Welcome to interview seven!
I’ve been friends with comedian and trivia host extraordinaire Ryan Budds for a good number of years. He went to the high school that I teach at, where he competed on the speech team, and when I was writing comedy more frequently, he’d let me tag along and sometimes tell some jokes, so when Ryan moved to L.A. to pursue a career in entertainment, I was excited for him but sad to see him go.
Ryan has drifted away from the traditional comedy scene in L.A. and has developed himself into quite the trivia host, shopping his talents to bars, restaurants, and parties across the country, and he even has a daily trivia podcast that you can check out here. I was lucky enough to catch up with him this past weekend, and here was the result:
Me: Coming up through the comedy scene, how important would you say storytelling is in the construction of a joke?
RB: I think the storytelling part of a joke is very important, now 12 years in. I used to sit down with a blank notepad and go, “what’s funny about…cell phones?” and try and come up with a bunch of premises that might be funny, whether they were realistic to me or not. Sometimes parts of that kind of stuff would get laughs, but it wasn’t until years into it where I realized the more truthful, actual stuff that’s happened to me is where the gold is. The specifics, the details of the situation, and the structure of telling a legit funny story from your life leads to the biggest laughs, and to engraining the memory of that joke in your crowds’ minds. Instead of “parents are crazy” it turns into “here’s 20 very accurate reasons why my mom, Keiren Budds, is legit nuts.”
Me: How would you say you have utilized storytelling in your comedy?
RB: For the first time since 2006, I’m doing less traditional standup than I ever have over the last 9 months or so. I miss it a bit, but I run this trivia business now where I’m hosting 10-15 trivia shows a week at bars, breweries, office parties, etc. In between questions, I work in quick jokes and crowd work to keep it fun for the audience and myself, but I think stories are what keeps them engaged and having the most fun. A quick question from a movie from the 90s might pop up and let me dive into a memory about how my parents saw Titanic in theaters twice, but they walked out of Lord of the Rings because my mom said, “Those people weren’t wearing any shoes in the mountains.” They left Pulp Fiction in the opening scene for “salty language.” God help them if they made it to the gimp scene. The spontaneity of the questions at these trivia nights helps me relive stories from my past, which hopefully gets laughs and connects with the audience in some way, so I’d say at this point I’m telling more stories than ever.
Me: How has your history with storytelling helped in your transition from comedy to trivia?
RB: I think a big part of painting a picture helps me seal the deal on pitching myself to new venues, clients, and groups. I think knowing how well these shows can go from beginning to end with details, examples, and unique stories helps me book more and more shows because the person I’m pitching to can feel the breadth of experience I have with big clients like Netflix or Disney, but also the weirdness of doing like a four person show at a Jewish Temple in a room that holds 400. I don’t leave those kinds of gigs out when I’m telling people how these things can go, and I think that honesty makes them realize that the event they’re going to get with me will be anything but bland.
Me: Tell me a good story…
RB: My uncle is notoriously a penny pincher, so he and his family go to a lot of buffets in the Missouri area. About ten years ago, the crew piled into a local joint and all scattered to find their various dinners. My uncle spotted a large crock of creamy soup and decided to start with that. He ate a large bowl quickly, and then dived in for seconds, and then thirds. By the time everyone had finished eating their meals, he had completely finished the crock of soup at the buffet. When a server walked by, he stopped her and said, “Hey are you guys going to put out any more soup? That was the best soup I ever had in my life.” She said, “Sir, we don’t serve soup.” He gulped. “That was gravy.” My uncle ate a crock of gravy, and spent a month trying to even it out with (uncovered) mashed potatoes. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever heard.
Me: That’s great! Finally, what advice would you give a young person trying to break into comedy?
RB: I wrote this blog about how to be successful your first 500 Days in LA, and I think a lot of it still applies. Perform as much as you can, write as much as you can, get feedback as much as you can. Find a buddy or partner that supports what you do and sees your vision for what you want your career or hobby to be. And find out if it’s going to be a career or hobby very early on. If you don’t feel the calling 100%, stick with the hobby. Dennis Miller told me one time, “Figure out if you can see yourself doing this until you’re dead, and then find a good partner to stick with you through it.” I think that’s a great piece of advice.
I want to thank Ryan for his time, the stories, and the advice. I think today’s takeaway would be to find a buddy that shares your passion, work together, and be honest with each other. I’ve worked a few jokes with Ryan, and I value the honest, constructive feedback! Give his podcast a listen, and check out his blog post that I shared…good stuff!
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