Comedy writer highlight: Hedi Sandberg
Updated: Jul 26
Hedi Sandberg (Vimeo here; Instagram here; Facebook here) is a DC-based comic (host, guest/feature/headliner), tall lady, and assistant to a millionaire. She has performed over the East coast and LA and multiple festivals and competitions (and winning some of the latter), and was formerly Director of LIT Standup. She has three local shows in the next month.
Below, we made her answer five short questions.
Do you like hosting, headlining, or just participating in a show?
I'd say my strength in comedy is hosting, and I love it. I just had my first headlining gig in January 2022 (30 + minutes). I absolutely loved it and was really proud of myself. Now the next goal is a 45 minute set.
I love any spot (host, guest, feature, headliner etc.) that allows me to perform, because at this point I can do them all. With that being said, I think hosting is fun because you typically do 7-10 minutes at the top, but it's a really great opportunity to practice your crowd work, which is what all comedians will have to do at some point. Crowd work is talking with the audience, getting a couple names, making them your friends, and really making them excited to be there and feel like they are part of the show. Hosts have the responsibility of keeping the show on track. If the comedian on stage is bombing once they are off it is now your responsibitly to reset the vibe of the show. Whether that means you do 3 minutes of material, or you are chatting up the audience. You really have to know how to read the room.
I've done sets (whether I'm hosting or featuring) where I'm prepared with material, and I switch it up last minute because I can tell this audience/ this show is more of a crowd work room. It doesn't always happen, but as you practice more you will feel confident that you can carry a show either with material only, with your crowd work only, or when everything is perfect, a mix of your best material and crowd work.
How do you measure your comedy success? Do you set goals for yourself?
Success is different for every comedian. I can't stand it when people tell me to "move to New York" or "move to LA." I have no desire to do that.
Success to me would be making a living off comedy alone, no more day job as an assistant. I would like to work on the road for a while as a feature. However, the trajectory is typically host first, do well, impress the producers (keep in mind you never know who is at a show whom you may also want to impress) and potentially be moved up to feature status. Of course, if multiple comedy clubs asked me to host a weekend, I would say yes. (In fact, as of writing these answers I was just asked to host a weekend at The Sandman Comedy Club in Richmond, VA,which I am thrilled about!)
I don't set goals for myself per se. I love festivals so I apply to a good amount (I don't count, it all depends on distance and vacation days) a year, knowing I won't be accepted to all of them. But I love festivals and really encourage all comedians to do festivals because: 1) It's prestigious. Not everyone is accepted to festivals, if you get accepted, good for you, not only is it a credit you get to use, but you are indeed funnier than other people. 2) Networking! You are meeting people from all over the states (or internationally if you're lucky). For example, when you go to Tucson for a weekend you can hit up one of the comedians you met and ask if they can put you on a show or put you in touch with someone who can. It's all about expanding your horizons. Don't ever stay in your little DC bubble. You never know who you are going to meet and what it could lead to.
Festivals are also a good way to see how your comedy translates to other audiences. People in Ohio do not care about the craziness of the metro. If you are a super progressive comedian your comedy may not land in more conservative areas and vice versa. Can you adapt to an audience? The point is to make people laugh no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, laughter is for everyone to share.
My overall goal is to get booked in different states in different venues. I really want to make a name for myself.
There are now 25 hours in a day! How do you spend your extra hour?
Omg I wish. If I had an extra hour, I'd spend it working out. Seriously, I'm always so tired after my day job that sometimes I just need to nap before I go out to my shows. And I know I need to listen to my body when it says "yo bitch, we are tired. We don't want to do burpees." So if I could nap and workout, that would be most ideal.
How did you come up with your best joke?
All my jokes are based on my life. A fair amount of jokes I have are about my height, I'm 6'2". My height is one of my best assets. It's also helpful in comedy because even if you forget my name you will remember me as "the tall funny girl."
I've had many comments about my height, and a lot of the comments make it into my sets (always be careful what you say to a comedian). One time, I was outside of a bar and this guy came up to me, looked me up and down and said "you look like Kevin Durant." I was so stunned at the time. But over the years, I've perfected it and it's one of the best ways to close out my sets.
Describe your comedy writing process.
Usually when I have an idea in my head I kind of do the set in my head of how I think I want it to sound. Then, I actually put pen to paper. I'm old school, I have to write everything down; I think I'm on my 10th or 11th joke notebook by now.
As I'm writing the premise, sometimes my brain starts going in a different direction than I had intended, which is not a bad thing - it's just the process. Then I rewrite it about 3 times. I write my sets out in full to help memorize. Then once I feel like I know it well enough, I will go to an open mic and practice it out loud.
Whilst at the open mic, the set will likely be adjusted because, off the cuff, or while doing crowd work ; ) I'll say something and it will make the joke so much better, so I do another rewrite to perfect it. I voice record all my sets to listen back as well.
Once I feel confident, I incorporate the new material into different sets. I would never do something new at a paid show. Tried and true material is for paid gigs - open mics are how you learn what does and does not work.
Photography: Theresa Concepcion (first photo)