What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
When I first became aware of Ryan Hamilton, he was a cross between Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, because he told me and the audience so. When I learned he had grown up in Idaho, I, as an Idaho resident for two prime years of my life, felt he was OK in my book. Now let me share him with your book. He has updated his website just in time for you to see him here, or perhaps on the NBC television network's Last Comic Standing. Here's two scoops of knowledge on Ryan Hamilton.
Name: Ryan Hamilton
Arrival date: October 2007
Arrived from: Salt Lake City, UT, but I'm originally from Idaho.
When and where did you start performing comedy? 2001 in Utah. I also spent a little over a year early on in Seattle, and I also consider Boston a comedy home. I grew up in Idaho.
What was your best credit before moving here? Live at Gotham or Last Comic Standing
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I had come here for a couple of days to tape Live at Gotham a year before and I had a great time. I'd spent a lot more time in L.A. and probably had a little more going on there. But, I think I wanted to see for myself if I could make something happen in NYC. I was curious.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? By some magic, the first night I was here a friend got me on a paid show. I didn't know it was paid and the booker called me the next day to tell me I forgot to pick up my money. At that moment, I started to think NYC was going to be easier than I'd expected. No one in comedy anywhere ever had called me before and said, "Hey, you forgot your money." It felt like that thing when someone has never gambled before and then somehow wins big on their first game, I mean wins like a lot too, like $25 or something, it was like that. The show went under the next week, and I didn't get paid again in NYC for about a year probably.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? Salt Lake City to NYC? No difference. Actually, Salt Lake City was great for me. There are three comedy clubs all within about 35 minutes of each other, and I could get a lot of good weekend stage time early on in those clubs. If I mixed it up with some road work, I could get a lot accomplished there. In NYC, of course, there is a big step up in the sheer number of amazingly talented comedians I'm surrounded by every day. That pushes me and forces me to work hard in my own specific direction. Also, when I'm home in NYC, even if I don't have a set planned, I can go out and still meet someone new or learn something new every night. I love that.
Do you already have an "only in New York City" moment yet? I enjoy carrying large pieces of furniture down the street in the middle of a summer night. I think that's a very New York thing to do. In the midst of it you're thinking, "This is great. I love New York. My arms hurt. Why isn't anyone helping us? How long are these blocks?" all the while maintaining a slight smile because of the obscurity of hauling a couch down the street in the middle of the night. I like things like that.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? Be nice and work hard and amazing things can happen. Conan said that, you know, and it's stuck with me. It's simple advice and good for anyone, especially comedians. If a comedian asks me for advice my go to answer is try not to compare your career to other comedians. We all have completely individual paths and some comics have different timelines and distinct routes from others, so I try to compare myself only to what I know to be my own potential and be inspired by others' successes. It sounds corny, but I feel if comics can learn to do that consistently, their unique comic traits show themselves quickly and more often, and they'll be happier.
Also, listen and take advice from everyone, but in the end, trust your gut. Don't be afraid to go ahead with some unique career decisions (or hold off on something), if you feel strongly it's the right move for you. You know what's right for you better than anyone.
Someone once told me that Seinfeld says, "Eat right. Travel light. Work tight." I hope he does say that. I like it. I realize none of this advice was specific to NYC, and I'm taking all this advice to heart myself, but these are the pieces of advice I try to live by, and as you can see, it's really paying off.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? I see myself laying in bed in a Hilton Garden Inn (or maybe a five-star, yeah why not?) wide awake at 3 a.m. yet deathly tired, starving, and waiting on a 6 a.m. airport pickup. No matter what happens from here, I think something like that is completely plausible– you know, living the sweet life.
You can see Ryan Hamilton on the road at various comedy clubs and festivals, and at Gotham Comedy Club July 2-3. Or watch him on this TV appearance joking about moving to NYC and other such things. Roll it!
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com