Very few comedians in the world have been as successful as Andrew Hansen of The Chaser in so many forms of media. An alumnus of the University of Sydney’s Arts Faculty, Hansen initially rose to prominence as part of the controversial comedy group’s first television series CNNNN in 2002. Now Hansen has teamed up with fellow Chaser Chris Taylor and is back in front of a live audience for One Man Show. Eden Caceda sits down for a chat with the funny comedian.
You came to the University of Sydney over 20 years ago. What was your degree like?
I took a rather long time to do a degree in Australian Literature. It meant you studied normal literature with a few Australian novels thrown in. It was great, I had a really great time there.
What clubs and societies were you a part of?
I did quite a few shows with SUDS and I did a couple of the faculty revues. I did the Arts Revue a few times, which was some of the earlier attempts I had made to do sketch comedy. And it was a brilliant opportunity because people who wanted to get up and do a sketch could do it. So it was a good vehicle for people who wanted to get into that kind of stuff.
So you were always interested in comedy and acting?
It’s never been my number one dream to be a comic or anything like that, I kind of fell into it by accident, at the risk of sounding clichéd. Nobody has a regular past – anyone who ends up doing comedy or writer-performer stuff, they never really have a normal story; it’s usually just a series of accidents and mishaps. So even to this day I’m not entirely sure if I’m meant to be doing it or not. I enjoyed doing comedy at uni. It’s slightly different because you’re fairly protected, your audience is quite small, they’re other students, so you don’t get the level of hatred and outrage that you get from the general public, which is good because if you got that straight away, nobody would continue doing it.
The Chaser started in 1999. What was that like?
The Chaser newspaper started back then, which means we’ve been together 15 years. The newspaper, I occasionally wrote for. I wasn’t that heavily involved back then but I suppose I grew into it in 2002. People think that every time we do a project, whether it’s a TV show or a stage show or whatever, and it ends, people think we stop. We have this on and off lifestyle.
What makes you keep coming back to this group of people?
It’s poverty and the need to make an income. We’ve found a bunch of people out there who like us and our stuff so it makes sense to keep making stuff as long as we enjoy working together. We don’t always have the same taste as each other and not every project is all of us. We have done some small solo projects. But you’re right, we keep coming back to this core group. It’s fun and it’s a mixture of pleasure and pain in this job. It’s difficult and stressful but it’s much better than having a normal job. I’ve tried having normal jobs but I don’t like them that much. I don’t really recommend them to anyone.
The Chasers War on Everything was your biggest project. Why do you think it was so popular?
Yes it was surprisingly successful. I always thought our stuff wasn’t mainstream and nothing like an American sitcom or relatable stand-up comedy. It was just a bit weird and odd making that show when we had really high ratings that were reserved for mainstream shows that had broad appeal to the masses. We had normal people watching this experimental show that has poor taste and was dark. As a result of that, there was always a proportion of the audience who was always bemused and disgusted. When it came to The Hamster Wheel, we had an audience who liked our stuff and were comfortable with us.
What inspired your new comedy show One Man Show, with fellow Chaser Chris Taylor?
Chris and I have wanted to do a two-handed sketch show for two years and we finally had the time to do it because we had a nice block of time. It’s a fun show. It’s absurd and there are a lot of characters, putting on wigs and funny moustaches. It’s very similar to Rowan Atkinson’s old comedy shows. It’s letting Chris and I indulge ourselves with our comedy instead of the satirical and contemporary comedy that we screened on TV. There’s a bit of it in the show, but it’s essentially an old song revue of sketches and songs and it’s been working well.
Will there be anymore Chaser coming up?
There will be! There’s a new Chaser TV show coming up later in the year. We’re trying to nut out a new format. I wish I could tell you more but I’m afraid I can’t because we haven’t figured it out yet. But I can tell you that we are trying to figure out a new format. It will be a comedy show, though, I can tell you that. We aren’t doing a police investigation show, we’re not making a fantasy epic. It’s a comedy show, that’s all I can tell.
Originally published in BULL Magazine, April 27, 2014.