10 Questions

10 Questions with Andre Hyland

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Andre Hyland as photographed by Shane Bruce Johnston

by Ryan Meehan

Andre Hyland is a director-actor-writer-comedian-producer-and visual artist originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and currently based out of Los Angeles.  Hyland’s work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, The LA Film Fest, and AFI Fest. Rolling Stone magazine named his short FUNNEL one of the 12 Must-See Sundance Successes.  Hyland recently directed and starred in a TV pilot he created that was produced by Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island’s new FOX studio Party Over Here.  Hyland has created and starred in a couple Comedy Central pilots, one of which was co-created with Bob Odenkirk.  He’s also directed and starred in numerous segments for MTV, Funny Or Die, and Fuel TV.  His high-energy live character performances are a regular fixture at Los Angeles’ alternative comedy venues.  He’s also performed at SXSW, the HBO Comedy Festival and for two years hosted his own monthly talk show at the Hollywood Improv.  Andre’s fine art and graffiti work has been included in exhibitions at, and in association with London’s Institute of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, and Cincinnati’s CAC.  We are very excited to have him as our guest today in today’s edition of 10 questions.

RM:  Other than the weather, what is the biggest difference between living in LA as opposed to Southwest Ohio? Did you experience any sort of culture shock at all when you moved, or had you pretty much seen it all by the time you got there?

AH:  It wasn’t a total culture shock for me when I moved to LA, mostly because I’d visited LA a handful of times before then. I’d spent a summer there once for a USC film production course, plus I’d also lived in NYC for a couple stints and visited other big cities, etc…But yes, there is totally a difference between Southwest, OH and Los Angeles for sure. Where I grew up in Cincinnati is a pretty conservative place, although I think it’s loosened up a bit since I moved away ten years ago. While growing up, all public events were always pretty much geared towards appealing to children and grandparents.  At least now there are way more places and things for young adults to do in Cincy:  More bars, public concerts, restaurants and whatnot…Downtown isn’t dead after 5PM anymore. But at it’s core, Cincy is still a conservative, traditional place.

As far as differences between Southern, Ohio and LA, I can’t think of an exact example at the moment, but in general… some topics that seem like a no-brainers regarding sex, race, religion, public transit, and various things can still be considered “offensive”, and cause an uproar in Cincinnati, but in LA they mostly seem like a non issue.  In many cases, the cultural/social conversation in LA has moved well past what still makes most (not all) people in Cincy uncomfortable. Cincinnati is a great place to grow up, but it’s certainly easier there to push buttons than it is to push boundries.

Regarding operating as an artist or filmmaker, Cincinnati is a very affordable, nice comfortable place to live in and operate creatively, but on the other hand there are way less opportunities to make a full time career in a creative field there compared to a place like LA. Los Angeles can be a much tougher, more competitive, pain in the butt, very expensive place to get by for sure…But the trade off is, almost anything is possible in LA, that’s what makes it exciting and worthwhile. Plus all the sun, and no shitty winters of course. (I do miss Skyline Chili and Summer thunderstorms in Cincy though.) But with all that said, neither place is perfect, every place has its pros and cons.

RM:  When did you first become enamored with the world of graffiti and street art? Were you a natural talent who had pretty good can control right away; or was it something that you had to work really hard at in order to become highly skilled?

AH:  I first got hip to the graffiti world sophomore year of high school, but I really didn’t get serious about it until toward the end of my senior year, then it lasted a good 8-10 years of heavy dedication. My best friend growing up, Leon Reid IV opened the graffiti world up to me, and once I fully delved into it, him and I quickly became street art partners. (Although at the time in the late 90’s, it wasn’t called “street art”, Leon and I were just the artsy weirdos in our graffiti scene) I never had great can control…I was alright, but because of that and what I’m just naturally drawn to I never fully adapted to the traditional graffiti aesthetic. I still did “throw ups”, tags, stickers and pieces, et cetera, but style wise I just took what I’d already been drawing in my sketch book and converted it to the outdoors – I always did original characters instead of painting letters. I only created a tag name so I could sign the pieces and connect them. Plus the other projects we did – painting posters and installing them in bus shelters, huge paint roller pieces, repainting old street signs then reinstalling them, replacing phone booth signs with our own signs, taking newspaper boxes home, repainting ’em and putting them back on the street – we were always doing something. What’s funny is, we did most of this in broad daylight dressed as construction workers or phone company employees. A lot of that stuff later helped influence my hidden camera comedy segments that I’d shoot on the street.

