Finding his calling in a stand-up desert



Ryan Hamilton is a stand-up comedian.

But he’s a stand-up comedian who came of age in a place where stand-up comedians were very, very, very sparse.

“I grew up in very rural Iowa,” said Hamilton in a recent phone interview. Being in Iowa, he said he never had a chance to see stand-up comedians in action because there were no nearby clubs for comedians to provide humor.

Hamilton comes to Comix at the Mohegan Sun this weekend.

That doesn’t mean Hamilton didn’t know how to “find the funny.”

Even in Iowa, he said, “I was attracted to humor.”

Without the benefit of seeing stand-up comedians, Hamilton said his love for humor was fostered by “The Far Side” cartoons and the columns of Dave Barry.

His earlier attempts to “find the funny” were exercised in a humor column he wrote for a local county newspaper.

By his teens, he discovered the world of stand-up comedy on late night television. He watched “An Evening at the Improv,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Late Night with David Letterman.”

When he did learn about stand-ups, Hamilton began to pick out his favorites. “I love Steve Martin. Letterman was big.” He also cited Jerry Seinfeld as another favorite. (As for comedians he is drawn to now, Hamilton cited Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan.)

“I loved comedy and I loved thinking about jokes, and writing them down,” said Hamilton, talking about his early forays into stand-up. “I didn’t think of it as a career, until after college.”

Earlier this year, his stand-up career took a step forward with the release of his comedy special “Happy Face” on Netflix.

“It was unbelievable,,” said Hamilton about the release this summer. “I had been wanting that for a long time,” said Hamilton.

“I never released anything but shorts,” often of his standup routines on late night television, said Hamilton.

“I had been looking for somewhere to (film his full act on stage) for a while,” said Hamilton.

When the process of pulling the special together was underway, Hamilton said Netflix didn’t interfere too much since they were “very familiar with my act… They knew what they were getting.”

“They were looking for clean content,” said Hamilton, and they knew they were going to get it from him.

“I just what I did (on stage normally),” said Hamilton. “They gave me the freedom to do what I could… which was pretty cool”

When it came time to see the final product, Hamilton already knew what it was going to be like. “I was very much involved in the editing process. I got really deep into it.”

Most of Hamilton’s clips on the web are from his late night TV gigs. Typically, it’s just one camera focused on his face. The angles and direction, however, are much more kinetic on “Happy Face.” Hamilton also moved around much more on stage in the special than the TV spots.

For Hamilton, the special was actually a much more comfortable experience for him.

“Late night is more restrained,” said Hamilton. “I love to be more physical.”

In his routine, an ongoing bit with Hamilton is his face. (Hence the title of his special, “Happy Face.”) He notes that he has a perpetual smile that makes even offering funeral condolences problematic.

The bit is not inspired, however, by any childhood trauma but merely by his own observations about his appearance, said Hamilton.

“I have been acknowledging my face since the beginning of my being a comic,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said when you first step in front of an audience, typically they are sizing you up before laughing at you. Acknowledging his face and his smile, he said, is a good way to break the ice and to get the audience to like you.

For the most part Hamilton’s humor keeps his own experiences at the center. Even when he starts a bit about something or someone other than himself, he said he often finds away to bring it back to himself.

Even though he will laugh about himself, he said, “I try to be confident and positive. I’m happy with who I am. I’m okay with making fun of myself, but in a healthy way. I don’t like to get too dark and too down on myself. I like to have pride in myself.”

In terms of his show at Comix, Hamilton said audiences should expect to have fun. If you’ve seen his online clips, fans should expect that and even more.

“Every show is unique,” said Ryan. “Comedy is best live.”

Ryan Hamilton performs at Comix at the Mohegan Sun on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

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Comedian Ryan Hamilton is performing this weekend at Comix at the Mohegan Sun.