Comedian Scott Hansen announced his retirement last year, but his family didn’t stop eating.
And so Hansen is coming out of retirement for a show Saturday at the Don Hansen VFW in Ham Lake, a post named for his late father. In this Q&A, Hansen discusses his comedy, his current projects and his hope that improved health — he suffers from arthritis — will allow him to play more shows in the future.
Q: It’s pretty great that you’re playing at a VFW post named for your dad.
A: It was actually founded by my dad, and they named it after him a few years ago. My dad was in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy during World War II. Those are the guys who came back from the war and basically created the U.S. skiing industry.
I don’t think my dad had ever skied in his life. The military was looking through the draft lists for people with Nordic names — they figured those people must know something about it. And I don’t think he ever skied again after the war. He had a pair of wooden skis he brought back, and they were on the wall of our garage.
Q: Why are you doing a show now?
A: When I retired, I didn’t want to stop cold and not do shows, period. I was really retiring from doing constant shows. I’ve done some benefits, some charitable events. I do need to put some money in the bank once in a while.
I still like being onstage. But with my health, I was missing some shows, which I had never done in my life. With arthritis, you never know how you’re going to feel until you get up in the morning. It was becoming evident to the audience that I was in pain onstage. And hey, it’s supposed to be comedy!
Q: When did you start doing comedy?
A: It goes back a long way. If I would write something for school, it would usually wind up being something funny. I wasn’t necessarily the class clown, but I would find a way of making things funny.
I always remember watching TV shows as a kid, seeing comedians. My parents would let me stay up and watch the monologue on Johnny Carson. There’s a joke I still do that I wrote when I was 12 years old. And it still works!
(Editor’s note: That joke is, “My dad’s a World War II vet. He watches ‘World at War’ to see if he can see himself on TV.”)
Q: What’s it like giving up this thing that has been your identity?
A: For me, the comedy has never been my identity. My family has always been first among everything I’ve done. I’ve had the opportunity to go to L.A. and do TV, I’ve been offered morning radio jobs in various cities.
But my kids have friends they’ve had since kindergarten, and now they’ve gone to their friends’ weddings. I’ve met the grandchildren.
Comedy was how I made my living. And it was getting to be work. Now these shows I do are fun for me. This show in Ham Lake will be fun for me. There will be people I went to high school with, people I worked in the sod fields with.
Q: What’s the mix of classic and new material in your act?
A: I’ve always improvised in my act. Now, not doing shows as much, someone will ask me to do a certain joke, and it’s a brain fart — I can’t remember it, or how I got into it. So most shows are half-improvised out of what I’ve got in my head, and then there’s a set of core material I can fall back upon. Facebook has helped me with that. I can throw a joke out there once in a while and see what response it gets.
Q: Can your fans count on seeing you a few times a year going forward?
A: I would love to think that things would get better and I could perform a few times a year. But that’s completely dependent on my health.
Q: What keeps you busy?
A: I’ve self-published a kids’ book called “What Do You Do With Invisible Stu?” It’s Dr. Seuss-inspired. I just wanted to see what the process was like. It’s expensive!
I’m working on a second kids’ book called “Bubble Town,” and I’m working with some friends on some sitcom scripts.
Q: You’ve been something of a comedy impresario over your career. Do you find satisfaction in that?
A: I started, I guess, the first full-time comedy club in the Twin Cities. The crop that started in my clubs really did make an impact on comedy.
But when my daughter met her boyfriend’s parents, and she told them her father was a comedian, they said, “But what does he do for a living?”