginger comedian made all the difference. "As a gay comedian, there would be three people in the audience, but as a ginger, there would be 150. It attracted a whole cross section of people, not just gays and lesbians. It's great to be able to speak to everyone. I mean, how do I get an audience to understand the stupidity of discrimination against gays? By talking about discrimination against gingers."
His flush of success led to a film and TV deal, "which was a disaster. I couldn't work for a year. It was months of negotiating, and it stopped the momentum on my show. We pitched it, but broadcasters wanted things like my character to have sex with the lesbian. I have no further interest in TV deals. As a gay man, you can't get past the executives."
But out of the ashes rose a phoenix. "Through that deal, I connected with a publisher, resulting in this book, which is also coming out as an audio book. And the film was a 'fuck you' to that TV deal. Once the rights of my show reverted back to me, I booked a theatre, wrote it and shot it in three weeks."
Hitchins started writing when he studied at Second City. "I never went to therapy, but had a lot of shit to deal with, so that turned into writing and that turned into all this." He toured a lot, but touring costs a lot. Nevertheless, it won't stop him from writing a new show. "I was called a 'faggot' outside of Home Sense the other day. I was dressed like shit, so why was I being called a fag? How does this person even know? So the next show is going to be about the word 'faggot'."
By far the most emotional part of A Brief History of Oversharing is when he became a father. A lesbian couple, close friends, asked him to be a sperm donor. He sees his daughter regularly. "That changed my life. So weird to see your face on a kid. But some gay guys can't wrap their heads around the idea of fatherhood, so it can complicate dating."
Finally, it is time to ask my big question. Has this ginger icon ever done it with another ginger dude? "Yes", he tells me, "but just once. I remember the two of us were expecting some sort of energy orb to appear, but alas, nothing happened." Nevertheless, Shawn Hitchins has proven that red hair is, if nothing else, an incredible force of nature.