Andrew Hansen, also known as the “hair” and musical mastermind from The Chaser’s War on Everything, makes a terrible dinner companion. At least, according to Andrew Hansen.
“If you’re unlucky enough to have a meal with me I am very boring. The real me is terrible, terrible company.”
Based on our conversation so far, I find this hard to believe. Hansen comes across as down-to-earth, charming and genuinely funny. The former Chaser is known for a slightly quirkier kind of comedy than his co-stars, largely based around composing absurd songs and sketches.
So is this what we can expect from his new One Man Show, with Chris Taylor?
“There is a little bit of satire,” he says, “but it is more of a chance for Chris and me to exercise our silliness, that old style British absurdity which is something that him [sic] and I are particularly into.”
Having started in comedy, “kind of just accidentally”, it seems fitting that One Man Show is a return to Hansen and Taylor’s comedy roots. It veers away from the biting satire that made The Chaser such a runaway and controversial success. This is more of an “old school revue show – sketches and songs and us dressing up as all sorts of particular characters and wearing bad wigs.”
Audiences can expect to hear from a variety of characters, including a pair of gay policemen who are secretly in love but cannot get married because of the law. Hansen also plays an elderly audience member who is very upset by a joke, even though he doesn’t understand it, and complains incessantly about it to anyone who will listen. This particular scenario is “a phenomenon we have experienced firsthand.”
So the show lies somewhere between “freewheeling absurdity” and satire?
“Our silliness is always linked to real life in some way,” he says. “We anchor the blimp of silliness in something profound and relatable.”
Considering the turbulence of The Chaser years, it’s understandable that the members have each started working on projects that are a little less publicly controversial. But, as Hansen points out, comedy is never really devoid of political undertones.
“One of the weirdest criticisms is being called stupid or childish,” Hansen says, “because that is what I strive to be. To me, it’s an ironic compliment. To me, comedy should be puerile and silly and childish.
There is no doubt that silly comedy can also appeal to intelligence. Probably what makes so much of Hansen’s humour unique is his taking of smart ideas and turning them into scenarios so ridiculous they cannot help but provoke thought. And yet apparently, some of the most common angry tweets he gets are from people who complain their intelligence has been insulted.
“But I always had this sneaking suspicion that people who bang on about ‘respecting my intelligence’ actually don’t have much intelligence to respect.”
It is an interesting theory, and leads to a more fundamental question about when satire crosses the line. It seems like a lot of what Hansen says, even when in character, gets taken a little too seriously by some. He agrees that a lot of people tend not to differentiate between genuine opinion and over-identifying with ridiculous arguments for the sake of irony.
For this reason, Hansen says that he prefers playing characters – even when he is “himself” it is an exaggerated version. “I am much better off pretending to be a prickly, difficult, quirky version of myself behind a desk,” he says.
It makes me wonder which version of Hansen I am talking to right now – prickly and boring don’t seem to fit the bill. But it does help to explain his self-deprecation, which is perhaps simply another version of Hansen. Perhaps to some extent, spending so much time in other characters does makes it difficult to switch off the idea that everyone is just playing a role.
Fitting then that even the One Man Show is actually written and performed by two men. “It’s just a very simple, stupid joke,” says Hansen. “I have no explanation for it.”
Which may be true, but as with most of Hansen’s humour, I think there is something there that deserves to be unpicked. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with enjoying silliness for the sake of it, especially if it involves bad wigs.
Who: Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor
What: One Man Show, as part of Sydney Comedy Festival
Dates: Friday May 2 at Metro Theatre, and Saturday May 24 at Factory Theatre