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Meet Jacob Hågensen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob Hågensen.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story?
I was about five years old when my mom signed me up for acting classes. I was lucky to have a mom who did that. I had the kind of parents that understood that I won`t say myself what I wanted to do, so they signed me up for a lot so I could try it all. Out of all the different hobbies I did, acting class was always the one I looked most forward to. Our great productions included “Cats and mice” “Clowns” “Pirates” and a show about how much we love frozen pizza.

When I started middle school, the theater class I was part of, unfortunately, went under. I started a musical class. It was me and 11 girls, so I knew I picked the right one. The class was set up that every Tuesday, we had dancing only, and every Thursday was acting and voice work. It was during a Thursday class I found my long lost love within entertainment. Comedy. We would do improv games, set up the scenes to get a couple of laughs and my teacher was the funniest man I had ever met. It got to the point where Thursday became my favourite day of the week. But starting my last year in middle school, all my friends that went to the musical school with me, moved on to something else. The teacher moved on to bigger things and when I went into acting class, the whole atmosphere was different. I decided to take a break from acting.

Luckily, that break didn`t last that long. I started my first year of high school. And in Norway we have a fantastic tradition called “Revy”, Which is every school in Norway set up an hour and a half long, sketch comedy show. All the schools compete against other schools from the city to win best revy. The winner gets to perform in the National Theatre in Oslo. I found out about the audition for my school the day of. Some people managed to convince me to try out, even if I had not planned anything. I signed up and for 20 minutes, I created a Gollum scene where he talks to himself about how terrifying auditions are. Gollum was the only person I knew how to make the voice. After which they asked me to do an improv scene about a man that is at a job interview for a pet store, but he is sexually attracted to animals. Maybe a little grotesque humor, but very Scandinavian humor. Out of the 25 people that tried out, I was one of the seven actors that made the cut. For three months, the seven actors and three directors, that were acting students at another school, put up a whole show. The plot was that animals are just as smart as humans, and now they were tired of humans ruining everything. So, they come out and tell the humans to treat nature better, which sets up the nuclear apocalypse, and the only creatures left are the cockroaches, who sits at a bar and tells stories of the war, the time before and the flaws of humans that made this crisis happen. Once again, my love for comedy was ignited and burned stronger than ever. We did not win “Best revy” but we got to perform one of the sketches in another big theatre.

I knew I wanted to sign up for this again, but my dad got a job in New York and the whole family moved. My time in New York was difficult. I did not make many friends, my way of talking and joking was looked down on and the classes was very difficult. I already struggled with math and science, and now I had to do it in my second language. I felt disconnected, bad, and I never got to feel a good sense of accomplishment that you need to make your confidence grow. But there was a sliver of sunlight during my abroad year. The school set up a musical. Shrek the Musical. I played Pinocchio. Now I felt right back at it. I was on stage again. All those times, I stepped on stage and could feel the energy of the stage take place in my feet and rise through my body was back. When the musical was over, I got nominated for “Best comedic performance” by the Metro awards. I did not win, but that feeling of accomplishment was back.

I was back in Norway for my last year of high school. Once again, I was part of the Revy. This time it was about a mental hospital, where the inmates wanted to put up their own show and share the stories of mental illness. Very Meta and very funny. But that year felt different. I don’t know if it was because my own mental illness was flawed, seasonal depression, that I didn`t work well with other people in my cast or a mix of them all. But I felt down throughout that last revy. We put on a memorable show to all that came to see, but I knew that I was feeling my normal self.

To get out of my normal way of life I moved away from Oslo and my family to a school in another city. I studied journalism because I always liked talking politics, history and I got influenced by my dad. During this year of school, I found out two things. I did not want to study journalism. It was fun, but not perfect. And I rediscovered my love of acting. The school had a program that every class would put up one show for the rest of the school. My class made a show that one of the teachers had been murdered and now a detective walked through the school looking for clues. Once again, my favourite part of a school year was the tiny spec of acting I got to do.

When that year was over I started working in a kindergarten to save up money till I found out what I wanted to start studying. I guess I was blind to the signs. On my way home from work, I listened to “Time” by Pink Floyd. And one sentence really sparked something in me. “Kicking around all the pieces of ground in your hometown, waiting for someone or something to show you the way” I was still in Oslo, still living at home to save money and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I realized that it was up to me to take the first step alone. I looked through the internet for what I wanted to study. I then came across “The American Academy of Dramatic Arts”. I thought I had nothing to lose to try out. I filled in the questions, I got my references and I audition in Oslo for the school. Then I waited. Then I waited even longer until my dad said: “Sorry Jacob, I don’t think you’re in”. I didn`t think so either. So, I went to my normal life.

