.Hannah Berner at the San Jose Improv

The Comedian Prepares for a Netflix Release

Hannah Berner is having a 48-hour reprieve at her home in the lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. She’s catching a quick breath before heading back on the road, where she is headlining around the country, living in hotels and trying to get a decent meal. All the years of work and determination are in anticipation of recording her first Netflix comedy special in Philadelphia at the end of March. 

Berner has been working on her first Netflix special for six years. “It’s the same hour. I’ve just edited it a thousand times. The San Jose Improv shows are critical because they’re the last five club shows before I shoot the special. It’s the last chance for me to get my reps in,” says Berner. 

The young, vivacious and engaging Berner didn’t start off wanting to be a comedian. Luckily—for us—there are a thousand paths to end up onstage telling jokes to strangers. For Berner, it started with job dissatisfaction. “I was 25 and I hated my job,” says Berner. 

Originally wanting to become a sports broadcaster, Berner realized it would be unfulfilling and boring. So, like all good creatives, the multi-faceted millennial started diving deeper into her passions. “I was good at editing and I started making funny sketches online and Tweeting a lot,” says Berner.

Berner knew some NYC comics in the bustling East Coast scene who were very encouraging of her online endeavors. “The hilarious Emma Willmann reached out to me and told me that one of my tweets is a stand-up bit. Francis Ellis, who works at Barstool, was really supportive early on. We are both former athletes. I was a tennis player and he did lacrosse. He told me that a lot of athletes can be good at comedy because they have discipline. And athletes know how to deal with pressure. Stand-up pressure is more fun for me than sports pressure. In sports, if you mess up you’re a fucking loser, but in comedy you can fake it and tell people you were being creative and trying out new things,” Berner laughs. 

Based on the jokes she was writing for her online sketches, Berner was peer-pressured into trying stand-up. “I had never really thought about it too much. I was busy doing a podcast and reality TV. Then, a friend dared me to do 10 minutes of stand-up. Well, it’s not the way you’re supposed to do it, but the first time I did stand-up was 10 minutes in front of 300 people. It went well. People liked it,” says Berner. 

In the 21st Century, more people can see your sketches and comedy on social media platforms than on TV.  But there’s only one way to get better at stand-up comedy, and that is to do it as much as possible. “My comedy friends told me to go out every night and work on my material,” says Berner. 

What really stood out to Berner was the way she felt onstage. “Onstage, I felt calm. When I’m offstage my thoughts are always running. Onstage I have to be in the moment, listening to the audience and making sure they understand what I’m saying. I think, for me, comedy is therapeutic. It gets me off my phone. I enjoy making people laugh and, bonus, I make money doing it,” says Berner. 

Berner tried appearing on some reality TV shows, but nothing was really clicking. “I decided in 2022 that I was going to commit to posting three videos a day on TikTok. I saw people I knew blowing up and going viral. So I told myself, I’ll do three videos a day for six months. I started connecting with new people and it felt like I had my own TV show. On my own channel. Instagram was dead for me at that time. I felt like nobody was seeing my stuff. I’ve failed at a lot of stuff, but with TikTok the secret is you have to be consistent,” says Berner. 

If you watch any of Berner’s stand-up clips, or comic-on-the-street—TikTok or Instagrams—it’s obvious Berner has a genuine curiosity about people and she wants to raise people up rather than the hack comic method of tearing people down. 

“I do crowd work because I’m nosey. People tighten up if they sense you’re just using them for some joke. You have to speak to the crowd like they’re your friends. They’re people. too.

“I started doing crowd work because I was sick of my jokes,” continues Berner. “I like getting loose and challenging myself to see where the moment can go. The only tip I got from crowd work was that you just have to do it. It’s like throwing yourself into the deep end and seeing if you can get out.” 

This Netflix special could be the crossroads where Berner becomes a household name. “The best part of my career is I have done everything on my own terms,” she says. “And that’s what I plan on continuing.”


Hannah Berner

San Jose Improv, San Jose

March 14—16

$25—$85

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