Ryne Thorson shares his experiences about life as a stand-up comic, inspiration, dealing with hecklers, career aspirations, and his latest project — The Talk Ramen Podcast.
I was born in Morris, Illinois, but moved to Chatham, Illinois, after my parents decided that they despised each other. After high school, I enrolled at Western Illinois University and majored in broadcasting.
Once I realized that I was too nonathletic and white and professional sports were out of the picture, I thought I would do the next best thing and try my hand at sports radio.
I was doing a radio internship in St. Louis and I wanted to build my resume so I started doing comedy, and the more I did it, the more I realized that stand up was what I wanted to do with my life.
What drew you to stand up?
When I was growing up, I was a chubby, socially awkward loser. So when I was in school, my Friday nights consisted of watching Friday Night Fights on ESPN followed by watching Friday Night Stand Up on Comedy Central from like 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
I remember when I was 12, Jim Breuer Hardcore came out and I recorded it on VHS and watched it everyday after school.
That was the first stand up special where I thought “wow, he has an incredible look on life,” so I decided that I was going to lose weight and start talking to people.
Comedy helped me break out of my shell.
What was your first Stand-Up experience?
My first stand up experience was at Donnie B’s Funny Bone in Springfield, Illinois. I am not sure how well I did because I brought around 30 people.
Basically I performed 5 minutes in front of a bunch of friends.
I also drank all the alcohol in the world before I went up because everyone decided that they needed to buy me a drink BEFORE my performance.
The good news is people laughed and the owner said I was funny. The bad news is, I bombed for about a year after, so beginners luck I suppose.
What are some difficulties you’ve faced as a Stand-Up?
The biggest difficulty I faced was learning how to be comedian funny. Anyone can make their friends laugh or tell a story, but it took me a LONG time to realize how to tell a joke on stage. It sounds crazy, but there is a formula to stand up comedy.
Most people don’t care about your family no matter how “wacky” your Aunt Karen is, so you can’t have a long build up with no payoff at the end of your story.
You will also have to deal with miserable crowds once in a while. You would think that people going to a comedy show would go there to laugh, but that’s not always the case.
Whether the last comic finished his set on “the misunderstandings of John Wayne Gacy” or if the crowd is just a miserable mess, it’s still your job to get them out of whatever funk they are in.
Have you ever tried to cheer up a friend, but not matter what you do they won’t stop being upset? It’s a lot like that, except it’s a stranger, and there is more than one, and they paid money to you to make them feel better.
So buckle up.
Comfortable On Stage
I don’t know if people ever become comfortable on stage, I believe you stop looking at yourself someone who does comedy, and you start seeing yourself as a comedian.
If I’m performing at an open mic, I’m there to work.
I’m trying new jokes or fixing up some classics. So if people laugh, great! I’m getting somewhere. But if my joke falls flat, it’s time to change it up.
Young comedians worry too much about “killing it” or “bombing,” instead they need to become selfish and work on their craft. I’ve seen some comedians who were naturals and kill it every time they hit the stage. I was the opposite.
I spent a year before I even noticed much progression.
It’s a lot like coming from an upper class or a lower class home. In comedy, I came from the bottom so I know how to deal with a crowd that doesn’t want to laugh, hecklers, and I can rebound and learn what went wrong; but on the opposite side, I’ve seen very funny grown men cry over a bad set like a baby who wants his bottle.
A lot of people believe that stand up comedians make a whole lot of money, which is not true. Until you are a traveling comedian with gigs every weekend, you will be working a full time job just like anybody else.
My family asks me how much money I make, and it’s embarrassing to say “well I did a show last night and made $25.” But it’s the truth! You will not make money until you have been doing comedy and working your craft for a long time.
Another misconception is that stand up comedians will happily tell you a joke when you ask.
If you want to make a quick enemy with a stand up comedian say, “well tell me a joke, funny guy.”
There is a difference between street comedy and something that you will tell on a stage. Trust me. It’s not the best way to start a conversation.
Comics with the most influence
Patrice O’Neal was hands down the most influential person in my life. Not just in comedy. The man is the funniest person who ever lived because he had the ability to take any topic and not only make it funny and entertaining, but he would use logic and analogies to make you see things in his world.
He wasn’t in the comedy game to make money or for the fame, he was in the game for his voice to be heard.
