SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier in the decade, Jason Hewlett’s career as an entertainer came to a crossroads.
No longer was he the schoolboy who got laughs from his classmates merely by opening his mouth wider than anyone on the planet and doing impressions of velociraptors and Pee-wee Herman. Nor was he still the wunderkind signed on the spot after a Legends in Concert audition to do his impersonation of Ricky Martin singing "Livin' la Vita Loca." That got you seasonal work in the Poconos, but if he worked at it, the people who knew told him, if he paid his dues, he could do this for life. Entertain people. Make them laugh for a living. His night job could be his day job. They started calling him the next Danny Gans.
A nice, fat dream of an offer came from a talent agency. They’d develop him and place him if he signed on the dotted line. They promised to provide the very best in the business to train him in every aspect of the performing arts.
There was absolutely nothing about the deal not to like except for the part where they controlled the material in his act.
They didn’t want him to be X-rated, but they wanted him to come a lot closer than he had in the family friendly shows he’d developed and was performing at whatever venues around the country would give him a booking — a long, hard grass-roots way to make it in show business.
Jason inherently realized he had a decision to make for his future: fame, fortune and the mainstream, or control his own destiny.
He chose B. He elected to shut down his public performances and shop his act exclusively to corporations, schools, company retreats and other private parties. It meant he wouldn’t have his own billboard on the Vegas strip, but it also meant he’d be able to impersonate who he wanted to impersonate and tell the jokes he wanted to tell.
Jason never looked back. The corporations and companies he visits know exactly what they’re getting — and not getting — and they keep bringing him back. He might not be making the income of a star, but he’s as busy as he wants to be. He estimate he’s performed for more than a million people at over 2,000 corporate events, and he’s making people laugh all across the land on a regular basis. His night job truly has become his day job.
He hasn’t performed on a public stage in more than four years.
That, however, is about to change.
Tonight, April 20, Jason “The Entertainer” Hewlett will be in the Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State, to present his “Father Time” show at 6 p.m.
The masses are invited. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The reason for the public comeback? Last fall, Ashlee Smoot, the wife of Jason’s cousin Audy Smoot, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her life expectancy is another 30 months.
Nightmares don’t come much more out of the blue. Ashlee is 32 years old, mom to Sophie, Finn and Van, wife to Audy. She’s active, rides bikes, skis, climbs mountains, lives healthy. She doesn’t even drink soda. She and Audy met in their college years when they both worked waiting tables at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Trolley Square. They were married 10 years ago this month and went to work building and living the American dream. Audy owns a realty brokerage in Summit County, and Ashlee set aside the sociology degree she received from the University of Utah to raise their kids. This was the year they were going to buy their first house.
Ever since the diagnosis, family members have been pitching in with ways to help. Two fundraising websites — gofundme.com/savingashlee and anythingforafriend.com/index.php?cID=280 — have been set up and Jason posted a pitch on You Tube: youtube.com/watch?v=MZas9l4rwFM.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at The Grand Theatre website: http://the-grand.org/events/240-ashleesmoot.
The support, says Audy, has been as overwhelming as the diagnosis. “We’ve been so moved (by) the prayers, love, compassion and concern from family, friends and outright strangers,” he says. “Every day people ask us what they can do to help.
That included Jason’s rather unique offer.
“He never does public shows,” says Audy. “But he is now. Like so many inside the family and out, he’s doing whatever he can.”
“I can’t give them half a million dollars, but I can give them an evening where we can raise some money and have some smiles and let Ashlee know we’re all willing to fight for this together," adds Jason, who says his show will include “the public unveiling of Metallica putting the kids to bed.”
Some of the old favorites — Michael Jackson, Elton John, Nat King Cole, even Ricky Martin — could also make appearances.
The goal is to not only demonstrate to Audy and Ashlee how many people are supporting them, but providing enough finances to explore alternative strategies for cancer treatment.
“The doctors are telling us that under normal circumstances Ashlee has just 30 months left,” says Audy. “But she is determined and she is strong and we are determined to do everything we can to fight.”
As for the little item of Jason Hewlett’s fee for his evening of entertainment?
He waived it, says Audy. The entire thing. He’s a great entertainer, but never has been that good at nailing down the lucrative contracts.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays.
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