Natasha Pearl Hansen’s comedy is a toast to life

Natasha Pearl Hansen canceled her wedding. Then she did something even more surprising. Never mind that the wedding was weeks away and the venue was nonrefundable. Of more concern, friends and family had saved the date and booked their hotels. They wanted an occasion. This award-winning comedian was not going to let them down.

On June 15, 2019, on the date and stage where she was supposed to be married, Natasha gave her guests a live comedy special instead. She only needed one take to film the aptly-named I Was Supposed to Get Married Today at the Brink Lounge in Madison, Wisconsin. The very funny and poignant special is also unexpectedly upbeat. Standup is interspersed with frank observations from close confidantes, including her friends, mother and grandmother.

Natasha’s immediate goal was to make sure her guests still enjoyed an unforgettable party, but she had a bigger picture in mind. She wanted to help all of us “be okay with the fact that sometimes life goes in a direction we didn’t expect.” As a sequel to her special, Natasha next created a revolution in registries. Her newest venture, My Break-Up Registry, is inspired by her desire to reach out and offer continued support to anyone who feels derailed when a relationship ends.

Natasha is also the creator and host of the podcast Future Role Model where she interviews influencers of all backgrounds about experiences and “failures” that made them who they are today. In 2019, she landed a weekly Las Vegas residency for Future Role Models LIVE. She is also the winner of the 2016 Taste Award and has earned several network deals.

You’re invited to Natasha’s events, too! I Was Supposed To Get Married Today is now streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. And on Monday night, Natasha brings a brand new show to Zanies in Chicago.

Natasha kindly spoke with me by phone about bouncing back from hard times, how to create honest and uplifting comedy, and why she recently left Los Angeles to move back to Chicago, her comedy hometown.


Teme: How did comedy first speak to you?

Natasha: Nick At Nite was one of the few stations I was allowed to watch at a young age. I remember all the awesome, funny women on those shows; Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball. I loved character-driven comedy. As I got older, I felt I wanted to tell stories about things as I observed them.

Teme: Was there a specific experience that helped you decide to pursue standup instead of sketch and improv?

Natasha: When I was in Second City back in 2007 through 2010, I was doing ASSSSCAT, improv shows where a member of the group grabs an audience suggestion and improvises a monologue. Then the group improvises stories off that monologue. I participated in shows like that and found that I was a really good monologist. Every time I was called to the front, I had no fear. I was very comfortable just diving into some story.

With improv, you have a group of people to rely on. But there was something enticing about being able to do that on your own. If you have a bad show, it’s your fault. If you have a good show, it’s your glory. So I dived into hosting my own show in Chicago and utilizing my storytelling ability to find my voice. I fell in love with being able to take the stage by myself and rely on my own abilities.


Teme: What is your advice for finding one’s voice? How do you know when you’ve found it?

Natasha: When I first started standup, I had a pretty good grasp of who I was on stage in the first year and a half, I thought. But really honing in on what you want to say takes time. Anyone can be funny with a story. But to figure out what a story arc is for you and what point you’re trying to get across and how you want to make people feel, that’s the whole piece of your voice that they don’t really tell you about when you’re getting into the craft.

Honing in on your voice is more than just what you sound like and how you present yourself on stage. It’s what you are telling the world. I feel like you are finding your voice over and over again, depending on what you want to say next.

Teme: What a beautiful insight. How would you describe your voice?

Natasha: People tend to view me as edgy and wholesome. I like to craft a good story. I talk a lot about my family. I focus on relationships and relatable experiences, especially when I’ve gone through something in life. I want to make other people feel better about the fact that they might be there too, because we all go through really similar things. People might leave a show and say, “Oh, I’m glad this was brought up. Now I can feel like I can talk about it to my friends.”  I get that response a lot.


Teme: I love your comedy special! You really turned around a challenging day! Was it a hard decision to do that?

Natasha: It was a really hard decision. I’d known for quite some time that things weren’t going in a good direction. I’d postponed the wedding a bunch of times. The third time, when the wedding was a month away, we had no invites out and I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had people counting on me. It was like, okay, people have saved the date. They’ve moved their plans a bunch of times. My family wants something to happen today. I had to shift gears. So I just went for it.

Everybody that was on my invite list essentially bought tickets or had their friends buy tickets. So it was cool to be supported in that way. About half the people there knew me and half didn’t. My family helped me decorate the night before. We had already bought all the decorations. So my mom went and had my cake made, but changed the photo to just me. My family and I handled it together. Everybody enjoyed the experience and appreciated it.

