Her Assignment: Making People Laugh
"Being a woman makes the task only slightly harder, people don't want to laugh at women; it's part of their socialization...but that's changing. People are more willing to laugh at women, just like they're more willing to put women into space."
One of the problems of stand-up comedy is dealing with drunks and hecklers. "It's hard to work material for people who are close to incoherency," she ex- plains. But her background in improvisation - as well as her naturally charming manner-helps keep them in their place, she says.
Nonetheless, she is her profession's own best booster. "Comedy is very hot right now. It's still your best entertainment dollar."
February 1984 ·The San Ramon Valley Herald
The Lively Arts
Those were the days of the Hungry i and the Purple Onion, where the legendary Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce,Shelley Berman, Professor Irwin Corey and others held forth for two decades.
I followed the sound of laughter recently....The evening left me weakened from laughter and gave me a new found appreciation for the art of repartee,raconteur and on-the feet, fast thinking.
There's an art to comedy that goes beyond the material. It has to do with the timing, personality and stage presence.
Sometimes the jokes don't have to be all that timely or sharp if he or she can capture the patrons through body language and vocal dynamics. Ultimately, however, the act depends on the cleverness of the material.
Jeannene Hansen is a tall, imposing and mod-groomed comedienne with a strong sense of self and a positive (not aggressive) posture at the mike. She moves quickly and confidently through topical material, rapping everything from MTV and the Miss Universe contest to commercial slogans.
She does a satirical routine on the Loopholes of Love, circumstances where one can rationalize infidelity and bend the rules. She includes this suggestion: "If your long distance phone bill is divisible by 12, it's permissable to reach out and touch someone cheaper."
She moves into the audience and chats with patrons in a bit that shows her a master of improvisation as she uses her victims as straight men.
Hansen also incorporates topical material into her patter. She hooked her audience right from the beginning and kept them taut right to the end of her act. I could have watched her for hours. I found her refreshing and certainly someone to follow from club to club.
February 1985· San Mateo Times Barbara Bladen
Women in Comedy Femprov's Jeannene Hansen
Restless, she wanted out and spent many nights pouring over maps of the Golden State dreaming of the day she would go there. She went to college in Kearney and Lincoln, majoring in Art. "They taught me plenty about how to 'emote' with my camera, but nothing about how to sell anything," she laughs. Graduating with honors, she recieved a scholarship for graduate school. Realizing that meant four more years on the prairie, she thought, "No! I've gotta go!"
She spent a year at a photo laboratory, taking pictures of pigs, cows, chickens and people accepting plaques. Tiring of the requests of her married friends for her to babysit, she finally packed her car, and drove to Sacramento, Ca. Finding Sacra-mento a 'sister-city to Lincoln,' she would drive the 80 miles to Berkeley and San Francisco three times a week for jazz concerts and old movie revivals. She soon relocated to the City and again worked in a photo lab, but this time she moonlighted by writing a book on holography-one of the first to include an actual holo-gram. She started taking headshots of jugglers, actors and other performers to supplement her income........
Her interest in becoming a professional comedienne began when she saw Robin Williams on "The Great American Laugh Off." She started hanging out at the Holy City Zoo and impressed by the early San Francisco talent, decided to try it herself. She began attending Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre workshops and joined several improvisational classes.
"When the moment came to get up on stage, I felt sick," she recalls. "They were very understanding and told me I didn't have to go on- I think it's because they didn't want me to throw up all over the place. I pushed myself anyway and got up there."I was supposed to be an 'Expert' on virginity so I quipped to the moderator, "Please be gentle, it's my first time." Everyone laughed and I was hooked."
"It was around this time that Woman's Night was started at the Zoo. Among the performers in those early days were the original members of Femprov. Jeannene joined a year later. Femprov moved to the Spaghetti Factory in North Beach and played to some pretty sparse crowds for a good while. Sometimes after a nights work all they would earn would be $4 apiece, but they were determined not to give up. After an extended run at the Spaghetti Factory, the group decided they wanted a place to work on a regular basis and helped turn Cobb's Pub into a comedy room.........
Running out from backstage, Jeannene Hansen breathlessly asked me, "Did you enjoy the show?"
My answer was affirmative. I had howled all the way through. Femprov, the group in which she works, is an incredible combination of slapstick and wit. Working in the traditional inprov style, they acted on ideas tossed up from the audience, and with faces of rubber that never seemed to tire, kept the crowd in stitches for well over an hour. No wonder Jeannene was breathless.
Of Femprov Jeannene says, "Doing improv is interesting because of the spontaneity. I find that audience members are sometimes much funnier than I could ever be. We all play different roles in Femprov. For instance, I'm a good straight man..the others can really play off of that. Stand up is a lot different from improv insofar as it is more disciplined. You have to practice and hone your ability. People look at you harder, they wonder: Does she have a boyfriend? A life?
Last night at the Holy City Zoo a female heckler said to me, 'You're too pretty to do stand-up.' I retorted, "I should be raising kids, right?" She agreed. I turned to my fellow comedians and asked, 'Am I too pretty to do standup?" to which they unanimously responded, 'NOOOOOOOOO!!'"
1984 ·Comedy Times
A Woman's Touch
Hansen got her first taste ofcomedy when she attended a workshop with a friend."I want to be a really strong stand-up comic, but from my point of view it's not as rewarding as improv. There's a real bond in creating something out of nothing. You can look at the person who's performing with you in the eye & signal 'yes, let's go with it.' There's a real freedom in that."
1983 ·The only problem to forever plague 'FEMPROV' was our name... after countless indecisions, it remained the one thing the group couldn't agree on over the years.(I always favored 'Broad Humor')
Femprov: All Female All Funny
1983 ·Breakfast was even more interesting....especially for the nudist cook who was in charge of frying our bacon. My hat (if not much else) will always be off to the man and his dedication.
It's tough out there for comediennes
Jeannene Hansen is of a different style. She's sharp, upbeat, contemporary,has a lot of stage presence & makes a strong impression with her chic good looks and well-timed material.Although I wasn't voting, Ms. Hansen would be my choice for the cash award to be donated by Ruth Vitek, McLean's mother. She appears to be a serious comedienne, which means with the right breaks & enough club dates, she could make a living at it. Her material is clever & she has a fresh, bright, intelligent, friendly, outgoing manner both onstage & off.
A long but wonderful honors night for local cabaret talent
March 1985 ·San Mateo Times & The San Francisco Examiner
Bottom Line: Jeannene is Funny
Hansen isn't naive; she knows the odds of big-time show business sucess. However, she quickly adds, "Maybe its my Midwestern background, but I feel if you apply yourself & keep working, your work will turn into something." Because of her off-stage intelligence (she's Phi Beta Kappa) Hansen has been accused of being smarter than her act suggests. Its possible, she admits, though "Your advantage on stage is being at your best, while the comedy crowd works with the disadvantage of drunkeness. The trick, is to not compromise either party & still have a great time.
May 1985 ·Contra Costa Times