“I’m dyslexic, so I wasn’t able to read very well in school,” explains comedian Phil Hanley. “Joking around and being a smart-ass in class was the only way to express myself.”
Friends told him he was funny, but he didn’t see it. “When I tried standup the first time, it felt so good. It was just like joking around with my friends, basically. I was hooked immediately.” It took a while to get to that point, as previously Hanley had been working in Europe as a male model. “Yeah, people are always surprised by that,” he says.
After finishing high school in suburban Toronto, he decided to forgo college. “I knew it wasn’t an option, just because reading wasn’t my strong suit," he explains. "My parents wanted us all to go to college, but they realized it wasn’t for me. They encouraged me to travel.” So he did.
In Europe, while hanging out with a friend who was modeling, Hanley was noticed by some photographers. “There was a brief period where they wanted guys to look shitty and malnourished and strung out, and at the time I fit the bill. I did that for three or four years.”
His sense of humor would present itself, though no one in the world of modeling seemed to care for his shenanigans.
“I didn’t make a lot friends joking around while I was modeling,” he notes. “People didn’t have a sense of humor about it, unfortunately.”
He also realized his heart wasn’t really in it. “The whole time I was like, ‘This is embarrassing.’”
Based in London, he traveled all over Europe, and was able to amass a small bankroll. “Yeah, it was decent dough and that helped,” he says. That came in handy when he returned to Canada.
With modeling he had gotten a taste of acting, and thought he’d pursue that back home. While he was in Europe, his parents relocated to Vancouver, the TV production capitol of Canada. He moved back in with them for a time and weighed his options. “It was weird,” he says, “I felt like I left home really young and then went backwards moving in with my parents.”
His comedy career soon took off though, and he was touring Canada pretty consistently. After seeing the Jerry Seinfeld film Comedian, Hanley decided to move to New York City and immerse himself in the comedy scene there.
“I would stay in New York for a month, then go back to Canada and tour, make some dough, then come back to New York,” he explains. “And then four years ago I just moved here permanently, got a work visa, and just a few months ago I got my Green Card. I’ve got to wait five years before I can become a citizen.”
Taking that step could mean giving up his Canadian citizenship, something he hadn’t considered. “I don’t know exactly how that works. I’d love to have both. I love Canada, it’s just the States is a better place to have a career in comedy.”
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. First St., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets are $15-$33
For more info, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com