Greg Hahn On The Marines, One Eyed Women and The Bob & Tom Show
Having heard Greg Hahn’s high-velocity rants on the radio and seen his blisteringly bombastic stage performances on video, I fully expected to find that, off stage, he was a quiet, laid back kind of guy. I was wrong. From the moment he answered the phone for our first interview, it was clear that he was just as manic and off stage as he was on. In all sincerity, I had to slow down the recorder to transcribe our interview as it was somewhat akin to listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks on a meth jag. I conversation meandered around, jumping from topic to topic, seemingly at random. I knew that it was going to be an interesting interview when I had mentioned that it took a special type of person to get up in front of an audience, under the glare of the spotlights. I told him that I was really only comfortable dealing with the world from the safety and comfort of my computer.
“Right…it’s a special thing…I mean, you write and I can’t even think about sitting still for that long. It would bore me instantly and I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything…hang on…I gotta plug my phone in…”
…and thus began the interview. One of several conversations that I have pieced together over the years, to give a clearer insight into Greg Hahn’s career and his creations. During our first conversation, I asked Greg if he had always been this way.
“Yeah! I’ve always been ridiculous, you know? Always, ’cause that’s the fun part! Like when you’re in school…the more serious the situation is, the more you want to be a riot. Like in a quiet classroom, you know, or like a funeral or say like a church…I won’t go so far as to say a funeral …but like church. Wherever you’re supposed to be really quiet is like where I wanted to go completely bananas, you know.” Hahn quickly added, somewhat paradoxically, “But then I get put on the spot, like ‘Hey! It’s the funny guy!’ so, like you go to a party and that’s where you’re supposed to be completely over the top and that’s where I would clam up. It’s a weird combination of things.”
Having seen him on stage and spoken with him in person, it was somewhat difficult for me to imagine that he could ever be involved in such a regimented organization such as the Marines. I asked him if his apparent ADHD and penchant for spastic humor ever got him in trouble with the Corps.
“Uh, I don’t know…it was quite ridiculous in the Marine Corps. You know, I had my people shooting their weapons all over the place. I used to blow off stuff at my apartment complex that caused the S.W.A.T. team to come over. You know, that was like the closest I ever came to being in trouble…like I’d bring flash-bangs or artillery simulators home and blow them off. Other than that, things have been pretty smooth.”
Knowing that Hahn had achieved the rank of Captain, I was curious as to whether his antics ever got him bucked down in rank or caused him any other problems in the military.
“No, no. Officers…normally it’s hard to get yourself knocked down a rank. Those guys that are just working their way up, like from like Sergeant to Corpsoral (E-4) or something like that, but once your so high, it’s hard to get knocked down.” Hahn ended that thought by saying, “Either you rank or you get kicked out right away.”
With his military background, I was sure that Hahn had to have taken part in the many USO or other military comedy tours.
“I didn’t do Iraq, but I went to Bosnia and Kosovo…all that stuff. That was a good time. The military stuff kills there…I try to expand on the military stuff and it does real well. But you know, my military career was a long time ago. There are other guys that have had real careers in the military. I was just like four years in…three active duty and one in the reserves. A lot of these guys have been in the military for like ten or twenty years…a whole big career. I touch on it in the act, but it’s not the whole act.” Hahn then jumped subject, detailing some of his pre-Marine life. “I went to college. I had a job. I was a moron in college, so I can like totally relate to people whose max education is high school and they go to college and they drink and I am totally in the same boat with those people.”
During another phone call, almost exactly a year later, I brought up the topic of the military once again as my eldest son had joined the Marines and was set to leave in a short time for boot camp.
“Good for him! Well, he’ll get in the Marine Corps and, I mean, at boot camp, it’ll be…the first week…what a hassle! No sleep! Oh my god! Everything is uncomfortable. He will have…it’s that old cliché, ‘You can’t take that away from him,’ you know?” Actually sounding nostalgic for a moment, Hahn went on to say that, “He’ll have the memory of things he did and what happened and things he saw for his whole life. It’s a good memory. It’s fun. Tell him he’ll tell every girlfriend he ever dates from here on out his Marine Corps experience, what he did in boot camp and what happened and what kid tried to drink his own piss and the rifle range…no, he’s got all kinds of great memories coming.”
