By Jason Tanamor
When I first met Hannah Gansen, she was lugging around her 1989 Yamaha keyboard to her gigs. That was about six years ago. Now, the comedienne is living it up in Los Angeles, and not only is she hitting the stand-up stages in the big city, she’s still toting around her Yamaha keyboard. I recently chatted with the Iowa native about her journey from small town to big dreams.
Q – When and why did you decide to stand-up comedy for a living?
A - I was tricked by a professor in college. She signed me up for a comedy night she had at her theatre in Iowa City, and I had to come up with ten minutes of material. I was so scared and sweaty, but I ended up doing so well, they had me be headliner the next night. From then on, I was hooked.
Q – How’s it been going so far?
A - Great! I've done stand up in Chicago, New York City, and now I'm out in LA. When I was in Chicago I did stand up, some theatre, Improv (I'm an alum of Improv Olympic Chicago), and starred in an independent film about zombies, no joke! I moved to LA in '07.
Q – You incorporate a lot music and song into your routine. How has your background contributed to this line of work?
A - I've been playing piano since I was six and singing since I traded my gills in for lungs. I always thought I would strictly just do music. I love music, I have to hear it, but hey, laughter is music. Gotta hear that too. If a tree falls, and no one's there to hear it, then thank God, no one was crushed beneath a tree!
Q – When you write material, is there a certain process that goes along with it?
A - Stuff just pops into my head or comes up in conversations I have, then I just build off of that.
Q – How often do you find yourself writing new material?
A - Everyday. Most of the time though, I just write it down and come back and add to it.
Q – You’re from a small town in Iowa. Then you moved to Chicago for a few years until you finally made the move to Los Angeles. What were the decision factors regarding this move and how has this move boosted your career?
A - I was ready for new challenges. Chicago was kind of a training ground for me, to establish myself, and discover what kind of a comedian I was. Since moving out here, I've done some stuff at Hollywood Improv, IO West, Icehouse, Comedy Store, Westside Eclectic, Ha Ha Cafe, and a lot of other great shows within LA and surrounding cities. Met lots of great people and some great creative challenges.
Q – With the opportunities comes competition. Do you find the competition overwhelming now that you’re in the middle of everything?
A - Not at all, it's electrifying to be in the center of it all, and I find other performers to be inspiring. And it's not as dog eat dog as everybody thinks in LA, there's a lot of "you scratch my back, I scratch yours," and plenty of decent people that are willing to help you out.
Q – How would you say your act stands apart from all the other comedians trying to make a living in Los Angeles?
A - Well, I have yet to run into another comedian toting around a 1989 Yamaha keyboard that they got for Christmas when they were eight. I don't know, I've heard people comment on my comedy as alternative or absurdist. I'm just not one of those "so I was in the customer service line for five hours, and guess what..." type comedians. I'd rather talk about the consequences of naming your dog Dad, RED humor (Communist jokes), do impressions of R2D2 in CVS Pharmacy, and lazy ghosts.
Q – Being from a small town in the Midwest, what do you do to subdue those feelings of homesickness?
A - I hardly ever get homesick, probably because I'm doing what I love, and I surround myself with positive people.
Q – Anything you wanted to add or promote?
A - If you're in the LA area, check me out at one of my shows. I usually post them on my Myspace page. And of course, like every other damn fool, you can watch my stuff on YouTube. Google me, I dare you. www.myspace.com/hannahgansen and www.rooftopcomedy.com/comics/hannahgansen.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor