While we do highlight a lot of comedians who are very much in the spotlight or on the verge, there are many rising names that are lighting up open mics and independent shows who many people don't get to see too often. These performers are often an open-mic delight, as they're usually experimenting with material and performing bits you wouldn't normally see at a bigger show. Today we're highlighting one of those rising names, Dustin Hagen, as we talk about his career and thoughts on the local standup scene. (All pictures provided courtesy of Hagen.
Dustin Hagen on Twitter
Gavin: Hey Dustin, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I have lived in Salt Lake City all my life. I'm an avid Batman fan. I live with my parents, I have been doing standup for three years. I have been on shows all over Salt Lake. I have a 2013 Ford Escape and I am an amateur knife collector. I would describe my comedy as a blend of pop culture fandom and self-deprecation. My goal is to get people to understand how I think, and for them to laugh at it. I run a Thursday open mic at 10 p.m. at Sandy Station, so you can see me there every week. Oh, and I'm part of the two-man improv group Home Improvment
with Jonny Brandin.
When did you first take an interest in comedy, and who did you like watching growing up?
I was never really into standup when I was younger. Most of the comedy I saw and loved came from movies and TV shows. The Simpsons
and Mr. Bean
were the funniest things I had ever seen growing up. But then when I was around 20, I started going to standup shows. The first comic I ever saw live was Emo Philips at Wiseguys, plus I saw a lot of open mics at the old Mo's.
What made you decide to take a chance and try standup comedy yourself?
Really, when I first thought of doing it was when I would go to open mics and see people like Toy Soup and Levi Rounds. But I never really thought I could do it until my friend Steffan Reed told me to do it with him. The funny thing is a mutual friend told me that Steffan hoped I would bomb, at which point I got angry, so really spite is what made me decide to try standup.
How was it for you breaking into the local lineups and getting gigs?
At first, it was a bit rough. I mean, I'm not the most social guy to begin with, and it's all so scary at first. But after a while, it became a lot easier. Once you start to just have fun and make friends, everything becomes really fun.
What were some of the lessons you learned about performing early on?
Haha, the first thing I learned was that I need to take my time telling jokes. The first two actual shows I was on, I practically ran off stage after two minutes. It was all such a rush and blur that even though I had material, I was too freaked out to remember any of it.
What's your process like in coming up with material and figuring out your set?
A lot of my stuff comes from just random stuff that I find strange or funny. I try to make it relatable, and never take any of it too serious. There are some personal jokes and there are jokes just for fun; I like to keep people guessing. I also write down tons of thoughts and constantly revisit them to see if anything is there.
How has it been for you getting to know other comedians and working in the local scene?
A lot of them are people I consider good friends, they are all great people. There are so many people working very hard to make this scene what it is and they are killing it. I don't want to get too emotional, but I like them.
What's it been like for you as a performer rising up through the ranks and getting noticed?
Honestly, sometimes it seems crazy to me that people know and like my comedy. But it has been a lot of fun and I want to thank everyone who puts me on their show and gives me the chance to make people laugh.
What's your take on our standup scene and the work coming out of it?
The people and the work are only getting stronger. There are some crazy funny people in this town. I love just going to the open mics and hearing the new stuff everyone is working on because it's damn good. I'm proud to be a part of such a great scene.
Who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
Too many to name, but I will name a few, First off is NDS, Keane Clarke, Jason Harvey, Jonny Brandin, and basically anyone who makes it to my open mic.
What's your take on the current club setup along the Wasatch Front?
We have a few great clubs that are really trying to help comedy, and I'm glad to have all of them. The comics running the shows, they all work really hard to give great standup shows. Every club is different but they have the same goals.
What's your opinion of national stand-up comedians coming through town and what that does for the local scene?
It gives us a chance to open up and meet more experienced comics. Plus, it gives our scene some due attention. We have a great scene and I hope the national acts see that Utah is a good place to do comedy.
What advice do you have for people looking to getting into standup comedy?
Talk to the other comics, write stuff down, write anything, work it out and take advice. If you enjoy it, just do it, and do it for you. Don't worry about other people, and listen to "Freebird" every Friday.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
I will continue to do the Thursday open mic. I will be on shows every once in a while and I will write new jokes that hopefully don't suck. Look for me on Facebook