Comedian Stewart Huff, performing Saturday at Hambone’s in Lawrenceville, is likely the only performer out there with an entire bit on the Russian modernist composer Igor Stravinsky. Stewart’s joke tells the story of the (literally) riotous reaction to the 1913 Paris premiere of the composer’s groundbreaking work, The Rite of Spring.
“I’d learned about how [Stravinsky] was cutting-edge at the time and … extremely controversial,” says Huff. “That idea was interesting to me because you hear Stravinsky in the waiting room, yet at one point, it really upset people. I can only imagine in 200 years, is Judas Priest gonna be on the waiting-room speakers?”
Huff is currently wrapping up a summer tour — Pittsburgh is the final stop — with fellow comedian and Pittsburgh local Krish Mohan. The tour has seen him play bar backrooms and other intimate spaces, which he prefers to the “let’s get a babysitter and go out tonight”-type vibe at many comedy clubs. He’s a marathon performer, often spending up to 48 weeks of the year on the road.
While his comedy isn’t vulgar or overtly political, Huff says his style of “philosophical comedy” has made him some enemies on the road.
“I’m talking about things like ‘why do humans hate science?’ I think this anger towards science is a dumb emotion, but I end up pissing off a lot of rednecks. I’ve been pushed onstage, a guy threw a flip-flop at me, and I once had a guy take a crap on my windshield.”
A Southern native, Huff harbored dreams of becoming a fiction writer, but hated college so much he dropped out to pursue comedy. After that, he lived in his car for years, playing wherever he could, for as long as he could. His years of homelessness taught him a couple of things, including that “it’s illegal to sleep almost anywhere” and how to steal showers from motels.
“I’d park in front of the motel, and at 10 a.m. the maids would open all the doors, strip the beds and take all the linens out to wash them. Well, then I’d run into a room, close the door and chain lock it, and then jump in the shower.”
Beyond his current tour, Huff has a new comedy album out, Stewart Huff, Probably, and is working with a documentary filmmaker on a project examining some of the extreme audience reactions to his standup material.