In hospice care, Minneapolis comedy pioneer Scott Hansen prepares for his final bow

Scott Hansen was signing autographs after his 2019 New Year’s Eve show at Maple Tavern when a stranger approached him and grabbed both his hands.

“This is hard for me, but I was going to kill myself this afternoon,” Hansen recalled the fan saying. “But I came to the show and I feel better about my life. I can laugh again.”

Hansen says that the Maple Grove gig might be his last.

The 66-year-old comic, who is credited with jump-starting the stand-up scene in the Twin Cities, was speaking by phone from his bed where he’s been laid up since doctors gave him less than six months to live.

“I’m depressed, of course, but I’m trying to keep a good attitude,” he said earlier this month.

Hansen has been dealing with health issues for years.

In 2013, he retired from performing after arthritis in his spine made it difficult to stand on stage for long periods. But he started making frequent appearances again two years later, often rolling up to the microphone in a wheelchair.

But another comeback seems more unlikely.

He was hospitalized in July after his wife found him lying in a pool of blood. After waking from a coma, he was released to hospice at home.

Michele Hansen, a registered nurse, said her husband is suffering from a failing heart, liver and kidneys.

“It’s like the perfect storm,” she said.

Hansen has never enjoyed the national success of some of his famous friends such as Louie Anderson. But in the Twin Cities, he is considered a pioneer.

“When you look at the most important people in comedy history from here, people immediately jump to Louie,” said Patrick Strait, who wrote the book “Funny Thing About Minnesota: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Twin Cities Comedy Scene.”

“But in terms of comedy in Minnesota, Scott is at the top of the list. No one did more to help grow stand-up locally.”

Strait’s book, released earlier this year, examines how Hansen was instrumental in turning the Minneapolis dive bar Mickey Finn’s into a safe space for amateur comedians in the late ’70s, a time when stand-up was about as popular in the Twin Cities as snail racing.

He later opened clubs and founded an agency that helped bring such national acts as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno to Minnesota.

Some peers credit Hansen for being an important cheerleader; others accuse him of letting personal ambitions get in their way.

“I don’t think anyone can deny the importance of Scott in comedy,” Strait said. “Even those who had a disagreement or issue with Scott would turn around and also say that he gave them a lot of opportunities and helped them succeed.”

Hansen said he never intended to play such a major behind-the-scenes role.

“When I finally closed the clubs and just did comedy, I was much happier. It freed me up,” he said a few weeks ago. “But I’m proud of the legacy because the Twin Cities became one of the best markets for comedy in the country.”

Hansen said his spirits have been lifted by notes and calls from old pals, including former Minnesotan Joel Madison, who has written for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Undeclared.” Last week, local comic Fancy Ray McCloney posted a picture on Facebook of him delivering ribs to Hansen in bed.

Minnesotan Lizz Winstead, who co-created “The Daily Show,” used Facebook to praise her mentor.

“This young woman got to become who she is in comedy because you gave me the stage time to learn, fail, succeed and grow,” she wrote. “Minneapolis comedy is YOU, Scott. The comics who got to develop there and those who came through, all know that they are better comics because of Scott Hansen.”

Anderson has been checking in almost nightly, even singing a song over the phone to celebrate the Hansens’ 43rd wedding anniversary.

But the greatest gift Hansen could get is one more chance to tell jokes in front of an audience.

“I’d love to get onstage one more time,” he said. “I’m going to fight and try to get as healthy as I can. I hope to make it to Christmas. That would be good.”

Neal Justin • 612-673-7431

@nealjustin

rn% endblock %","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup-optimizely/start"},{"id":"limit-signup","count":12,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":"template":"% extends "grid" %rnrn% block heading_text %Youu2019ve read your 10 free articles for this 30 day period. Sign up now for local coverage you wonu2019t find anywhere else, special sections and your favorite columnists. StarTribune puts Minnesota and the world right at your fingertips. % endblock %rnrn% block last %rn parent() rn# limit Krux pixel from https://www.squishlist.com/strib/customshop/328/ #rnrnrn% endblock %","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup/start"},"id":"meter-desktop-331","count":10,"action":"ignore","mute":false,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/meter-desktop-331/start","id":"PDA991499opt","count":9,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/PDA991499opt/start","id":"limit","count":8,"action":"inject","mute":false,"action_config":"template":"

rnrnrnrn

rn

rn

rn rn

rn t

rn SUBSCRIBErn Already a subscriber? Log in.rn

rn

All Star Tribune readers without a Digital Access subscription are given a limited number of complimentary articles every 30 days. Once the article limit is reached we ask readers to purchase a subscription including Digital Access to continue reading. Digital Access is included in all multi-day paper home delivery, Sunday + Digital, and Premium Digital Access subscriptions. After the 1 month Premium Digital Access introductory period you will be charged at a rate of $14.99 per month. You can see all subscription options or login to an existing subscription herern

rn rn

rn

rn

rn

rn

rn","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit/start"},{"id":"nag","count":7,"action":"lightbox","mute":true,"action_config":{"height":null,"width":"630px","redirect_on_close":null,"template":"% extends "shell" %rnrn% block substyles %rn

rn% endblock %rnrn% block page %rn#rnrn limit - count - 1 rnrn form.flow_form_open(nextAction: 'firstSlide', null, null, '_top') rn form.btn('Save Now') rn form.flow_form_close() rnrn

rnrnrnu2022 rnrnrnrn#rn

rn

rn

You have limit - count - 1 articles left

rn

rn rn u00a0u00a0u2022u00a0u00a0rn rn

rn

rn

rn

rn Save More Todayrn

Over 70% off!

rn

rn

rn

rn

99u00a2 for first 4 weeks

rn form.flow_form_open(nextAction: 'firstSlide', null, null, '_top') rn form.button('Save Now', 'btn nag-btn') rn form.flow_form_close() rn

rn

rn% endblock %rnrn% block last %rn parent() rnrn% endblock %"},"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/nag/start"},"id":"x","count":4,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/x/start","id":"multi-start","count":3,"action":"fly_in","mute":true,"action_config":"location":"bottom_left","slide_direction":"bottom","group_id":null,"display_delay":"0","collapse_delay":"10","template":"

rn

rn

rn

rn u00d7rn

rn

rn

From just

rn

$3.79 99u00a2 a week

rn Save nowrn

rn

rn

","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/multi-start/start"]};