Having that support system made that day not so hard. I was really trying to make it about entertaining people, not just for the special, but like as a whole party. So I entertained people before I shot. We stayed all night. It was like I was hosting a party where I happened to do a special.

 Teme: What was your writing process?

Natasha: I sat down with one of my best friends in L.A., Doug Sager. He’s a really amazing writer and writes a lot of roasts. We had beers one night and I was like, “Help me roast myself. What would you say to me if you were roasting me in this situation?” He threw out a couple things and we wrote together.

We thought about what I should say that would make people feel at ease. Also, how to bring emotion into it so people would wonder if I was going to be okay or if I was going to have a breakdown. The chunk at the front end and the chunk at the backend of the special were all brand new so I never got to try them beforehand. I had to just hope that they would land and that I would be able to deliver.

Teme: The material felt very uplifting to me.

Natasha: I appreciate that. I didn’t want to shit on my relationship or my ex. I didn’t want it to be something where somebody who had been in my life for that long would watch it and feel horrified. I tried to make myself look like the bad guy, the one that had questions and confusion. I tried to highlight what women go through rather than bashing men. I really felt that was the way to keep it positive. If people come to watch you at your non-wedding, you don’t want them to leave feeling worse. The whole point is to leave them feeling better.

Teme: How did you become a person who takes lemons and makes laughter? I think that’s the highest level of resiliency!

Natasha: When I first got into this career, I knew that I was a go-getter. But I also knew that if I didn’t try to keep a positive attitude, it would be easy to end up one of those people who blame the world for not getting what they wanted. I met a lot of people on my journeys that didn’t get a show or a TV spot, or they don’t get an audition or this or that. They’re like, “Why me? Why them? Why this?”

I really wanted to become somebody who celebrates other people’s successes. I remind myself that if they’re doing it, the opportunities are out there. It’s not them or me. Improv is very positive and I think beginning there at a young age translated into an adult career where I don’t want people to feel bad after experiencing me. I also don’t want myself to feel bad after experiencing something out of my control. So how do we make both those [situations] better? By making everybody feel better, including yourself and the people that you’re affecting.

Teme: I can see that intent in My Break Up Registry, too. How did you think of it?

Natasha: That idea was born as a sequel to my special six months later. I had been sitting up one night, still living in my old place, about to move out, and jokingly looking at my wedding registry. I was like, “I still need all this stuff. In fact, I need this stuff more because I’m losing half of myself and I’m losing more than half of my stuff.” As a joke, I sent my registry out to a couple people and said, “Re-label it as Natasha’s marrying Natasha.”

Then the pandemic hit and I was like, “I have to make this because if I don’t, somebody else will and I need to be the one to do it.” So I launched the registry. It’s available like a wedding registry for friends to see. I’m working on adding a feature so people can set up registries for their friends, which was a request I’ve received.

 Teme:  I love that idea. Also very therapeutic.

Natasha: It’s empowering to go to people for help. It sounds counterintuitive. Asking others for help is thought of as begging or as being weak or incapable. It’s not any of those things. To ask for help is quite the opposite. To go to people and say, “Hey, I need something,” is pretty bold in my opinion. Who wouldn’t want to help a friend when they’re in need? People often get overlooked in breakups. I did it before to friends. I would just not realize the gravity of the situation. But having gone through it and having had those conversations with people who’ve gone through it, it’s bad.

It doesn’t take much to feel relief. It could be as simple as having your friends pitch in for a weekend away or a spa day. Or you’re moving out of a place and you don’t have a couch anymore. Have friends pitch in fifty bucks each, get you a couch. Now you have one less thing to worry about. I’m trying to take that stress off people and to remind them, “Hey, you have a network! You have a community and friends that are willing to help you. Ask them. I bet they’ll do it!”

Teme: Often you want to help, but don’t know how. This registry is ingenious on so many levels. You’re going to help so many people!

Natasha: Thank you. Yes, that’s the point. I want it to be a place where people can feel really supported.


Teme: One of my favorite episodes of your podcast Future Role Model, really one of my favorite episodes of any podcast ever, is where you interview your amazing grandmother, Mo Weathers. I was inspired by how she met every hardship in her life with resilience and a big heart. How is she?

Natasha: We talk every day. She texts my boyfriend every day. I taught her Instagram, to my demise, because she sends us posts and pictures from Instagram every day, all day. She’s doing great. She’s seventy-nine and rocking.

Teme: In I Was Supposed to Get Married Today, you and she talk about your adventures together, like how she sometime goes on tour with you. Do you have a favorite story from those times?

