You only get one chance to live this thing called; you don’t know when this ride will end, but while you’re here, at least get a good laugh out of it.
A week before comedian Hank Chen was set to have the biggest moment of his life, he suffered arguably his scariest moment when he was involved in a serious traffic accident that left him severely injured. Not one to postpone great moments in life until later, Chen decided to continue the scheduled production, but with two major changes. The first would be that he would not be taking a traditional route to the genre, and the second would be a change in the title to better fit his current situation in life.
Chen’s stand-up comedy career began when he was still a teenager and he had to keep it a secret from his parents in Chicago. He developed his material and comedic acting logging stage time performing and touring colleges with Stir-Friday Night – Chicago’s first AAPI comedy troupe. Fellow alumni include Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Danny Pudi (Community). He continued to pursue comedy while auditioning for on-camera work after moving to New York to graduate from The Actor’s Studio MFA program. His first jobs were roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Blue Bloods. Hank has been privileged and humbled to work with comics he grew up watching and admiring since entering the show business. Notably, he found himself opposite George Lopez on Lopez and made his film debut in Robin William’s final theatrical release, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn. Other roles include television appearances on Community, NCIS: Los Angeles, Grace & Frankie, and film roles in Reese Witherspoon-starrer, Home Again, and Janicza Bravo’s first full-length feature, Lemon. He co-starred in Life-Size 2 opposite Tyra Banks.
Hank would eventually see more opportunities to expand his comedy ambitions after moving to Los Angeles and performing alongside the thriving stand-up comedy company Crazy Woke Asians as he began touring nationally.
Now a headlining attraction with his name in bright lights, Chen has risen from a fan just trying to find his way to an established peer performing regularly alongside current stars, including Jeremy Piven, Iliza Shlesinger, Theo Von, and Jiaoying Summers.
I’m Not Supposed to Be Here sees a recently injured Chen sit down and deliver a once-in-a-lifetime performance as he shares tales of his life, Macaroni Grill, and other adventures of a Chinese American man that, by all accounts, was not supposed to be there. Hank tells the audience that not one day is promised, but while he’s on this planet, he promises to make you laugh every minute.
Recently, Hank had an opportunity to sit down and chat with We Own The Laughs’ Tyson Paul to discuss his process of creating a comedy special, why he decided that the show must go on, and his thoughts on the current state of comedy.
You suffered a broken hip and other injuries only days before production started on your debut comedy special. What made you decide not to postpone production, and how much pain were you in throughout production?
CORRECTION! I fractured my pelvis, which is not as bad, but is still bad and was very painful. I was on plenty of drugs while shooting the special, but thankfully, I was not in as much pain. Just a lot of discomfort.
Do you know that footage from your accident went viral on social media?
No, I did not.
You quickly managed to translate your near-death experience into fantastic material for your special, definitely making it seem like a blessing in disguise. Now, we all know that no one wakes up in the morning and hopes to get hit by a car for great stand-up material. Do you ever think about how your special would’ve turned out if you went with the original plan?
My stand-up is very physical. So it was actually quite devastating having it all tied down to a couch. I did my best, given my limitations. I just think that some of my jokes that I had worked on for years and years could have really gotten the justice they deserved had they been performed standing on two feet.
Stand-up is so hard; you’re great at doing crowd work, too. Who first got you into comedy?
I got myself into stand-up, watching it at first as an audience member at the age of 16.
Editing while working with a premier streaming service can sometimes be complicated for comedians. Would you share your experience working with Comedy Dynamics?
There is a reason Comedy Dynamics is the premiere leader in this space. They have been phenomenal partners, taking care of me from every aspect, looking after me, my special, I really just can’t say enough good things about them. There was nothing complicated about working with them. They made the process of releasing a comedy album so easy. I’m so lucky and grateful to them that I had them by my side. Especially when that side was fractured.
Comedic Fabrication has been one of the most significant topics among the media and comedy community in 2023. What are your thoughts on the issue?
I think we can all find “influence” and “inspiration” in our lives. But once we start getting the facts wrong, we’ve taken it a step too far. Even for a joke.
You made some very hilarious comments regarding your time working at Macaroni Grill. Can we expect an endorsement deal between you and the restaurant, or are you banned from every location?
I wish I had enough success to matter to a restaurant chain the size of Macaroni Grill, but the fact is I could walk through their doors tomorrow and order one of their delicious pastas, which they were, and no one would make a fuss. Neither me nor them. All water under the bridge.
Has the success of this comedy special helped you directly in other areas of your career?
I wouldn’t call it a success yet, but I’m glad it’s out there, and I certainly hope maybe a TV executive comes across it one day and says, “Hey, Hank would be a great fit for this show we’re doing.”
What’s your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ culture or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+, someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years?
Does Lady Gaga still count? She’s been around for quite a while now, but I think her talent and her ability to galvanize the masses for good has had so much positive impact on the LGBTQ+ culture.
What advice do you have for younger comedians currently in the process of completing their own debut comedy special?
Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. And don’t be afraid of telling YOUR jokes the way YOU want in YOUR own voice.
Now that your comedy special is completed, what’s next for Hank Chen?
More stand-up, of course, and trying to do more film and TV once this strike is over!
Checkout Hank Chen “I’m Not Supposed to Be Here” Comedy Special on Comedy Dynamics HERE