Interview: Andrew Hansen is cheap but incredibly funny

Andrew Hansen is a well-known comedian starring in Australian satirical shows such as The Chaser, CNNNN and The Hampster Wheel. Recently he’s been on the road with his one-man comedy show entitled Andrew Hansen – is Cheap. We caught up with him to chat about the show and some of the inspiration behind his comedy.

According to ChatGPT, there are three famous Andrew Hansen’s; a soccer player, an internet entrepreneur, and an Australian comedian. So obviously my first question is, how old were you when you first decided to play soccer?

Ha-ha, I have grim memories of being pushed out onto a soccer field as a kid. The strategy I came up with to cope was to try and diametrically oppose myself to the ball. I had a map of the oval in my head, and I’d try to get as far away as possible from the soccer ball. Which probably made me quite good at maths, but probably not very good at soccer.

What it also says is that you’re known for your quick wit, your musical talents, and your ability to satirise politics, media, and popular culture in a humorous and insightful way.

That’s very funny. I’m glad it mentions popular culture at least, because of shows like The Chaser, we get seen as only doing politics and topical stuff. In fact, it’s odd to me, because when you look at most of our TV stuff, only a very small percentage is that and most of it is pop culture and comedy about life in general. Things like male passengers on trains or annoying salespeople at shops.

Speaking of Clive, the Slightly-too-loud Commuter, is there anything out of bounds for him?

Nothing at all. No. The comedy of Clive, the Slightly-too-loud Commuter, was that he had to be out of bounds. We wrote those pieces to be as inappropriate as possible. I didn’t like filming them. I’m not a confrontational person. For every piece that you see on TV where I’m annoying somebody on a train, either spilling illegal drugs on them or talking about my sexually transmitted diseases, we had to film them about fifteen times to get the one piece that worked. It was a very unpleasant experience, I must say.

For me that’s what’s funny – seeing somebody do something that you’re extremely uncomfortable with.

Can you run through how you spent the days and weeks preparing for Coronation Day?

Oh, it was big for me *laughs*. I was at least interested to see how the poor guy handled it. He didn’t look at all pleased about the whole business. For somebody that gets a promotion, normally you’d think it would be a good thing. On Game of Thrones, they all seem very keen to become king. Obviously in real life it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. It was almost like a comedy routine. The whole ceremony reminded me of an absurdist British comedy sketch.

I feel that the whole class structure is the basis of a lot of British humour.

It’s easy to make fun of. It’s so silly and different from real life. Putting a guy in charge of a whole Empire, you’d think they’d engage with reality. Dressing up in these fancy dress costumes and speaking like people from hundreds of years ago. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just be in a suit and do the thing in an office. “Here are your duties, mate. Here’s a manila folder of things you’ve gotta do.” I think that would be more realistic and get us more on-side.

Your tour, Andrew Hansen is Cheap, is about halfway through?

In terms of cities, yes. I’ve got a few cities left, but I’ve probably done most of the performances, because Adelaide and Melbourne are set up as festival cities, so you do huge numbers of shows there. I did fifteen in Adelaide and twenty-two in Melbourne, so they’re quite different from the rest of Australia. People there treat the shows sort of like going shopping. The show’s on every night, it’s always open, turn up whenever you like, wander in and see a show. I’ve been in Melbourne five years now, and I’ve noticed that it’s very much an entertainment city in a way I’ve realised Sydney is not.

What do you think is the cheapest city?

For some reason, I found Perth very cheap. Perth is lovely and pretty, and you can walk around it, but I don’t think they’ve heard about inflation in Perth. It’s too far away from everybody else. The takeaway lunches were very affordable. I found wonderful values in Perth. I’m thinking of moving there.

I guess with interest rates skyrocketing, the show is getting relatively cheaper by the day.

Yes, my tickets are looking like very good value. Of course, we haven’t put up the prices of live comedy shows in Australia for decades. Which is why we’re doing so badly. Especially with a show that’s ostensibly about saving money. I couldn’t charge too much for tickets.

Unless you buy VIP tickets in Perth.