I wondered whether much of Hahn’s stage act was comprised of actual experiences that, within the wide open confines of Greg’s imagination, he blew up to totally preposterous proportions, creating a comic character that everyone seems to find universally hilarious. Was it a conscious decision to create a rapid fire monologue out of exaggerated portions of his own life?
“Yeah, stuff I’ve experienced, stuff I’ve done, you know what I mean? I always say, like my whole point is ‘get to the funny part quick’. Like, me as an audience member, like whenever I watched comedy, I would get bored like instantaneously. I don’t like a long set up, myself so my jokes are almost like, a couple of words or a funny noise or a face or whatever. Like, whatever is funny I try to bring it in immediately.” Hahn reflects that, “So, since I started out, I’ve always…it takes a while, it takes a number of years to get people to understand what the hell you’re doing. Because I used to come out on stage and , you know, fall down or flop around and throw prunes and, you know, throw stuff around, and people didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
With the unending physical comedy that his body endures during every performance, I thought that he must have had some accidents and injuries over the course of years.
“No…” he said, quickly adding that, “I have flown onto a full table of beer, though. The table collapsed when I flew off stage and landed on a table…I didn’t get hurt, so it was alright. It was kind of funny, actually…a good way to close a show. ‘Hey, hey! My finale’!’”
As a regular guest not only on The Bob and Tom Show, but also on The Bob and Tom Comedy All-Stars Tours, Greg attributes much of his success to Tom Griswold and Bob Kevoian, the creators and hosts of the show.
“Well, I think The Bob and Tom Show, for me, has made my career. It has totally given it a kick in the you-know-what. It’s really interesting because I was playing in a club in Indianapolis called One Liners, and they were like, ‘Hey, you’re going to do The Bob and Tom Show tomorrow!’ I had heard that Bob and Tom was big, but I’d done a lot of radio and you don’t get overly excited, like, it’s not a career changer. You know, after a while, you just kind of take one day at a time.” Hahn remembers the immediate results that the show had on his career, “So, you do The Bob and Tom Show once and the next thing you know, you show up at a place you’ve never been before, like Wichita, Kansas, and the place is packed! You go rolling up in the parking lot and there’s nowhere to park. That’s when I first learned the power of Bob and Tom, playing Wichita…that place was slammed and I’m like, ‘Holy Smokes!’ and it just got better and better. It’s really something!”
The Bob and Tom Comedy All Star Tour have really become an entity unto themselves, traversing the country, bringing the nation’s top comedians in one headliner laden show.
“Yeah, The Bob and Tom Tour is like a total party. You know, I can just come out and go completely nuts. I don’t have to pace myself or anything…just total nuts, you know? That’s the thing…I come out, explode, then go have a diet Coke backstage. It is truly the world of Jäger-bombs and body shots.” Hahn went on to explain the dynamics of the tours by reiterating that, “It’s just a Bob and Tom party, because you’ve got all these headliners who normally don’t see each other on the club circuit, because we all headline. Our egos are too big. We wouldn’t dare want to open for each other, you know what I mean? But, on The Bob and Tom Tour, it’s all headliners, so…man! The green room is a riot! It is fun, it is fun. You are truly seeing comedians that are having a fun time where, in a club, it might be minor torture because you could have to sit through the opening act and the middle act. Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun doing comedy in all my life!”
I always wondered if the constantly changing line ups would throw some of the comedians off of their groove.
“Not really. I mean, it’s different personnel. You’ve got someone new to goof off with in the green room. But, as far as the show itself, I don’t really sit out there and watch it. We sit in the green room totally goofing off talking about, again, because it’s a meeting of people who don’t normally see each other, so we can talk about challenges on the road, which comedy club has the most horrific condo, which guy tried to rip us off the most and compare notes.” Hanh explains. “Then, when they’re like, ‘Hey! You’re up next!’ I just go out there, sprinting onto the stage, freak out, then race back to the green room. So, I don’t know what’s going on out there. I just know that I go out there and give the audience their money’s worth and make sure that they’re happy that they showed up.”
Along with being one of the most manic and funny men on the comedy circuit, Hahn also has some other special talents. The first of which is his exceptional drumming skills. Had he originally wanted a career in music, perhaps hooking up with a band in high school or college?
