Nick Hansen is a man who delights in practical things.
It's practically Hansen's manifesto at this point. He indulges in historical walks and Humphrey Bogart movies. He wears a symbolic Carhartt jacket to the office. And he's Minnesota's foremost, most sincere fan of turkey sandwiches.
The Turkey Club Club is a subsection of Hansen's personal blog, wherein the Minnesotan shares his thoughts on local turkey sandwiches of every stripe. He's hit up local hotspots like D'Amico and Sons, Turkey to Go, and Brother's Deli all out of the odd obligation to tabulate the goodness of Minneapolis' sandwich vendors.
It started when Hansen was a grad student at Boston University and was looking for a way to sharpen his writing skills, but it's since evolved into a fully integrated part of his personality.
"I know the idea of reviewing sandwiches is sorta weird, and I don’t pretend to be a legit food writer, but it was just something to do," he says.
Hansen now lives with his parents in his hometown of Wyoming, Minnesota. During his job search, the Turkey Club Club seemed like a good way to break up the mundanity; when he finally landed an interview at the Hennepin County Bar Association, they mentioned they'd read a few entries. Hansen got the job, and he now works for the HCBA full time as a communications specialist. Word got around, and it didn't take his co-workers long to designate him "the turkey sandwich guy."
"No one in my office is really into sports," he says, "so a good portion of the non-work chatter is about turkey sandwiches."
Hansen's reviews are casual. There's a quaint stream-of-consciousness to them ("I don’t really understand what an artisan croissant means. Was it made by an artisan? Or was the bread itself an artisan?" he muses in a critique of People's Organic) that immediately endears the writer to the reader. If Hansen proves one thing, it's that you can truly come to know a person by how they approach the mundane.
You can also torment them endlessly.
Jamie Loftus is far less innocent than Hansen. A current editorial fellow at Playboy, Loftus has made a habit of perverting the well-meaning. She was kicked out of junior prom for throwing gang signs, and, as an adult, she was fired from her job at the Boston Globe for tweeting visceral jokes about her orgasm. Her past targets have included pastoral painter Thomas Kinkade, a candle-loving vlogger, and Shrek (over and over again). The genteel, lunch-meat-loving Hansen was a natural continuation.
Loftus has taken to animating Hansen's Turkey Club Club reviews as a form of homage and ridicule. Reading back the reviews in a wincing voice similar to Terrance and Phillip's from South Park, Loftus paints Hansen as a self-conscious dweeb with a pathological obsession with sandwiches. There's also a running subplot about Hansen using the sandwiches as a means to bury his guilt over having killed a child. The reviews have in turn become an obsession for the Boston-born, L.A.-based comedian.
"[My friends and I] would all quote them, and after Nick published them, we would all go to the places," Loftus says. "The early ones especially were just so innocuous. Like, he reviewed a Subway turkey sandwich. Why do that? Who is that for? The audience for it was so unclear. For a while, I think it might’ve been just for me."
Hansen met Loftus when the two were working at ImprovBoston, a sketch comedy theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their first interaction became the seed of what would be a prodigious, somewhat unrequited, muse/writer relationship between the two. Loftus was tending the bar while Hansen handled the box office. At one point in the night, he made his way over to the bar to start up a conversation. Immediately, he betrayed his passion for evaluating and ranking food items.
"He came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, uh, Triscuits, Ritz, Wheat-Thins. Rank ‘em.' He just asked me to rank three kinds of crackers," she remembers. "I ranked Triscuits last, and he was like, ‘Ha! No love for Triscuits,’ and then we didn’t talk for the rest of the night."
Asking his co-workers to rank things quickly became Hansen's thing at ImprovBoston. Naturally, Loftus used his bizarre propensity as fodder for a sketch character. The first time she wrote Hansen, he was an odd man living inside a glory hole. When people asked him about the glory hole, he'd distract them by asking them to rank arbitrary items.
Over the past three years, Loftus has created several progressively more absurd versions of Hansen. Her former sketch group took the caricatures on the road, portraying Hansen as a disgraced Broadway actor or the idiotic editor-in-chief of Skymall Magazine. In one frequently rehashed bit, Hansen was imagined as a "genderless creature" who's shackled to a dumpster and tries to trick passersby into setting him free.
"It was becoming the most common thing we were doing," Loftus says. "We weren’t totally sure that Nick was aware he was the source for all of it, but we would go to IHOP almost every single night and talk out the Nick character and pull stuff from his actual life and then add a bunch of ridiculous garbage to it."
When Hansen moved back to Minnesota last year, Loftus gave his character a 45-minute sendoff. Hansen was in attendance for the show, but Loftus isn't sure he quite understood that every character was inspired by him, even though she repeatedly mentioned his full name. When he revived the Turkey Club Club in the summer, she was ecstatic because it represented a way for her to keep the character alive.
"It’s something that’s different," Hansen says of Loftus' videos. "I was a little taken aback when she told me she was going to animate them. I showed the videos to my parents. I didn’t think they would like them, because they think most comedy is kind of stupid, but they loved it. That’s how I know it’s pretty good."
It's important that Hansen gets the joke, even if Loftus' peculiar, destructive brand of humor isn't something that the church-going blogger would employ himself. It's what keeps the whole back-and-forth mostly benign. Loftus and Hansen are first and foremost friends, and Hansen makes sure to regularly send her handwritten letters and postcards — a compassionate gesture Loftus rewards with darker and more twisted interpretations of his name-making sandwich reviews. They're like pen pals who communicate in incompatible languages.
Loftus' affection for Hansen is as genuine as Hansen's affection for a well-made sammy picked up from the skyway at noon on a workday. So as long as he's down, the gag will go on.
"Nick is such a sweet, good-hearted person," Loftus says, affectionately, "and it’s so fun to make fucked-up things happen to people like that."
More from Food & Drink