Gosh, John, I had no idea that was going to happen to me. The Perth Comedy Festival put me in this new venue, which was a converted IMAX. They had all these VIP booths, which were for sale on the website. The problem was that the venue was selling these booths for a very high price which appeared on the ticketing page as the maximum price. It was very off-putting. People would look up my little comedy show, and it looked like you were expected to fork out like you were going to the opera. So, I panicked and said, “King Charles or Gina Reinhart are not coming to the shows.” I told them just to take the booths off sale, which they did. I don’t get VIPs coming to my shows, it’s a down to earth type of comedy show.

Back in the day you had to write off to your favorite celebrities and hope to get an autographed photo back in the post. Now, you have personalised video messages.

Yes, you can buy a video now from somebody instead of an autographed thing. I’ve really enjoyed doing memmo and cameo because I treat it kind of like a gig. I see myself as a writer and performer and if somebody wants to buy a personalised bit of chat from me, I love doing that. It’s like making a little show and sending it to somebody. It’s another form of entertainment. It’s quite exciting, especially for comedians, we do a lot of corporate gigs. So memmo and cameo have extended that into the personal arena. It’s nice to have that connection.

It’s interesting how the Internet has both expanded people’s world yet made them lonelier at the same time.

I’ve been doing some actual research on this lately, and researchers found ironically that social media vastly increased people’s sense of isolation. There’s something funny and poetic about that.

One of my favourite songs is the “Eulogy Song”. Famous Australians having extra praise after their deaths.

The “Eulogy Song” is something that I wrote with Chris Taylor, originally for a play with the Sydney Theatre Company. It always brought the house down every night. So, we thought we’d put it on the Chaser’s War on Everything. Chris came up with the idea of pointing out famous dead people’s shortcomings rather than praising them. The original play had me playing Mark Antony and turning up to Caesar’s funeral and saying, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” I’m not sure what’s wrong with celebrities, but they keep on dying all the time, so I have to keep updating the song.

It’s almost like a new celebrity every week.

Oh, it’s wonderful! They’re dropping like flies. Recent celebrities have been added to the song – Barry Humphries, Father Bob, Jock Zonfrillo, so you can turn up and see which dead celebrities have made the list.

I did double check that Ben Lee is still alive.

Oh, what a shame. Yes, I check every day for Ben Lee. Funny thing that it was great to play with Ben Lee, last year. I think he was a guest in a podcast I ended up on. We talked about the “Ben Lee Song”, which was also written with Chris Taylor, complaining about Ben Lee. So many famous musicians have died, so God, why can’t you take Ben Lee?

Ben Lee told me that he was annoying on purpose, it was a publicity strategy. This was news to me. We got talking and became mates in a way. Last year Ben agreed to come to a gig of mine, and we did a duet of the song. Then Ben was touring Australia and I showed up at his gigs in Melbourne and Sydney and we played the song as part of his show.

It’s good to see he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

He doesn’t, he has a lovely sense of humour and a very generous spirit.

One song that’s a bit triggering for me is “Bluey’s Dad.”

Oh, you’re a good dad, are you?

In hindsight, I think I was one of those perfect dads.

How annoying, John. You must be a very irritating person. You’re letting the rest of us down, you know. Ninety-nine percent of dads are very poor and very bad at it. We don’t want characters like Bluey’s Dad hanging around and entertaining the children. Apparently, he has a job, but there’s no evidence of that. He spends 24/7 at home, amusing the children with boundless energy. It’s infuriating. I had to put a stop to this in a song.

To close off, do you have any advice for the youngsters who want to forge a career in comedy.

I was green for a long time, so I would recommend that you do need some patience. It does take quite a while to learn how to write comedy. I don’t know if anyone ever works it out. Over people’s careers it has ups and downs. Nobody ever quite knows what’s going to work. Established comics still turn out flops or jokes that die. You just need to be patient and nice to yourself. And it’s fine to steal lots of comedy ideas, but make sure you don’t make it obvious. Hide them inside the cake and make them look like your own.

Check all the upcoming tour details here