“No, man…but I always had a drum set with me, even through college, like in my college dorm, because nothing wraps up a big party night when you’re hitting all the frats then a 3am dorm drum solo. I always had a drum kit and I took lessons in like fourth and fifth grade, and that was it. I did actually play in the jazz band in high school, but they’d only let me play like one song.” Contemplating the possibilites, Hahn said, “Now if I put together a big show, I would put together a band for sure. But the trouble is, I ruin every single song with a gigantic drum solo, so…”
Another of his non-comedic attributes is his wicked reputation as a Ping-Pong master. I was curious if this was something that he developed a skill for while he was in the military, much like Forrest Gump.
“No, I played as a kid. As a kid, I lived across the street from the guy that was like one of the top players in Florida and he taught me how to play. And it’s not like I’m a tournament player, but any punk that’s in the audience or like when I was in college…I mean, any street player I can beat, or normally I can beat. I’m sure that there’s some fat guy wearing a sweat band that’s got a Ping-Pong table in his garage and belongs to the Ping-Pong Club that could be trouble and could probably do me in, but I don’t run into that. I’m a comedian, so I think I’m unbeatable!” Then the gloves come off when Hahn starts trash talking. “That’s like Daniel Tosh and these other punks that think they’re good, and they show up and I have to talk smack like ‘Are you right handed? Are you sure you’re not playing with the weak hand?’”
We ended one of our conversations with what has to be one of the weirder road stories that I have heard. Not the weirdest…but definitely outside the norm.
“When I first started out, I used to throw stuff out into the audience and then there was this lady one night, who kept opening this umbrella in the front row while I’m doing the show, right?”
I suggested that perhaps the woman was confused and thought she was at a Gallagher show.
“No, I wasn’t even throwing anything. I guess she just thought it was funny. She was drunk and thought it was funny to, out of nowhere, just open her umbrella up in the front row. So all I’d see was this big umbrella open up. I happened to have had a large glass of ice water up on stage, and I thought, ‘Man, that would be great that the next time she opens that umbrella, I’ll spin around and grab this huge glass of ice water and chuck it against that umbrella. Oh it’ll be a riot! It’ll be a riot!!’ So I’m doing my show and BOOM, the umbrella opens up and I spin around and grab the ice water and fling it at her and as I’m throwing it, she closes the umbrella, the ice flies over her head and nails the woman behind her.” The story goes from bad to bizarre as Hahn recounts that, “All I could hear was the woman behind her scream, ‘My eye!’…and it’s not just her eye….it’s her good eye. She’s got a real eye and a glass eye and I nailed her in the real eye. Like, I mean, a nightmare was facing me that I couldn’t possibly imagine. So anyway, the show was over and I had to sit with her and buy her drinks…well, her and the people she was with….and luckily the eye cleared up and she was alright and the club invited me back. That was a rough one, man. It’s like one of the things you learn when you’re starting out. It’s like, ‘O.K. That’s it for chucking things into the crowd.’No, I wasn’t even throwing anything. I guess she just thought it was funny. She was drunk and thought it was funny to, out of nowhere, just open her umbrella up in the front row. So all I’d see was this big umbrella open up. I happened to have had a large glass of ice water up on stage, and I thought, ‘Man, that would be great that the next time she opens that umbrella, I’ll spin around and grab this huge glass of ice water and chuck it against that umbrella. Oh it’ll be a riot! It’ll be a riot!!’ So I’m doing my show and BOOM, the umbrella opens up and I spin around and grab the ice water and fling it at her and as I’m throwing it, she closes the umbrella, the ice flies over her head and nails the woman behind her. All I could hear was the woman behind her scream, ‘My eye!’…and it’s not just her eye….it’s her good eye. She’s got a real eye and a glass eye and I nailed her in the real eye. Like, I mean, a nightmare was facing me that I couldn’t possibly imagine. So anyway, the show was over and I had to sit with her and buy her drinks…well, her and the people she was with….and luckily the eye cleared up and she was alright and the club invited me back. That was a rough one, man. It’s like one of the things you learn when you’re starting out. It’s like, ‘O.K. That’s it for chucking things into the crowd.’”
At the conclusion of our last conversation, Hahn extended his thanks and best wishes to my son as he left for Marine Corps boot camp.
“Well, thanks a lot for the interview and tell your son he’ll love the Corps and tell him to bring his golf clubs. That’s what they always told me; ‘Bring your golf clubs!’” Hahn paused for the briefest of moments before adding, “I don’t know what that means.”