No matter what your age, you're probably looking at John Henson's photo and thinking, “Hey, I've seen that guy somewhere.” Of course depending on your age, you might know him from his hosting gig on E!'s Talk Soup, the hit TV show going into its 6th season on ABC's called Wipeout, or even from his newest “dad” gig on the Disney channel show Austin & Ally.
But before his small-screen fame kicked in, he was an amazingly clever stand-up comic that could riff off of the audience as if he had no set at all while still delivering snark and hilarity with ease. Now that his stand-up is on the front burner again no one is more excited to see him go back to his roots than his longtime fans. This Sept 6th-9th (Thursday- Sunday) Henson is headlining the Irvine Improv and this is your chance to see him turn his past into his future, and chances are you're going to become a new fan of an old favorite. (No offense on the “old” part.)
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): I'm so excited to see you in Irvine and to talk to you now! Not to kiss your ass BUT… I'm a longtime fan!
John Henson: Well prepared to be A, really disappointed and B, to be unimpressed. [Laughs.] Are you a fan from the Talk Soup days or from Wipeout?
Talk Soup. No offense but I can't watch Wipeout. I cringe at watching people get hurt.
We're both dating ourselves by referencing that era of Talk Soup. And Ali, I don't watch Wipeout. I write it, produce it, and I host it and then I watch it maybe twice a season and think, Jesus Christ! There is a German phrase “schadenfreude” which means, taking pleasure in the pain of others. I feel like that is probably what the show should be called because behind every laugh that show gets is the subconscious thought of “Oh my god I'm so happy that's not me”
Seriously! So you did stand-up back in the day right?
Yeah, I started out as a comedian in the late '80s. I dropped out of college to do stand-up so you can imagine how delighted my father was. He was like, “No go ahead and piss away 50 grand of my money and then decide you're not into it!” Then I did about eight years of stand-up and ended up getting Talk Soup out of it. So I stopped doing stand-up since I was on a daily show, stopped going on the road, and before I knew it, BOOM! I hadn't done stand-up in like 16 or 17 year. It was the first chapter of my career and things just evolved. So last fall I was like, maybe I'll go back and do a set just to see how it feels. I did it and immediately caught the bug again.
I assume your fan base has changed a lot over the years.
You know what is a trip to me? My wife and I play husband and wife on a Disney show. My wife booked the role of the lead character's mom on “Austin & Ally” and when they found out we were married, they asked if I'd be into playing her husband. What blows my mind is as I get older, my audience is getting younger. My first job in the business was like this hip, cult following of college students and stoners watching me late night on Talk Soup. Now I'm king of the twelve year-olds. I don't understand how that happened!
That could actually work to your advantage now that you're a dad because you'll probably get all the Disney hook-ups.
I'm hoping! My wife is literally just counting the days until my son is old enough to go to Disneyland. I keep hearing about these V.I.P. passes where you skip the line and I've got my fingers crossed that somebody throws one my way.
I believe that's also called a handicap pass.
[Laughs.] Exactly! I'm not above walking with a cane if it gets me to the front of the line, I mean walking is such a hassle!
Since you used to host Talk Soup and you're now a dad, maybe you can channel the past to give us some thoughts about Snooki having a baby.
Oh my god! The incredible thing about that is the reality that you have to take a test to drive a car but any knucklehead in the world can have a kid. [Laughs.] That little orange Oompa Loompa Snooki is someone that I've tried to be blissfully unaware of but as somebody who just went through what a child brings, when you see someone like that having a kid it's almost like you're in a fraternity looking at the new pledging class. Like, “Oh, now you've got to pay the piper!” I'm very excited to see what she has to do to cope with having a kid because I've looked and there is no off switch. I think her days of fake baking and clubbing might be coming to a close. Put it this way, there's still going to be a lot of vomit but it's not going to be hers. Parenting is like piloting an airplane and if you fuck up, somebody dies. There are catastrophic failures and then there is passing so it'll be interesting to see how she handles it. Even when we brought my kid home he was looking at us like, can I speak to a manager?
So what will your set be like for Irvine? I mean, it must have changed quite a bit from your last go around.
I threw out my entire act with the exception of about a handful of jokes. The jokes I had in my twenties don't resonate anymore now that I'm older so I tried to make it a rule to write about stuff that I genuinely feel. I try to keep it honest.
Will it be a “dad set” where you are like, “oh my baby and those diapers?”
Not quite, because that kind of stuff to a degree makes me cringe. [Laughs.] It's just really about my life like, I talk about Wipeout, having been divorced and then being single, getting remarried, and what it's like to have a kid. Basically what it has been like to have devoted 25 years of my life to thinking like a 15-year-old for a living and all of the sudden the responsibility building all over night. I'm really excited to go back on the road but I gotta be honest with you, I'm very curious and excited to see what kind of people will come out to see me after this long of a lay-off and what the reception will be. I feel like I'm putting on my play clothes to get dirty.
Follow John Henson on Twitter @John_Henson to find out what he's working on next and get your tickets now to see him at the Irvine Improv this Thursday through Sunday (9/6-9/9) by going to www.improv.com or by calling 949-854-5455. The Improv is located at 71 Fortune Drive Irvine, CA 92618.