Meet a Comedian: Kristeen von Hagen
By Brianne Hogan
Comedian Kristeen von Hagen sure has come a long way from doing stand-up in a room full of bikers. Whether it's her three Just For Laughs galas, opening for Russell Peters or writing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes (not to mention her three Canadian Comedy Awards and her current two nominations), there's little reason to doubt why she was once chosen as one of Canada's top power women by Elle magazine (though she says she doesn't know why she was).
We chatted with Von Hagen about popping out her shoulder onstage, the movie Clue and getting married.
Were you always funny growing up?
I was more the snide weirdo making comments than the class clown.
How did you get into stand up?
It was just always something I wanted to do, so I just started doing open mics. My very first open mic was in Victoria, B.C. in a weird biker bar called Tallyho. Then I moved to Vancouver and started doing standup at Punchlines.
Was your family supportive of your career?
They were, now they are not. They always ask, ”What’s going to happen two years from now?” That’s the problem, my parents, like most parents, are very practical and responsible. Sometimes you make a lot of money, sometimes you don’t make a lot of money. The inconsistency drives them crazy. But they did come to my first gala at Just For Laughs.
Any odd jobs before pursuing comedy full-time?
I was an usher at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre.
What was your most memorable moment experienced onstage?
It was when I dislocated my shoulder during my fringe show Dickwhipped with Laurie Elliott. I had injured it skiing a year before, and then Laurie and I did this show, and I reached back to grab a prop and it popped out. I was in shock but I popped it back in. And I was in a dress. So that was a double horror.
Favourite gig so far?
Girls Night Out Tour with Laurie Elliott and Debra DiGiovanni; opening for the Puppetry of the Penis tour; opening for Russell Peters.
In addition to stand-up, you're also a prolific writer for television. How did you get started with that?
Recommendations! A lot of stand-ups I had worked with began to get into writing. My first sort of real writing job was This Hour Has 22 Minutes and it kept spiraling out of control.
What do you prefer: writing or stand up?
I prefer the writing paycheque and the stand-up lifestyle.
You were chosen as one of Elle's Top 30 Power Women. What does a "top power woman" mean to you?
It was this weird thing. It was Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, then it’s just me. Someone told me I was on it. It was a bit dodgy. I’ve definitely fallen [laughs].
Is it difficult being a woman in the comedy world?
I have nothing to compare it to. Maybe? It is still a very male-dominated industry. I think the problem with being a woman comedian, because there are less of us, is that you get things earlier and you have people saying, “Oh, you got that because you’re a woman.” People still don’t like women on stage. It’s just a fact that people still get mad at women.
Favourite funny movie?
I love the movie Clue. Best in Show. Will Ferrell always makes me laugh.
Who (or what) makes you laugh the most?
My fiancé Luciano Casimiri, and my friends, most of whom are comics. I would drop names, but then I’d forget someone and all hell would break loose.
Best piece of advice you could give to someone who wants to break into the comedy business?
Get out! Save yourself.
What's next on the horizon?
My wedding to comedy icon Luciano Casimiri in Las Vegas.
Year started: 1997
Influences: David Letterman,The Kids in the Hall, Louis CK
Next show: July 16, The Rivoli, 332 Queen St. W., 416-977-5082