PS…You should check out Leon Reid IV’s work…He’s done so much amazing work.

RM:  Where did the nickname “Blond Chili” originate? If someone stripped you of the title so you could never be called that again, what would you like your new nickname to be; and why do you think that moniker would be appropriate given your personality and artistic interests?

AH:  I was originally blonde until my hair slowly turned brown by the time I was eleven or twelve, and I grew up near my favorite chili place Skyline Chili. So out of that came bLoNd cHiLi, plus I liked that it was absurd as well as how it looked and sounded. If I had to use a new nickname, I’d go with “Andre Hyland”…which might seem boring, but after like ten years of constantly doing more subversive work using different character names, alias’, tag names, fake band names, etc…It’s fresh for me to just use my actual name. I didn’t start consistently attaching my real name to my projects regularly until around 2010, so that’s where I’m at these days.

RM:  In what ways are you and Jesse Miller alike, and on the opposite side of the coin how are the two of you nothing like each other? What’s the best part of getting to play Jesse; and is there anyone in particular that was the basis for that character?

-ALIKE: We both obsess about the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, we both indulge in endless TV/Film, and pop trivia, we like shit from the 90’s, many of his characteristics are my worst features amplified at different point in my life, I also like Mountain Dew, we both like working with our tight friends.

-NOT ALIKE: I don’t actually enjoy energy drinks, Jesse parties way harder than me, we don’t listen to the same music (although I probably do/did celebrate about 1/3rd of his musical catalog), he’s way louder, and a bigger shit talker than me. Jesse is also way more outgoing than me and knows how to have more fun.

The best part of playing Jesse Miller is even though he’s a bit obnoxious, people normally light up around him and wanna party on some level or another. Also, Jesse has no inhibitions, he just feels something and goes for it. He’s inspired by by lots of dudes I’d see or be around growing up in Cincinnati, and the Southern Ohio, northern Kentucky area. He sort of a walking compilation of people I experienced in my world growing up.

RM:  You were name dropped by Bob Odenkirk in an October 2014 Salon interview…Shortly after your name was mentioned, he was asked what his advice would be for younger comedians and he said “Get out of comedy, because it’s about to collapse”…When and where did you first meet Bob; and what is your take on what he said about the future of the industry that you’re currently working in?

AH: I first met Bob through my manager in 2008, we had a general meeting together and got along well and what not. He ended up calling me a couple days later to see if I wanted to get together any hang, and just talk about project ideas and stuff. That eventually led to him producing, and co-creating my first Comedy Central pilot with me in 2010. Since then we’ve done a handful of random things together off and and on that have ranged from him performing in to consulting on pieces, including my short film Funnel that went to Sundance last year.

He’s a really good, smart, and generous dude. As for Bob’s quote in the Salon interview, I imagine he said that half in jest anyway, but at it’s core I think he was speaking to the fact that the scene is currently (at the time of the interview) saturated, and whatever that wave of sketch/comedy was going to achieve..it already sort of had. So why bother be the last comedian in that line… You might as well be the first comedian in the next wave. I might be totally wrong, but that’s what I got from it.

RM:  Was the subject matter of the short film “Funnel” based on something that happened to you or someone that you know in real life? Is there any sort of intentional underlying social commentary in that piece about how dependent we’ve become on cell phones as a means by which to communicate with each other?

AH: In general it was sort of a compilation of many of my own lame daily experiences rolled into one. The story my character tells about the mayonaise on the hot ham and cheese sandwich, that was a true story…that actually happened to me at a truck stop/diner somewhere in Mississippi. Concerning the social commentary, I don’t want to over explain the intentions, but much of the commentary on the silly, dumb and annoying ways of how people communicate in this day and age comes through by default, just by essentially being true to how we actually communicate now in the performance.  I just wanted to make sure I acted like how someone in real life talks on the phone, not how someone in a movie acts and talks on the phone, ya know what I’m say’n? I feel, the more naturalistic and grounded I can make something, it allows for the absurdity of real life to be highlighted more clearly.

