“Oh my God,” Ryan Dillon says during a phone interview from his home in Toronto, after a particularly excited answer to a question. “This is going to be the longest paragraph you’ve ever had in The Telegram. You’re going to have so much fun editing that one.”
His upcoming comedy show at the LSPU Hall is called “23 and Nothing to Say,” but Dillon has got plenty he wants to talk about — and so he should.
He’s got an interesting story: he’s a rare university student who was actually encouraged by his mom to drop out and pursue a career in the creative arts. Two years ago, with a diploma in performance and communications media from MUN and part of the way through a bachelor of arts degree, he took his mother’s suggestion, and moved from St. John’s to Toronto to make a go of it as a comedian.
His mom had a condition, though. If he moved away, he had to get some kind of qualification to show for it. Dillon graduated from the comedy: writing and performance program at Ontario’s Humber College.
Comedy school conjures up images of wannabe performers in a classroom, learning about rubber chickens and perfecting the art of the knock-knock joke, but Dillon explains the program is less about teaching people to be funny and more about helping them perfect the skills they need to thrive as a comedian.
“The whole mindset is they make funny people funnier,” he says.
“There are different courses, like writing for television or writing for sketch, and practical theory, but the cliché goes you can’t be taught comedy, and I agree. Not that the program made me funnier, but I realized the work ethic behind producing and creating your own brand, and what’s needed to become a comic.”
You either have it or you don’t when it comes to comedy, Dillon says, but comedic talent is open to interpretation. There are definitely people out there who think they’re funny but aren’t, but Dillon prefers to talk about the many people who don’t realize their own talent.
“I think a lot of people have a fear of failure. You go onstage and you bomb and it’s a horrifying feeling, but you learn from it. That’s what I’ve been doing the past few years: bombing as much as I can,” he says, laughing. “I think whatever people want to do, they should just give it a shot.”
While at Humber, Dillon received the BiteTV award and the Humber Producers Award for his work, proving he’s exaggerating when he talks about bombing onstage.
He went on to graduate from the Second City Conservatory and, having been nominated by others in the comedy industry, Dillon performed in the Tim Sims Fresh Meat Showcase, getting his name and material out in Toronto. He says things have been going well ever since, and he makes an effort to participate in at least one open mic event every night in Toronto. If he’s not onstage, he’s writing new material.
“I owe it to kicking my own ass and doing the work,” he says, laughing.
Dillon’s jokes come, he says, from awkward life experiences, and so does the name of his show.
“I was born in 1990, so I feel like I’m automatically not allowed to have an opinion,” he says. “I’m 23 now and it’s all about finding your voice in comedy in your early years. That’s what I’ve been told by other comics.
“A lot of my comedy comes down to the personal experiences I’ve had that I can make fun of. People always say I look older, so I make jokes about how I have a ‘dad body.’ That’s always been a good one. I guess it’s just the awkward experiences people have, transitioning from high school and college to the real world. That’s what this show is really about, the awkwardness and scariness of it all, and there’s humour to be found in that. There are lots of hilarious things about being in your early 20s that the different generations can talk about.”
“23 and Nothing to Say” will run at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s for one night only, on Dec. 22 at
8 p.m. Locally-born comedians Mikaela Dyke and Danny Dillabough will also do a set each. Dyke is a Toronto-based writer and performer who has done sketch comedy, standup and improv, and has appeared in comedy events in New York, Winnipeg and Victoria, among others. Dillabough, also a graduate of the comedy program at Humber College, has performed at Yuk Yuks and was a semi-finalist in the 2013 Toronto Comedy Brawl.
Shaun Burton, winner of the 2012 Yuk Yuk’s Funniest Newfoundlander Contest, will host the show.
Tickets are $15 in advance ($20 at the door), and are available at the LSPU Hall, by calling 753-4531 or online at www.rca.nf.ca.
“When you come home, it’s fun being able to show the work that you’ve done and how far you’ve come,” Dillon says. “I want to succeed in comedy, but where I want to succeed more is to come home and just put off a good show.”