Andrew Horneman: Leaning into Awkwardness

February 20, 2020

Photo Credit

Carlos J Matos


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


If you could record the sound of my anx­i­ety and its inner mono­logue, after a 12 hour IV of triple espres­so, I think you’d get a pret­ty close approx­i­ma­tion of the ener­gy Andrew Horne­man exudes when he hits the stage. Pop over to YouTube and check out his Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin 2016 entry for a sec­ond; we’ll wait. It’s impos­si­ble not to use a cliché term like infec­tious”, as that’s exact­ly what it can be, and his gre­gar­i­ous and relat­able per­son­al­i­ty has led to open­ing for big names like Myq Kaplan, Jen Kirk­man, and Natasha Leggero. 

On stage, Horne­man quick­ly turns that fever­ish momen­tum into a rau­cous set, imme­di­ate­ly high­light­ing the con­tra­dic­tion between how ner­vous he claims to be and the con­fi­dence with which he deliv­ers his mate­r­i­al. There’s also a boun­ty of ges­tic­u­la­tion, some­thing he sup­pos­es has roots in his some­what unortho­dox school­ing. The Ari­zona native found him­self at one point doing a live-in res­i­den­cy at the Ari­zona School for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB), as a result of choos­ing sign lan­guage as a major. I got into sign lan­guage because I had a speech imped­i­ment, as a gay man does,” he jokes, while advis­ing, don’t do a prac­ti­cal major, it’s dumb!”. 

Liv­ing in a trail­er” at the ASDB while work­ing the res­i­den­cy (as a means of repay­ing his school bills) proved less than ful­fill­ing, and Horne­man found him­self look­ing for engag­ing out­lets for his time and cre­ativ­i­ty. Tuc­son has a fair­ly vibrant com­e­dy scene, so he start­ed try­ing his hand at open mics as a way to get out, and get things out. 

Horne­man grew up being influ­enced by the comedic works of George Car­lin, Kathy Grif­fin, and Mar­garet Cho, though it was a Wan­da Sykes spe­cial that real­ly start­ed to open his eyes to the breadth of the medi­um. That was the first com­e­dy spe­cial I saw that I felt con­nect­ed to. Before, I felt like it was just angry old men talk­ing about traf­fic.” He start­ed con­nect­ing the dots between the joy he’d felt giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions, when he’d inevitably draw laughs from the audi­ence, to tak­ing that to the stage. 

I believe you should have a connection with the audience
Andrew Horneman

That didn’t mean it was a nat­ur­al fit for Horne­man out of the gate. Like the FPIA set I ref­er­enced, his anx­i­ety and stage fright aren’t an affec­ta­tion. He often doesn’t pre­pare heav­i­ly before a set, rely­ing on his pal­pa­ble ener­gy and spon­tane­ity to quick­ly build rap­port with the audi­ence. I believe you should have a con­nec­tion with the audi­ence,” he says, and enjoys cre­at­ing it with his per­son­al­i­ty, with the mate­r­i­al some­times sim­ply a fail­safe: Here are some dick jokes…to help you for­get about your life.” 

Since Horneman’s arrival in Austin on the eve of 2016, he’s been a fix­ture at open mics and shows, at one point hit­ting 14 open mics a week”. Despite all evi­dence to the con­trary, he at one point swears sur­prise at the notion of ener­gy being endem­ic to his per­for­mances. I feel like I’m low ener­gy!” he loud­ly pro­claims, and has only recent­ly con­scious­ly tried to work on ele­vat­ing it (and his skillset), includ­ing tak­ing improv class­es. I hit a wall,” he says, get­ting frus­trat­ed with the lim­it­ed num­ber of shows he was get­ting, despite per­form­ing almost con­stant­ly. A grab bag of odd jobs sus­tained him, includ­ing sell­ing win­dows door to door, then life insur­ance, and the peren­ni­al gig econ­o­my choice, ride-share dri­ving. He want­ed to get back to the fun” of com­e­dy, his explo­ration spawn­ing short-lived projects like a par­o­dy band called Muf­fin and Sons. (To my utter dis­may, no video exists of this online.) “[I need­ed to] find my own thing, make my own happiness…I was way too into standup and was burn­ing out.” 

An invi­ta­tion for a fea­tur­ing 20-minute set in St Louis, by way of the rec­om­men­da­tion of a friend (“they were look­ing for a gay com­ic,” jokes Horne­man), found him open­ing for Leg­gero. The expe­ri­ence came at the right time, re-ignit­ing his pas­sion after the neg­a­tive space” he’d been stuck in, and Leggero’s ded­i­ca­tion to writ­ing set his resolve to spend more time doing the same.

I love pushing the edge...‘Comics find a line. They know where it's at. They cross it and they make the audience happy that you did’.
Andrew Horneman, on inspiration from George Carlin

Horne­man feels his style today is def­i­nite­ly an evo­lu­tion, though built on lessons from some of his ear­ly idols. I love push­ing the edge…I def­i­nite­ly pre­scribed to George Car­lin when he said Comics find a line. They know where it’s at. They cross it and they make the audi­ence hap­py that you did’.” He def­i­nite­ly delights in find­ing that line”, and acknowl­edges that some­times he leaps rather than toes it. But to do oth­er­wise, he feels, would be both a cop-out and unfair to the audi­ence: If you don’t com­ment on the hard­ship of life…you get this flac­cid comedy.” 

Improv is still play­ing a huge role in his life – Horne­man says if you can afford it, take the class­es” – and he finds it ther­a­peu­tic”. In 2019 he co-host­ed the great, though short-lived, Com­e­dy Sell­ers, with Colton Dowl­ing. He’s book­ing more gigs, and find­ing his foot­ing (via anoth­er Yes, and…” les­son from improv) being more proac­tive about dri­ving his career, instead of assum­ing that get­ting good enough” will auto­mat­i­cal­ly open doors for new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Part of that explo­ration also means lean­ing into the awk­ward­ness” of his bound­ary-push­ing style. I think some peo­ple want a true con­nec­tion,” he says, and he wants to per­fect “[going] into the stuff that peo­ple don’t want to talk about”, and “[doing] the jokes that peo­ple don’t want to do.” 

For those that can pull off this kind of tightwire act, the rewards – for both per­former and audi­ence – are plen­ty. For Andrew Horne­man, his open and endear­ing demeanor, and his renewed ded­i­ca­tion, just might be the key. 

Andrew can be seen:

  • Mis­fits Com­e­dy Show — Feb­ru­ary 24, 8:30pm @ Bak­er Street Pub & Grill
  • Stark Raven Com­e­dy Show­case — March 5, 8:30pm @ Adel­berts Brewery
  • Com­e­dy Night at Hal­cy­on Mueller — March 6, 8:30pm @ Hal­cy­on Mueller

Fol­low Andrew Horneman

Andrew Horneman