RM: I read an interview with you a while back on constructedby.com where you said that the most difficult places for you to work are where you’re surrounded by negative, uninspiring people…How do you manage to keep such a positive attitude when there is so much negativity in the world today; and what is the key to making sure that the people who are drawn to you professionally have the same positive view on life that you do?

AH:  “Negativity in the world today”, not much I can do about that, other than what I can control about myself…Not that I put blinders on, it’s just that if you constantly think about all the awful horrible stuff going on, you’ll just be paralyzed and outraged constantly. For instance, when you sit down and look at Facebook, probably more than half the stuff that’s posted is about about police shootings, some piece of shit shooting up a theater or a church, etc…and It’s good that those topics are being discussed, but if you just stare at that stuff all day you’ll go crazy and forget that there are still loads of sensitive good fair humans out in the world (although it’s hard to believe that some days).  In general, I guess by just carrying yourself like a reasonable and nice person, other reasonable nice people will be drawn to that as well. Assholes or people who are negative many times end up filtering themselves out of my life on their own. It’s always easier to ruin something than to build or sustain something. Same goes with collaborations and friendships, so negative people are typically quick to sabotage things on their own. They do most of the work in making themselves disappear.

RM: How do you go about developing comedic ideas in a group setting? What’s the most important thing to remember when writing comedy as a collaborative effort with other funny people?

AH:  Hmmm, For my own stuff, I usually work alone on the initial writing portion, at least at the beginning. Then I bring in people I trust to bounce around new ideas and improvise, usually during the performance phase of things, to sort of fill out the world that I’m creating. That’s a very general breakdown of how things usually go, but projects range in scale, medium, and my own involvement. For instance, when I’ve been just a writer on some else’s project or TV show, I’m way more collaborative in the writing process with other people, because I’m there to serve someone else’s vision, not my own…so I’m still going to try to come up with what I think is the best idea for whatever were working on, but I’m not going to be as married to my ideas…because I’m essentially there to offer up options, and jokes for the show at hand and it’s voice, not my own. Which can actually be a lot of fun with way less pressure, because I’m not as self conscious thinking about how it will represent me and I don’t have to carry it all the way to the end like I do with my own pilots and projects. Plus it’s always just fun and awesome when you get paid to make jokes and laugh with a bunch of funny people in a room for a day.

RM: How would you best describe the relationship you currently have with video editing? Are you one of those people who finds it boring and tedious, or do you actually take pleasure in watching the same clip numerous times? If your answer is the latter, how much of that has to do with the fact that it’s the final step in the creative process of making videos?

AH: Video editing is like writing an essay, it’s often a drag to get started, and to finish your final choices. But the middle part, once you wrap your mind around how you wanna tackle it – and you get in the groove of cutting a piece – I think it’s really fun. When I shoot I’m already editing in my head, so I think it’s exciting when I finally get to do that and it’s feel’n good. It just gets harder and harder to get in to a groove these days and not be distracted by a million things…The internet, phone calls, texts, dumb life stuff, etc…But finding  the sweet spot of editing when you really get cooking, I think it can actually be a lot of fun. In away, lots of my writing is accomplished when I edit too. In short, it can be tedious, but it eventually gets really fun.

RM:  What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond?  Anything big in the works that we should know about?

AH: I have a feature film that I wrote, and am set to direct/star in as well that’s in the early/mid stages of being financed that I’m really excited about…I’d tell you more, but it hasn’t been “officially” announced yet, so I have to be all annoyingly secretive about it for the time being. I also have a new short film I did with Nicholas Rutherford from Good Neighbor/SNL that we shot at SXSW last year that I’m excited about, I’m just now finally getting the time to properly edit it in the next few months. Oh duh, and another project I just shot called THE 4TH that has lots funny people in it from my comedy circles, I’ll be submitting it to festivals at the end of summer…so we’ll see what happens. Plus random live shows I’ll be performing in mostly around LA. Other than that, I’ll probably just be cleaning up cat shit and eating tacos.

Andre on Instagram: @TheAndreHyland

Andre on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AndreHyland

Andre on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/bLoNdcHiLi

Andre on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/andrehyland

Andre on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/andre.hyland

Official Website:  http://blondchili.com/ (currently under construction) try http://andrehyland.tumblr.com

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