Natasha: My favorite time was when we spent five days in Chicago together right before I shot my special. That was when I got her story on tape. When I’m with her one-on-one, she’s totally different than when she’s around my parents. She lives with my parents now after becoming a widow. When my boyfriend and I have taken her out to lunch, she’s told us even more stories that nobody’s ever heard, just things that will blow your mind. She’s seen and done a lot and helped a lot of people. 

She is inspirational to me and she is my mentor. She lost her husband seven years ago. I saw it crush her. She was like, “My life is done. I don’t really have anything to be here for.” So giving her some sort of platform or any peace of mind that I can, where people get to know her…   I feel she has found purpose again.

Teme: I love how you’ve supported her in that. Can you tell me more? 

Natasha: She had written her memoir and emailed it to me in Los Angeles. I was like, “You’ve got to do something with this one day!” When my grandpa passed, that’s when I was like, “Ah, she needs something.” So I didn’t change anything, but I edited it, designed a cover and put it on Amazon without her knowing. She came out to L.A. and I threw a surprise launch party. My friends came out and supported her. I think it just felt good for her that something of hers could live on.


Teme: How did you decide to move back to Chicago?

Natasha: Right before the pandemic, I went through a breakup of a nine-year relationship. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It felt like such an upheaval of my life. Little did I know how much change was coming for everybody.

During the pandemic, I spent the first three months unexpectedly with my family. I had been on tour in New York and was supposed to come to Chicago for two different parts of that same tour. So I was already booked to fly into Chicago on March 11th when everything was shutting down. My flight was from New York to Chicago and my family is in Wisconsin. So I called them and I said, “Hey, I don’t think my Chicago portion of the tour is going to happen. Pick me up. I’ll come hang with you in Wisconsin.”

So I went to Wisconsin with my three-day suitcase from New York and stayed in Wisconsin for three months locked down with my family. During that time, my mentality about a lot of things changed. I already had a grasp on how to make streams of income happen for me as an entertainer and entrepreneur. I really dived into that piece of my life because we couldn’t do anything else. So I was hustling in a different way and spending all this time with my family. I went back to L.A. for five months during the pandemic and loved being there. I had a lot of solace and peace in the house I was staying at in the Hills. But I missed my family.

When something big like this happens, you come to a crossroads. I don’t know how much time I have left with my family. They’re a huge part of my life. I want to be close by. Because of the pandemic, everything’s virtual now, so I don’t need to be anywhere. I’ve made enough of a stance for myself as a comedian and an entrepreneur that I don’t really need to be in one place. So I just wanted to figure out what would make me happy. I stayed in Wisconsin longer than expected, started dating somebody from there, and together we decided to move to Chicago. So that was a step up for him and a lateral move for me. And it just ended up being a great scenario.

Teme: What are some things you considered in moving back?

Natasha: There is this interesting stigma about leaving Los Angeles. Breaking that stigma is overdue. If you want to do something, you can make it happen from wherever you are. Yes, there are opportunities in L.A. and New York that maybe don’t exist in Chicago, but I think that is changing. Even when I was in L.A., I would come back here five times a year to do significant touring and do shows that paid really well and to shoot something or to record a podcast. There are a lot of things being filmed here. There’s a lot of stage time if you’re a comedian. The audiences here really care about comedy.

Don’t feel that obligation to have to be in a certain place. There’s so much here to do and so much here to be done.

For anybody thinking about moving back to a city like Chicago after experiencing one of the coasts, I think it’s a wonderful move. You need to go to a place that makes you happy. You’ll probably be successful just because you’re in a place that makes you happy.


Teme: Please tell us about your upcoming show at Zanies!

Natasha: Zanies is exciting! When I was in Chicago years ago, I would pass by Zanies all the time. I’d done drop-in guest spots, but never headlined. When I moved back to Chicago, my boyfriend and I went to Zanies to see his friend, Chastity Washington, who was headlining there. We both got asked to do guest sets, and then they asked me to headline in February.  This has been a dream of mine since a long time ago. This material will have a lot of new stories, a lot of things since the pandemic, stuff I’m really happy to have written since my special. I’m working on writing a new arc.


Natasha Pearl Hansen will be at Zanies, 1548 N. Wells, Chicago, on Monday, February 21 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets and more information here.

Order “I Was Supposed To Get Married Today” on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

My Break Up Registry is here. 

Natasha’s podcast Future Role Model is here.

Natasha’s must-see Future Role Model interview with her grandmother is on YouTube.

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