by Ryan Meehan
Andy Hendrickson is a New York City based comedian and writer. Since 2013, he’s had multiple TV appearances including: The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Gotham Comedy Live. In New York City, Andy appears regularly at the most popular venues including the world famous Comedy Cellar. Internationally, Andy has performed at clubs and festivals throughout the world, including Canada, England, Holland and Ireland. In 2011 he performed for our troops on Outback’s Feeding Freedom Tour that provided entertainment for the troops on military bases across Afghanistan. His 3rd comedy CD “Underachiever” release I’m 2012 to rave reviews and debuted in the iTunes Top 40. Rooftop Media says that “Hendrickson is a burgeoning powerhouse in the comedy world”, and he’s my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: I understand that you are currently in the process of moving from New York to Los Angeles at the moment…What is the main reason that you are finally deciding to move out of the Big Apple?
AH: NYC has been great for my career. I worked my way up the ladder, got into all the best clubs there and worked with some the best comics in the world. It was an incredible training ground and I’m a much better comedian because of it. I would have never got on Letterman if it wasn’t for New York City. Right now, it feels like I’ve done the most of what I can do there. I want to try and expand my career in LA. There are more acting and writing opportunities there and it just feels like the right time to change it up. I’ll really miss it. Eventually I’d like to spend half my time in NYC, and half in LA.
RM: You come from a long line of Navy Seals on your father’s side of the family…What type of reaction did your father first have when you told him that you were looking into doing stand-up comedy full time? How have you been able to apply the disciplinarian skills that were a big part of your life growing up in a military family to your own personal career development as a comedian? Do you do a lot of material that is based off of your upbringing?
AH: 1. My parents weren’t necessarily psyched when I decided to go full-time with stand-up. Though my Mom was more supportive. It’s completely understandable. Anything in the arts is a big risk. My Dad didn’t say much but he didn’t really approve. He just doesn’t know that world. Now that I’ve had some decent success my Dad is more comfortable with the idea. Being a stand-up comedian isn’t even close to being a bad ass Navy Seal. It’s not even a fair comparison. 2. There wasn’t a whole lot of discipline handed down in our family but the bar was raised pretty high. Both my brothers are successful and driven guys. My Dad ran the Ironman in Hawaii twice. My Mom has done several marathons and raised us while my Dad was away. I think there is a sense of trying to prove yourself in our family. You can always shoot higher. 3. I definitely tap into my upbringing on stage but not enough. I like the family dynamics the way they are now. That’s more interesting to talk about.
RM: Based on your own experiences, how is American comedy received in Europe? Do they enjoy a lot of the self-deprecating stuff that seems to work so well here, or are they into a lot more thought-provoking material done in the style of a comic such as Jimmy Carr?
AH: I’ve always done well in Europe. The first time over there I was a little concerned but I was really well received. My humor is very dry and sarcastic… they love that in the UK. I’ve also noticed in Ireland that self-deprecating humor is very well received. The Irish are salt of the earth and they don’t like arrogance. They appreciate a well written joke. The best part of performing over there is that the crowds will really pay attention and listen to you. They seem to have a better appreciation for live performance. I just booked another week in August and I can’t wait to go back. So fun.
RM: Rank the following four aspects of the comedic process in order of importance, with 1 being the most crucial and four being the least important: Timing, Delivery, Writing, and Stage Presence. Why do you think that you ranked those in that particular order? Is that the sort of thing that can change from time to time depending on what type of crowd you are facing?
AH: Likability is huge. It’s about 70%. So I guess that falls under stage presence. All the others are equally important to each other. They go hand in hand. I am kind of a comedy snob but I think writing is the second most important. Although you can have a huge career with just being a strong performer. It’s difficult to say.
RM: How is your next comedy album going to be different from the three that are currently available on your website? Are you going to stick with iTunes for distribution; or eventually move to where fans can stream your records from the website for a low price in a manner similar to the model that Louis CK has developed?
AH: I would love to something like the Louis CK model but you really have to have a big fan base to pull that off successfully. I’m not sure how I am going handle the next thing I put out. First, I have to hit writing hard again and start getting some fresh material that I’m proud of.
RM: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you while performing for so many different students on college campuses all across the United States? Do you ever feel a little bit like you have to adjust your own mentality to that of a college age student in order to better communicate with that demographic?
AH: I adjust my act a little bit for the college market but mostly it’s the same. That’s where I think good writing comes in. A great joke is a great joke. If it’s really well written it can be funny to every demo. Colleges just don’t want you doing anything politically incorrect. They tend to be pretty sensitive. That’s becoming a problem with everywhere these days. It seems that people in the spotlight can’t express an opinion or say something in jest without some group getting upset and the media hyping it up. People need to lighten up and use common sense. This culture of blame and hyper sensitivity is the US is ridiculous. We get away with more as comedians but the PC dummies are starting to infringe with standup comedy too. Went off on a little tangent there.
RM: YouTube seems like a double edged sword to me because it is a great way for hard-working comics to get the exposure that they need, but it has also created a whole bunch of overnight internet celebrities that think they can do stand-up. Where do you stand when it comes to that discussion? Do you believe it does more harm than good; or would you like to believe it’s a positive thing overall? What do you think is a good number of digital shorts for a working headliner such as yourself to have available for online viewing?
AH: This is a tough question. Sure a lot of people with lesser talent have had big exposure on YouTube but usually they can’t sustain it. I think the cream rises to the top. If you put in the hard work you will always have a good career. YouTube and all of these other avenues are great for creating your own path. Twitter, podcasts, vine, Instagram, YouTube sketches, et cetera are great ways to build a career and kind of skirt the traditional industry method of getting exposure. TV seems to be so saturated…it’s not as powerful as it once was. There are a lot more avenues for success online. I think it’s great.
RM: How much of your act would you say is storytelling; and how much of it is just basic club-friendly bits? What characteristics does a comic have to possess in order to fit the description of a great storyteller?
AH: I’ve always strived to make my act conversational…like I am just telling a story. It’s a fine balance of inserting strong punchlines within the story and keeping it compelling. I think that it’s all good as long as it is genuine and original. One-liners, character based stuff, act-outs, absurd humor and storytelling can all be mixed together in a nice long headlining set. When you’re on TV for 5 minutes the short and sweet, set-up/punchline material comes in handy.
RM: What will you miss most about being able to perform at the Comedy Cellar throughout the week?
AH: I’ll miss the camaraderie. It’s so great to just sit at the comic’s table and hang with some of the funniest people in the business. The Cellar has a great NYC vibe and you never know who will pop in.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AH: I have a couple of projects I am writing that I’d like to get produced. Mostly, I just want to keep performing stand-up. It’s what really love to do.
Official Website: http://andyhendrickson.com/
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