Just For Laughs: The Good, the Clean and the Nasty – In Conversation with Ryan Hamilton and Robert Kelly
Comedian Ryan Hamilton admits that coming from a small potato farming community in Idaho, he was exposed to the world of comedy rather late during his younger years. However, once he discovered the world of comedy reading Dave Barry’s humor columns, devouring Gary Larson’s “Fare Side” cartoon book collections, and watching David Letterman and “Evening at the Improv” on TV, he was automatically drawn to it.
“I thought a comedian was the best job in the world,” said Hamilton during a recent phone interview.
Hamilton’s road to that career in comedy continued when he was in high school, but it was through journalism, not the club circuit. He got a job writing a column of high school happenings for his hometown newspaper, which led to a job doing a regular high school report for the local TV affiliate’s newscast. “It was during that time that I started writing jokes regularly for the 10 p.m. news cast, which I found thrilling,” he added.
“I was endlessly fascinated with stand-up comedy, yet by the time I was at college (Brigham Young University-Idaho, to be exact), I still never been to a comedy club. Yet me and a few of my fellow broadcast journalism classmates starting doing a stand-up comedy show for the college’s radio station, and was continually writing jokes all the time,” he said.
After getting his degree in public relations at BYU, he got a job with an advertising/public relations firm. After he was laid off from that job, he decided to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian. “When I got laid off, I decided to do more comedy, and I gave myself a year – and then another year – to pursue it,” he said.
After performing in clubs in Salt Lake City, Seattle and Boston, Hamilton began to cultivate a following, especially for his sarcastic, self-deprecating style of observational comedy that has been praised for its rather clean approach. It began to pay off for Hamilton by winning several comedy competitions, performing on Comedy Central, being a two-time semi-finalist on NBC’s reality competition show “Last Comic Standing”, and appearances at several comedy festivals including Just For Laughs, where his comedy has earned him many enthusiastic responses from audiences.
This year, Hamilton returns to Just For Laughs for the eighth time, this time with a new solo show called “Ryan Hamilton: Edgy and Boundary-Pushing”, which will play at the Salle Claude-Leveille of Place des Arts from July 24 to 29 as part of the OFF-JFL Series. But will Hamilton begin to edge his stand-up comedy style towards more edgy material, as the show’s title suggests?
“Actually, I’m hoping that the show’s title will be more ironic in nature, and that it will all be a horrible mistake,” he said. “It all evolved from a joke I did in my act that dealt with hot air ballooning, which is quite a benign topic. Yet after the show, a couple came to me, and said they were genuinely offended, because they were passionate about hot air ballooning. They thought my joke misrepresented the hobby and told me that it was a rather safe and enjoyable hobby.”
Although he tackles such other non-edgy topics like his own personal experiences, the single life, sky diving, and his large smile, Hamilton admits that there are some topics that he doesn’t include as part of his stand-up routines. “I am not really a topic-based comic, yet there are some subjects that I don’t really tackle; for example, I don’t tackle religion that much because I don’t feel the need to do so,” he said. “And there are some jokes that are actually stories that deal with something that happened to me during my life.”
“Being a comedian is like an exaggerated version of your own personality where you don’t have much control over. You have to tone it with who you are; it’s like a doing a big wide turn on yourself,” he added.
Robert Kelly discovered comedy not just as a passion, but as a means of release from a difficult upbringing in his native Boston, which included a stint in a juvenile detention facility.
“Every comic has discovered comedy as a release from a personal hairy situation. You enjoy getting laughs from it, and in turn, you are having a good time making someone laugh. When I was in juvie hall, you were either tough or funny. And since I was definitely not tough, I chose to be funny,” said Kelly during a recent phone interview.
Kelly, who is a regular at New York’s Comedy Cellar and is a regular on the Sirius XM “Opie and Anthony Show”, as well as a member of the cast of the critically-acclaimed Louie C.K. TV series “Louie” on FX and Dennis Leary’s series “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”, returns to Just For Laughs as part of the line-up of the festival’s mega popular Nasty Show, which runs from July 19-29 at the Metropolis. Joining Kelly for this raunchy, no-holds-barred showcase are host Ari Shaffir, Godfrey, Big Jay Oakerson, Yamaneika Saunders and Jimmy Carr.
“When I discovered who was going to appear with me on this year’s Nasty Show, I thought ‘Oh God … what’s going on with this thing?’ There is going to be no safe spot with this year’s show,” said Kelly, who enthusiastically rated his fellow comics who will be sharing the Nasty Show spotlight with him.
“Yamaneika Saunders murders with her set every time; Godfrey I have never seen him not kill; Big Jay Oakerson is a murderer onstage; Jimmy Carr kills all the time; and Ari Shaffir is one of my favorite comics who kills time after time after time,” said Kelly. “However, Ari likes to walk around naked a lot. Last time we performed together, I knocked on the door of his dressing room, and he greeted me stark naked. I hope he doesn’t appear naked during my podcast taping.”
And speaking of podcasts, Kelly will hold a live taping of his podcast “You Know What Dude” (YKWD) on July 27 at 4:30 p.m., in the Ovation Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the festival’s official hotel. Deemed by the comedy website The Interrobang as “the Podcast You Absolutely Have to Listen To”, YKWD is a raw, intense, anything goes-type roundtable discussion with Kelly and a number of his fellow New York comics.
“When a comic appears on my podcast, they really have to be on their game. If they mess up, or say a joke or line that ends up being a real stinker, I throw the ‘Bomb Bandanna’ at them and they have to place it on their microphone, and believe me, that bandanna gets tossed around quite a lot,” he said. “During one recent podcast, I kept on bombing really badly, and the bandanna ended up on my mic throughout the entire show!”
And Kelly firmly believes that audiences like to go to edgy comedy shows like the Nasty Show because comics talk about topics that audience members can relate to, but they talk about it the way the average spectator talks about it … or wants to talk about it but can’t seem to have the courage to do so.
“In a way, comics become as close to you as possible, and talk the way you talk,” he said. “They tackle controversial matters in ways you never thought they could be possible. And the more honest a comic is, the funnier he becomes. And audience members can easily relate to that; they think ‘Thank God he said that, so it must be OK.’”