This past Tuesday Comedy Central Records released “Touche”, the debut album from comedian Ryan Stout. Aside from having an awesome first name, Ryan’s done plenty of television work for Viacom that’s had him doing everything from performing live comedy to hosting dating game shows. This year his standup special was voted in the top ten of the year by the viewers of Comedy Central, landing him high critical praise within the industry. And if that weren’t enough, he’s also this week’s guest in 5 Questions.
FOH: Could you tell us a little bit about your new record?
RS: Well, it’s fantastic– Is that enough? It was recorded live at Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis, MN, engineered by Grammy Award winning producer, Dan Schlissel, and released on Comedy Central Records. More? In recent years, some comedians have recorded albums in small rooms packed full of their family, friends, and friends of friends. Of course, those audiences laugh and clap oh-so-hard for their buddy on stage. And people who hear the record don’t know the difference. But, I think that seems a little cheap. My album was recorded in front of an audience full of strangers who, for the most part, had never heard me tell a joke and had no reason to trust that I am funny. And, you know what? I made them double-over with laughter anyway. Because that’s my job. So, even if you don’t know me, chances are, you will still like my work. Don’t believe me? Buy the album.
FOH: You mention in your bio that you don’t like to use swear words in your act, but you still like to explore dark subject matter nonetheless. What is your reasoning for that?
RS: Whenever you mention rape, or abortion, or suicide in a comedy context, there are always people who say, “That’s not funny; you can’t joke about that.” Those people are speaking emotionally, not intellectually. Because, intellectually, yes, yes I can joke about that stuff. The fact that I don’t use any superfluous profanity is a way to enforce that I have given great thought to these subjects– I have carefully crafted and structured my whole act, word for word– and any jokes that arise are not simply for easy shock value. Some people think I’m offensive. I have never had any intention to offend anyone, but, if people aren’t going to listen closely and mentally process the material, then, yeah, I can understand why they describe my show as “edgy” or “mean” or “politically incorrect.” But, the people who have the ability to separate their thoughts from their emotions are the first to describe my show as “complex” or “smart” or “sophisticated.” The truth is, there is one brief moment on the album when I use some profanity, but I earn it. I really earn it. Don’t believe me? Buy the album.
FOH: I read an interview with you where you had an assignment to write a suicide note and you said “I just turned in one of my old ones”. Have you ever had somebody stand up and say “That’s not cool, I had a relative who committed suicide” or something similar to that, and then actually felt bad that you went there?
RS: I have a bit about how people should support the International Special Olympics. You can actually see the bit on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skcLPNqBXzg ). The heart of the piece is that I have a positive message, but I use poor word choices to push that message. In general, I’m making myself look like a fool. But, people complain about this bit often because they refuse to look at the context of the joke, they get emotional, and they only see the joke on a superficial level — Overall, they think I’m just taking cheap shots at mentally handicapped people. Well, one time I was doing the Special Olympics bit and a guy in the crowd, seven feet tall, 350lbs, stands up and interrupts me, booming, “THAT’S NOT FUNNY! I’M RETARDED!” Then, he stormed out. Turns out, he was “joking.” He wasn’t really “retarded.” But, the audience didn’t know that, so things just got really strange and awkward. No big deal, though. I just moved on to the next joke. It’s amazing how an audience will stay with you as long as you remain confident. Meanwhile, this guy is in the lobby of the club trying to explain to the bouncers that he was just messing around. They asked him to leave. Going back to your example, though, if I were telling my joke about writing a suicide note, and someone interrupted me about their “relative who committed suicide,” I would not feel bad; I would be pissed that this person is yelling out during my show. First of all, did their relative leave a note? My joke is about a note. My joke is not about their relative. I don’t even know this person or their relative. Why are they heckling me? Why would they have the ego to think that my joke is somehow about them? The rule is: It’s my show. Chances are, my name is on the marquee outside the show. Technically, everyone in attendance is there to see me, whether they accept that fact or not. So, anyone who yells out during my show, or takes my jokes personally, is 100% in the wrong. Because it’s not about them, it’s about me.
FOH: You were on Conan O’Brien for the first time last year, were you ready for that or were you scared to death?
RS: Was I ready? I could’ve done that set in 2006. But, it took me until 2011 because of all the TV politics involved– Getting the right people to “approve” things; waiting for some TV person do decide “the right time.” And there was one other hurdle: Conan kept changing shows! I always wanted to do my first late-night set on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien. But, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get on the show. Then, it was announced that Conan was taking over The Tonight Show. I thought, “Great! I’d love to make my debut on Conan’s Tonight Show.” And, then, Conan walked away from The Tonight Show and it was a few months before he had the show on TBS. Once that was settled, I started pushing to get on and, eventually, made it happen. So, no, I wasn’t scared. More like relieved that it was finally happening. Sadly, I was even more relieved than I was excited.
FOH: Favorite comic you’ve ever worked with?
RS: Bob Saget. Hands down, no question about it. Bob and I started working together in 2006 and I’ve had the pleasure of performing with him more than a few times. He’s taken me with him all around the country and given me the opportunity to do comedy in some of the most beautiful theaters the nation has to offer. Beyond that generosity, he’s so kind and accommodating to everyone I’ve seen him come into contact with– He shakes hands, takes pictures with fans, and is polite to anyone who is polite with him. He’s really taught me a lot of solid lessons about show business and life, in general. Plus, that non-stop-stream-of-conscience-Bob-Saget-style-comedy is no act; he’s the same off-stage as he is on. Just a great guy to be around and always a fun time.
FOH: What’s next for Ryan Stout in the twelve months that follow?
RS: I shot a new pilot for CBS Syndicated called “8 on a Date.” I’m the host of the program. It’s a dating show in the vein of “Blind Date” and “The 5th Wheel,” if you remember those. We’ll find out if the show gets picked up around February. If it does get green-lit, I will be in Los Angeles, shooting episodes of that for six months. And you’ll see me on your television set at random hours, every… single… day. If it does not get picked up, I’ll be fully embracing alcoholism. Well, maybe not fully… I’ve got some other possible television hosting opportunities that could end up turning into actual jobs and, as always, I’ll continue touring comedy clubs and theaters.
However, if I sell enough albums, if I can manage to stay on the iTunes charts, that might make some important people take notice… And, then, who knows what might happen? So, technically by purchasing my record, people will be forcing me to embrace the unknown. Don’t believe me? Buy the album.
Ryan’s Official Website: www.ryanstout.com
Ryan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/StoutRyan
Ryan on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RyanStoutFanPage
Official Link to Ryan’s New Album on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/touche/id482477029
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