America’s Got Talent has brought us so many amazing acts over the past 13 seasons, including such memorable performers as the endearing ventriloquist Terry Fator, who took Vegas by storm after winning season two to amazing illusionist Shin Lim, who took the AGT crown this past summer. Even though they may have eluded victory, acts like comedians Preacher Lawson and Tom Cotter and the unique talents of Puddles Pity Party, Piff the Magic Dragon and Tape Face have left a lasting impression on viewers both in the US and around the world. Of course, no one embodies what we love about America’s Got Talent like “international superstar, sex symbol, accordionist, home wrecker, Madonna fan”, the incomparable Hans.
Once Hans, the creation of Australian journalist Matt Gilbertson, stepped on stage and performed a rousing rendition of the Tina Turner classic, “Proud Mary”, the world knew that an international superstar was born. Even though he didn’t win the season, he won our hearts. Hans went on to perform in the AGT show in Las Vegas last month and traveled through the southern US to promote auditions for season 14 of AGT. Hans took time out of his busy, globetrotting schedule to chat with us about his humble beginnings and how he became Berlin’s beloved boy wonder.
Socialite Life: Can you tell me a little about your background? Did you have formal dance/acting/music training?
Hans: I went to dance class (tap and jazz) growing up and studied piano. The high school I went to was a special music school – I actually studied classical piano all the way through school and then went to the Elder Conservatorium at the Adelaide University, with the plan of becoming a music teacher. BUT… early on in university, I discovered the piano accordion and that sort of took over.
SL: What was the inspiration for Hans?
Hans: So, there is about a six-month gap between finishing school and starting university in Australia and I was looking for a project over that time. My piano teacher at the time was moving house and had all these accordions she wanted to get rid of. Her husband had taught accordion in the 1970s. I bought my first accordion from her and just taught myself accordion by street performing in the outdoor shopping malls during the Christmas holidays of that year.
One night, I was playing accordion at a market and met a woman named Catherine Campbell who spotted me and invited me to a show called Berlin Cabaret.
So, every year in the city I live, we have the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It’s the second largest Fringe in the world and see 1500 shows of all different types come to town for a month-long festival. Berlin Cabaret was a show that was mounted for the Fringe, but became so successful that they kept it going every Friday night. It was a 1920-30s Weimar cabaret type of show, a bit like the Kit Kat club in the film Cabaret. All the actors had German characters and there were little tables with candles and the show kind of happened on and off the stage.
At first, my role in Berlin Cabaret was just wandering between the tables during the interval of the show, and then over time we had a director come in and he said, “You should do something that’s not quite drag, but a little outrageous” and it kind of went from there.
My first Hans costume was really just some hot pants and fishnets with a white shirt and a vest along with a hat and make-up. But over time, more glitter was added, some feathers and eventually Hans became what he is today… A monster! Haha!
SL: How did you make the transition from working as a journalist to becoming a beloved international superstar?
Hans: Well I am still working as a journalist, so it’s not a full transition. But after Berlin Cabaret, I kept doing the Hans character at bars, events and comedy clubs. Eventually, I landed a job at Nova 919 radio station doing celebrity gossip for the breakfast show as Hans. This meant I got a bit more of a following and I could start staging my own shows with a band and dancers etc.
SL: How did you get involved with America’s Got Talent?
Hans: I was familiar with some of the previous acts who had gone on the show through the Fringe scene. People like Piff, Tape Face and Puddles had already made a name for themselves in festivals and then ended up on the show. But I never really thought I would be able to do something like AGT.
I was actually contacted by someone in casting for the show and at first, I thought “What is this?”, but after I spoke with them, I understood that, while it is still a competition, really AGT is a variety show and I worked out in my mind where I would fit in the mix of singers and circus acts etc.
I still had to go through the audition process like anyone would who was submitting a video audition, but I think the thing that got me across the line and onto the show was that I could show off my banter as Hans and the producers could see that I would be able to interact well with the judges. That and there was a REAL gap in the market for a German tap dancing, accordionist…haha.
SL: What was the best part of your AGT experience?
Hans: It sounds cheesy, but really it was meeting so many fabulous people who I am now good friends with. Not just the other contestants who were all so talented and great to spend time with, the people who work on the show are such great people and they all work LONG hours. They looked after us all so well on AGT.
SL: Were you at all surprised how America embraced you?
Hans: Hahaha… Well… I’m not sure if ALL of America did, but I am very lucky that so many people enjoyed what I did and laughed along with me. Also, I was surprised at how many countries all over the world show AGT. I heard from people in the UK, Brazil, across Europe, Asia, even the Middle East.
SL: How do American and Australian audiences differ?
Hans: The sense of humor is a little different, Australians tend to be much more sarcastic, so I was a little worried that the comedy wouldn’t read as well in America. Also, there’s more a culture of character comedians in Australia and the UK (people like Dame Edna, Lilly Savage, Bob Downe), so there were a few people who just assumed that Hans was a real person and “Why didn’t he understand Heidi when she spoke German?”, rather than knowing that Hans is obviously a fake German, that’s part of the gag. But overall, I think the people who did get it, really got it.
SL: You traveled throughout the southern states of America promoting the AGT auditions. Do you have any interesting stories from that experience?
Hans: WELL! We went to DOLLYWOOD which was fabulous!! But also it was great to see parts of America that I hadn’t been to and probably wouldn’t have experienced if it weren’t for AGT.
SL: Who has been the coolest person you’ve met since you’ve become an international superstar?
Hans: Oh my gosh!! SO many!!! Obviously being an original Spice Boy, performing “Spice Up Your Life” for Mel B was a highlight. But I have to say as far as people I met through the show, I have a soft spot for Tyra Banks. I think she gets a bad rap online from a lot of people that I don’t really understand. She works really hard, she’s at every rehearsal, she’s there for a long time and she was really lovely to me.
SL: Why weren’t you chosen as the opener for the Spice Girls’ tour?
Hans: Not chosen YET is what I think you meant to say?!?!
SL: Who would you love to perform with?
Hans: Well… Spice Girls haha! Also, KYLIE MINOGUE!!!
SL: What is your favorite song that you perform?
Hans: This is a Sophie’s Choice question. I change my show up all the time, so my favorite song is always changing. I will say though, that I do love “Proud Mary”.
SL: What can audiences expect if they come to see your live show?
Hans: Haha…. Well, my live show is a LITTLE more grown-up than what you saw on AGT. There are a couple of swear words here and there, but really nothing too outrageous. People have brought their children to my show in the past, I think a lot of the comedy goes over kids’ heads and they just like the costumes and the dancing and everything. But I would say, my show is really just a good time. There’s WAY too much drama going on in the world these days and, while I think it’s obviously important to acknowledge that, I also think it’s equally important to escape it all sometimes. ALSO, I usually do my live show with a live band which is always great fun.
SL: What’s next for you?
Hans: I’m going back to the UK in Jan and then I have shows in Australia in February and March. But the good news is… I am coming back to the US in April! I have some shows booked in now and hopefully booking more in soon and hope to announce them ASAP!
SL: Do you have a message for your fans?
Hans: Oh my gosh! Just thank you to everyone who sent messages while I was on the show and since and I can’t wait to finally meet everyone at a show! XOXO
As you can see, Hans puts the “star” in “international superstar”! If you can’t get enough, and really, who could? Keep up with all things Hans (including those tour dates) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and at hansofficial.com.