ANDY HENDRICKSON INTERVIEW
Andy Hendrickson is a burgeoning powerhouse in the comedy world. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard him on either the Bob & Tom Show, or on Sirius/XM Radio. Not only is he a showcase winner at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Andy has performed at TBS’ The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and was a finalist at the Great American Comedy Festival.
He’s calling his newest release, Underacheiver, his first “real” CD. Underacheiver will be released March 13 wherever fine comedy is sold and streamed.
Rooftop had Nathan Timmel dial Andy up and chat about the disc, comedy classes, and finding your comedic voice.
Nathan Timmel: Easy question first: where did you come up with the title Underachiever?
Andy Hendrickson: A friend suggested it, actually, because I have a chunk of material about my family, and how every one of them is an overachiever. My oldest brother is exceptional; he went to the Naval Academy, became a Navy Seal, and went to Harvard.
NT: So you are the Black Sheep of the family then; you are the underachiever.
AH: Yes, I would be the slacker of the family.
NT: Where was your album recorded, and over how many shows?
AH: I recorded it up in Ottawa, Canada. There’s a great club up there called Absolute Comedy. I had two shows on a Friday night to record the material, and luckily I got it all on the early slot because the late crowd was a little drunk and rowdy, so I didn’t use any of the audio from that take.
NT: What kind of set up did you use?
AH: I hired a local sound engineer who works with bands and theaters. He used a simple three-microphone setup: he wired the stage mic, and then a left and right mic to capture the audience.
NT: How many years in the making was the material for Underachiever? Is this your first CD?
AH: [Laughs.] Well…there’s a CD that exists from three-years into my career, when I was desperate for money, that if I could buy back every copy and burn it? I would.
NT: [Laughs.] We all have one of those – a “starter” CD. Every comic gets way too excited early in their career and records something, then pushes because they’re so proud of themselves: “I’ve got a CD! I’m a real comic!” Then years down the road you give a listen and you shake your head and say, “Holy shit, what was I thinking?”
AH: Exactly. At the time, it made sense. I had just started doing comedy full-time, and was only featuring, and needed money desperately. So I put out a 25-minute disc and tried to keep my head above water by selling it. So that one doesn’t count.
I put out one in 2005 or 2006 called It’s Ready, and I have a little 25-minute sampler on my website that I give away… so to me, this is my first real CD—it’s the first one I’m truly proud of. It has all my best material, and I have my voice now… I’m really excited about this one. Which is weird, because as a comedian you generally beat yourself up over everything, but I’m really proud of how this turned out.
NT: Talk about your voice: how far into your comedy career are you, and how long did it take you to figure out who you wanted to be on stage?
AH: I went through many stages; imagine your teenage years. You’re trying to fit in, and you don’t know if you’re going to be a skateboarder, or a heavy metal guy, or a jock. The same thing applies to trying to figure out who you’re going to be on stage. I used to… [laughs] I used to do a “dumb stoner guy” character when I first started out. Then I was really silly, acting out on stage a lot.
I’ve been doing it about 13 years now, and I think it took 11 years to just be me on stage, which is a dry, sarcastic guy. And that’s who I am, it’s what I am off stage. I just had to go through all the trying-on of personas just to be myself at the end of it all. Some guys are lucky, and they find it early, but it took me a while to figure out.
NT: Did you go through that phase where you’d work with someone, really like what they were doing, and accidentally adopt their quirks?
AH: Oh, absolutely. I was middling for Daniel Tosh years ago in Cleveland, and I really enjoyed his stand-up. I was watching every show, and on the last night found myself delivering my jokes with the same kind of tempo Tosh had. I remember catching myself and thinking, “What the hell are you doing?” It was still my material, my jokes, but his delivery had rubbed off on me.
NT: I’ve heard a lot of people do that after working with Attell; his voice is so distinct, his delivery so unique, that after a week with him you’ve picked up his cadence.
AH: I guess it’s similar to spending a couple months in the South, and after a while you just start slipping little colloquialisms they use into your own speech patterns.
NT: Let’s talk about you’re becoming a comedian: was there a light bulb moment in your childhood where you said, “I want to be a comedian,” or is it something you discovered later?
AH: I was exposed to stand up at a really early age. I used to live in Hawaii, and there was a comedian named Poi Dog my family would listen to. He did a lot of jokes about Hawaiian culture… I would have been around eight. I didn’t really know that’s what I wanted to do at the time, but I guess I was always a cut-up. I eventually moved to Atlanta—after college—took a comedy class, got my first taste of the stage and getting laughs, and loved it.
NT: Every comic out there seems to have a passionate opinion about comedy classes; would you say they helped you, or that you wouldn’t recommend them?
AH: To be honest, I thought it was very helpful. It all depends on your personality, and I was petrified by the idea of getting on stage. So to invest my money in a six-week class, and knowing at the end of it I had to get on stage, which is something I was very frightened by, the class was very helpful. I mean, I had financially locked myself into it; it was like skydiving. Once you’re up in the plane, you gotta jump. Taking a class also gave me a sense of structure as well. Some guys, like me—underachiever—need that push. Other’s don’t. I also knew that at the end of it I’d have that 5-minute set I could take with me to open microphones.
Andy currently resides in New York City. You can follow Andy @AndyHendrickson.
Underachiever comes out March 13 and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and the Rooftop Comedy Shop. You can also stream Underachiever through Pandora and Grooveshark.