At a party, I talked to some people I haven’t talked to since middle school. They asked me what I been up to. I said that I applied for a school in LA, but my chances were slim. I then realized that I hadn’t checked my email today. I logged in and saw an email from AADA with the thumbline: Congratulations! I got so distracted that even the girls in the room didn`t get my attention. I knew that finally I will try and do something I had always loved, but always just kept as a hobby. I packed my bags and flew to LA.

This school was everything I hoped it would be. I became a better actor, I got out of normal routine, I dared myself to do something I never would do and I grew as an independent person. The most fun I’ve had in LA so far was when I challenged myself to write and perform a stand-up act for one of my classes. My teacher told me: “I have a rule in my class. If you perform a stand-up, you have to go to an open mic within the week, or I fail you”. My routine was rough and I had no training, but when I got the first laugh at the open mic, I relaxed. I felt the energy of the stage again. It was an angel choir and bright lights. I was happy. It took some years, but now, in LA, training in acting and performing stand-up I could say that I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I graduated from school in May 2019. After which I have been going to auditions, writing and performing. Even if I am broke I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I am doing what I love to do.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not, but I don`t think it’s supposed to be a smooth road. Acting and comedy come from experience. You need ups and downs in order to create the person you are, find your signature and find a technique that works for you. If anyone had a smooth road in this crazy business we call the show, I do pity you. The road is long and exhausting, but enjoying the travel is half the fun. It has not gone to the extreme where I am forced to live in a car or change my diet to ramen only for a month to survive. Since I am still fresh in the industry, the biggest challenge I face is to keep my head cold and optimism high. I have traveled four hours in public transport in one day to hit three auditions only to hear “we want someone slimmer” or to hear nothing at all. Since I kept being rejected for the parts I want and keep getting auditions to non-paid parts that fall through, I decided: “screw it, I’ll write my own parts”.

I wrote a couple of short films and I also wrote a test pilot, named: Cut to Black. That I shot with my Scottish and British friend. Then the challenge becomes to find a crew, only to have half of them show up, finding extras, only to have half show up and some not taking directions. To then go into editing to find out the camera operator used 60 fps for some shots and 30 fps for others. To have shots being out of focus, so you want to reshoot, to then find out your European friends went bankrupt and have them move back to Europe. To realize it is expensive to chase the goal of life within show business so you downgrade a bed in a bedroom to a couch in a living room to save money. Then it is the whole battle in your head. “Are you good enough?” “Your friends are better than you”. “You couldn’t get a part to save your life”. “You are worthless, you will never make it, did you fly across the Atlantic to get a part-time job? You should just quit right now and look at yourself and what you are worth. Which is a cashier job at best!” You know, normal head struggles. Since I also do stand-up comedy, I have bombed plenty of times. Standing in front of fifty strangers, only to have them judge you and not laugh at something you want to laugh at is really a feeling people should experience. It really fixes your nerves and your ego. But these struggles are part of it. Like I said in my previous question. It is fun and I am happy to struggle.

What else should we know?
My business is me. What I specialize in is Scandinavian humor. Which is dark, morbid, tough, sarcastic and sometimes, straight-up evil. My proudest moment would have to be when my friend took me along to Flappers Comedy Club to audition for spots. I got it and I performed there about once-twice a month. When I am done editing my test-pilot, I guess that would fall under my most proud achievements thus far. Something I am proud of every day is my ability to take all these disgusting thoughts about myself and create it into something. When bad or difficult things happen, instead of going to a shrink, I suck it up, make it stand-up or into a script and I perform it. I know that doesn’t set me apart as many use the same technique, but there are some that break from it. That will never be me. Comedy is horrible things happening to someone that isn’t you that never gives up. The more hell I face, the more I can create.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I have always considered myself a lucky person. I was lucky to have parents that signed me up for acting classes when I was too young to even understand that I wanted it. I was lucky that my mom had a midlife crisis and moved the family to New Zealand for a year. New Zealand is the year I grew most confident in myself. I was unlucky when I didn`t have the right grades from middle school to apply for my most wanted high school. But that turned into luck as I started a school I never even though about, where I got to be in two revy`s and scored the lead in the theatre production the school put up at the end of the year. It was unlucky that my year in New York turned such a bad year for me, but in that, it was lucky that I found a stage there and got to perform my heart out. It was unlucky that I applied for a journalism program, but it didn`t connect with me, at the same time, it was lucky that I once again rediscovered my passion for performing. Throughout all unlucky and lucky things that has happened to me, led me to where I am now. I don’t believe that there is a plan in the works. That there is a purpose for everything. I believe that you pick some roads to travel and it is up to you to make the best of that. My luck has taught me to go with the flow of things and just keeping finding out things about yourself and work hard. I am lucky to have this opportunity to be here. Now, I need to work hard to make my luck keep coming.

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the headshot credit: www.photosbybvb.com

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