I believe that in comedy there will be a crossroad where you will have to choose to give up your voice and point of view for fame and fortune or keep your beliefs and sentiments, but never make the big money and TV gigs.
Patrice called himself a professional bridge burner because he refused to kiss anyone’s ass, and if you were out of line, he would let you know. If you watch his special “Elephant In The Room,” it doesn’t ever look like a comedy set.
He has a 90 minute conversation with the crowd. But unfortunately he joined guys like Greg Giraldo and Mitch Hedberg on the list of great comedians who passed away too soon, before they were given the credit that they deserve.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at a show?
I’ve seen drinks thrown, fights, women getting on stage and flashing the crowd, but the craziest thing that ever happened to me personally was when I was on stage at a bar show in Avondale, Arizona.
I’m the feature act, so the show is like an hour in, and during my set, I offended a woman by saying the word “erection.” Erection is what a 6th grade health teacher would call a penis, so the fact that she was offended by that is hilarious in itself.
Anyways she starts heckling me, I asked her to be quiet, but when I would start a joke she would start yelling. Each time she would cut me off I would make fun of her, “forget fluoride, Avondale needs to dump plan B in this b****’s water supply.”
Eight minutes go by and I was over it. I got off stage, slapped $5 on her table and told her to get out. I get the entire 50 person crowd to start start singing “nah nah nah nah hey hey hey goodbye,” as she sat there sad.
The lesson I learned was: Know where you are performing because there was no security at this venue, so really I just gave a drunk woman $5 and then serenaded her for the rest of my set, and she enjoyed the rest of the show for free.
The way technology has grown over the years, I don’t think there is any way to succeed without the use of social media.
Social media has become the most popular way of advertising shows and connecting with other comedians and bookers.
I only have a handful of phone numbers because Facebook Messenger is much more common way of asking to be on a show, and a lot of bookers have started an electronic signup for shows.
Some people use social media to test out jokes, so if a joke gets a certain amount of “likes” or “favorites,” then they will use it in their act. I’m not a fan of that, because once it’s out in public, it’s almost not even yours anymore.
I’ll tweet out a lot of jokes about stuff going on in the news that will grow stale in a month or that I cannot use on stage once it’s out of the news.
If I go on stage and start with, “Hey how’s everybody’s computer? That Y2K bug was a real scare, am I right?” People will wonder how I got a gig in the first place.
Tell our readers about your new project — The Talk Ramen Podcast.
The Podcast is called Talk Ramen, and it’s a fun little side project I do with a couple other comedians in the area named Marc Silverstein and Greg Snide.
We quickly learned the hardest part about setting up a podcast is figuring out the name. We tossed around a couple ideas like: “People Talking,” “Crying Foul,” and other terrible depressingly bad names, but Greg thought of the name Talk Ramen and it stuck.
We talk about current news and things we see on a daily basis. We have had a few guests on including 2 strippers who filled us in on the lifestyle. I never knew that being a stripper is much more than taking off your clothes for money.
My goal right now is to become known as a featured act instead of an opener. It’s a lot tougher to make the jump than it sounds because it’s like a child tugging on a parent’s pant leg asking if they can stay up late this one time to prove themselves and hope that it becomes a regular thing.
Only instead of 1 child, there could be upwards of 300 tugging at the same pant leg so becoming noticed is not easy.
My overall goal is to not have to work a 9 to 5 job again.
I tried working in an office and I lasted through the 4 weeks of training pay and didn’t show up again. It made me physically ill to have some balding overweight 32 year old with coffee breath write me up for taking a 32 minute break instead of 30.
When I look around an office and see an army of automatons going through the everyday motions, I promised myself I would not end up this way.
Whatever you want to do, do it, don’t settle for ordinary.
Advice for those seeking a career as a Stand-Up?
If you want to pursue a career in stand up, then go out and try it a few times. Stand up is the most glorifying, yet demeaning thing you can do with your life, so be ready to fail. A LOT. Becoming a comedian is a long process. Like a baby crawling through a marathon, it could take you a while to notice any progression.
For me it took a year of bombing 3–4 times a week to find my voice, but it was worth every second.
When I first started, I was told that your first year should be spent practicing stage presence and finding your voice and the jokes will come, so remember that when you are driving home punching the roof of your car after a poor performance.
Where can our readers go to learn more about you and your projects?