Jenny Hagel is “obsessed” with giving people advice – whether people ask or not. “I’m sure it’s everybody’s least favorite thing about me, but I can’t stop,” she admits. “It’s like a facial tic, except in my personality.”
While this could be annoying in the hands of a lesser talent, Hagel happens to be a gifted comedian and writer with a talent for showmanship. Case in point, her Emmy-nominated work as a a writer and performer on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” where she is perhaps best known for a recurring segment called “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” with her frequent collaborator Amber Ruffin. Because Ruffin is Black and Hagel is gay, they appear every so often to recite punchlines that are off-limits to the host. Hagel also served as head writer on “The Amber Ruffin Show,” where she frequently appeared as various characters – including Marjorie Taylor Greene taunting the host through a slot in a door, a performance Pajiba compared to the likes of Pennywise the Clown.
Now the comic will be bringing her “probably unqualified” advice to a new live comedy show, “Jenny Hagel Gives Advice” at the Union Hall on Jan. 27. Tickets and info here.
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Prior to the start of the show, Hagel sets out three buckets for people to submit questions to labelled “financial advice,” “career advice” and “love advice.” The shows kicks off with Hagel and a special guest (Jan. 27 features “The Daily Show” correspondent Desi Lydic) will pull questions at random and do their best to offer genuine feedback with a humorous slant. But don’t worry, Hagel knows she’s not a professional – for the show’s final act, she brings a real therapist on stage to give their perspective.
Variety spoke with Hagel – and actually received some great advice.
Why do you love giving advice?
I don’t know. It’s not because I think I’m better than anybody or wiser than anybody, I just feel like if I think I know something that can make someone’s life a little better, I feel compelled to tell them.
So it’s coming from generosity not bossiness?
Oh, it’s both. But that’s very generous of you to say generosity. I’m sure there’s a portmanteau in there somewhere – gene-boss-ity? Gene-bossiness?
When booking a guest, what’s more important: that they’re funny or that they are actually good at advice?
I think a bit of both. My first guest was John Lutz, who is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known but I also really do call him for advice all the time. So it’s the perfect combination. Desi Lydic is someone who I run into a lot and I’ve had really lovely, grounded conversations with and I thought, “People would be lucky to pay $15 to get advice from her.”
As a comic, is there pressure to bring the laughs? It’s a comedy show but you really want to help people.
I think everybody, comedian or not has an internal clock that knows how to strike that balance. If you’re at a dinner party and you feel it’s getting a little too heavy, you break the tension with a joke. Or you can feel when a joke has run its course and it’s time to move on – then you say something like, “So what does everybody think of Ukraine?” Maybe not that. But everybody knows how to switch up the vibe and keep things moving.
Do you sometimes get really intense questions or is it generally pretty light?
I’ve definitely gotten questions where I feel very intensely about the answer and I have to modulate myself because it’s a comedy show and people are trying to have a good time. I just get invested in trying to make sure someone’s life doesn’t go off the rails but – and I can’t stress this enough – I am not a therapist. By the way, I’m making this sound like life-changing questions but it can be as simple as: “Should I buy a new pair of Chanel sunglasses?” Because when that was asked I wanted to shout out, “That’s an insane amount of money for something you’re going to sit on!”
These are the things you’re passionate about? Chanel sunglasses?
Being responsible with your money is what I’m passionate about. Not getting crushed under the weight of credit card debt, I’m very passionate about.
What qualifies you to give advice, what sort of life experience do you think makes you suited for this?
Honestly, I’m probably no more qualified than anyone else but I have been on Earth a while and lived through some things. Not to brag, but I’ve been through a divorce, so I can talk about that experience. I’ve moved all over America and know about fitting in and finding your spot in a community. Things like that. But this is why I like bringing out a real therapist at the end.
Do you ever find you disagree strongly with the therapist and actually argue that your advice is better?
No, but I look forward to the moment I look a therapist in the eye who went to school for psychology and say, “You’re wrong. I took improv classes, I know better!”
Has anyone who took your advice gotten back to you about it?
Not from the show, but that’s my dream. But I have friends who I throw things out to who get back to me. If I tell someone about some really amazing tweezers and later they say, “Hey, I bought those tweezers, they made my life better,” it’s a great feeling.
Wait I want to hear more about these tweezers because I own like 16 pairs and they’re not great.
See, you have to get Tweezerman. Regular tweezers won’t do it.
But they’re expensive. Talk about managining your finances, I’m not sure I can afford that.
Well, you can either buy one good one or 16 crappy ones, it’s the same cost.
That’s actually really good advice.
There you go. Of course, the real question is, Why is it Tweezerman? Why not Tweezer-woman?
For more information on upcoming shows, follow Hagel on Instagram.
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