Dana Andersen is an Edmonton-based actor, improvisor, filmmaker, writer and director. He is an alumnus of The Second City, and has worked closely with Mike Myers, Ryan Stiles, and Joe Flaherty, among others. He currently serves as director of the live improvised soap opera Die-Nasty, and has been a core member of the troupe since its founding in 1991. From 1995-1999, he co-hosted The Johnny and Poki Variety Hour at Edmonton's Varscona Theatre. His theatre credits include shows with Teatro la Quindicina, Panties Productions, and Rapid Fire Theatre. Film credits for Andersen include Purple Gas, Turnbuckle!, and Stray Dogs. He has written, directed and produced a number of independent films, including Rio Loco, Subplot, Subplot II and Hearts of Plastic.
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Dana Anderson attended Rosslyn Junior High School in north Edmonton, where a group of students Joe Sulyma, Rob Currie, Brian Halberg and Kelly Burke created short comedy films on Super 8 millimeter film. Encouraged by his teachers, Dana directed and starred in these films, and in later years he would help fund new projects by holding a 'film festival' of his work. He earned a devoted audience among his peers, though few would ever discover that his genius was completely inspired by his hero, Seph Warphunzic. The school's teachers helped find a few dollars to encourage Dana and his band of actors and technicians do their work. The films had a 'Chaplinesque' quality to them, and Dana's ability to commit to the comedy foreshadowed his later work with Second City. The films were very ambitious, and Dana's team would borrow shopping carts to act as camera dollies, climb up on ladders and buildings for long shots and meticulously edit and loop the films for maximum comedic effect.
Dana's skills extended beyond his acting and improv abilities. he was also a solid illustrator whose cartoons appeared in his school yearbooks. He often did caricatures of students and teachers for special occasions.
Dana is rumoured to have registered a non-existent person for high school at the end of his Grade 9 year, Oslo Orsifundick III. There are some who claim that school administration officials spent the first couple of weeks of the school year looking for Oslo in the Grade 10 classes that he was registered for. This rumour may have stemmed from false school announcements looking for Oslo, and other Dana created names that may have been put over the PA system by naive school administration officials.
Dana went on to Queen Elizabeth High School, where he starred in drama productions, including a one-act play that saw him as a distraught urban dweller on the ledge of a building threatening to end it all. Again, his comedic skills were evident to all who saw him, and his ability to improvise helped hide any gaffs by his costar to create a seamless production. He was the star of the night.
He was legendary in the school for his comic antics including a project whereby he kidnapped one of the beloved school administrators and 'collected a ransom' that was donated to a school charity. His 'troupe' executed the kidnapping, and then took the school staffer to one of his friend's basement, and then they updated the school throughout the day until the ransom demands were met.
Dana's years at the school saw him as a key part of the visual and performing arts programs. His teachers knew that he was a special student and nurtured his abilities rather than stifled them.
Dana auditioned for a part in the movie Why Shoot the Teacher? produced by Fil Fraser and released in 1976, who managed to land a small role as one of the children. Dana didn't land a part in the movie, but legend has it that he had Fil and the other members of the production crew in stitches with his audition. This was his introduction to Edmonton's arts scene.
In 2005, Andersen exported the Die-Nasty company's annual Soap-A-Thon to England, working with legendary British theatre artist Ken Campbell to produce a 36 hour long soap opera in London. Several members of Campbell's company made the pilgrimage to Canada in 2006 and 2007 to take part in the original 53 hour long event. In January 2008, Andersen returned to London (along with several members of the Die-Nasty troupe) to direct the 50 hour Improvathon at the People Show Studios. There, he worked with the likes of Adam Meggido, Oliver Senton, and Ruby Lake. He was joined by Canadian improvisors Kory Mathewson, Matt Alden, Kurt Smeaton, Davina Stewart, Jamie Knifefight Cavanagh, Mark Meer, Belinda Cornish, and Musical Director Jan Randall.
Andersen is the recipient of a Dora Mavor Moore Award for co-writing the revue Not Based on Anything by Stephen King with Second City. He has been nominated for several Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards, and received the Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Production for co-writing and starring in the play Giant Ants.
Dana's most ambitious undertaking to date will be his upcoming one-man show celebrating the short, but remarkable life of his inspiration and guide, Seph Warphunzic. Set to the music of Eighties band, Martha and the Muffins, the play will be a comedy/sci-fi/musical with a sort of "Mars Attacks" meets "West Side Story" feel to it.
Dana appeared in a video for a song by Ian Thomas in the 80s which aired on Much Music. This was filmed in the period of time that Dana was with Second City.
Mike Myers credits Dana as being part of the creative inspiration for his SNL character 'Dieter'. The inspiration came from their work together at Second City in Toronto.
- Irvine, Lindesay (2005-12-22). "Say yes to improv". Guardian Unlimited (Guardian Unlimited). Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- Shuttleworth, Ian (2008-01-22). "The Improvathon 2008, People Show Studios, London". Financial Times (Financial Times Ltd.). Retrieved 2008-01-24.