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In Memory of Twin Cities Comedy Pioneer Scott Hansen

The local comedy legend died Sunday after years of heart problems.

When I first decided to write Funny Thing about Minnesota, a book about the history of local standup comedy, everyone said the same thing: “You have to talk with Scott Hansen.” 

I knew the name and I was aware that he had owned clubs throughout Minnesota back in the 1980s and ’90s, but I wasn’t terribly familiar with him. When I reached out, Scott was incredibly kind and funny, and invited me into his home for a meeting. 

One afternoon, I had the good fortune to spend nearly four hours with Scott, listening to his stories, looking through old newspaper clips, and reliving a lifetime of incredible comedy memories. If you aren’t aware, Scott Hansen is a comedy legend. And not just a “legend” in the sense that he was very funny and memorable to audiences. I mean a legend in the sense that without Scott Hansen, Twin Cities comedy probably doesn’t exist today.

He had an eye for talent, a mind for promotion, and a sense of humor that could have made him a headliner anywhere in the country. But he chose to stay in Minnesota and create a market that has become a cornerstone of comedy. And for that, I feel that every comic who has ever been onstage, past or present, owes Scott a debt of gratitude. 

Scott and I would talk several more times after that day, about the book, and about life in general. One of the things that always stuck with me about Scott is that he would ask how my kids were doing. Keep in mind, Scott had never met my children before, but to him nothing was more important than spending time with your kids. He would end nearly every phone call with, “Make sure you’re spending time with those kids. It’s the only thing that really matters.”

While Scott had worked with all of the most important people in standup comedy from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, there is no one he would rather talk about than his own kids and grandkids. 

There were things Scott told me that I didn’t include in the book; personal anecdotes about his comedy pals, wild stories from the road, and how much he cared about the well-being of those who worked with him and for him. Scott himself asked not to include these stories, because he wanted to keep some memories that were just for him; not the general public. 

Scott personally congratulated me when the book was completed, and thanked me for telling his story. Or, as he put it, “For listening to my bullshit and trying to make sense of it.”

Despite his tough exterior, Scott was a sensitive soul who cared deeply about people. Even after reading some of the stories from other comics in the book who had challenges or less-than-glowing things to say about him, Scott refused to say anything negative in response. Instead, he told me, “I tried to do right by everyone, and give people as many opportunities as I possibly could.” Even though he hadn’t been a regular comedy promoter in many years, Scott carried that same attitude in helping me put together my book. And for that, I am truly grateful. 

Above all else, as both a comedy fan and a human being, I consider myself incredibly lucky to know Scott Hansen and call him a friend. Whenever I would give him a call, he would always answer the phone the same way: “What do you want?” Then he would laugh to himself and chat me up about whatever questions I had for him.  

While many others knew him far better than I did, I consider myself lucky to have spent the time I did with such an incredible comic, promoter, and friend. 

To honor his memory, I wanted to upload the chapter of my book where Scott told me about how he got his start in comedy, how his wife, Michelle, encouraged him to pursue his dreams, and how he once smacked a guy in the face with a mop for walking across his freshly washed floors. No one will ever be able to fully do him justice, but I hope you’ll read it and learn a little bit more about what made Scott Hansen so special. 

Click here to download the chapter now.

[Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on mncomedy.com, the author’s personal site covering the Twin Cities comedy scene.]