My name is Ryan Dalton and I am a Cleveland comedian. What does that statement mean? Does it mean that I am a comedian that lives and only performs in Cleveland or that I am a certain breed of comedian? Does that mean that I am a nomadic joke slinger that happens to stop through town long enough to pick up his mail, kiss his wife, and feed the dog. Answer: all of the above.
I have been given the opportunity to write a piece for Scene magazine. I would say that I am honored, but then I realized that this for the first ever comedy issue and I am doing the job that some staff writer won’t. Way to pass the buck Scene. Because the publication has never covered me the whole time I have been performing standup comedy, I figured volunteering for this assignment would be the next best thing. The best thing of course, is appearing in one of the lurid sex ads that appear in the back of this publication. I’m going to make that shit happen if it’s the last thing I do. I’m pretty sexy for a blobby, balding 37-year-old.
I have been performing standup comedy for 15 years. Five of those years I was figuring out how to be funny. Ten of those years I’ve been spending on the road as a professional standup comedian, honing my craft. The cool/terrible thing about comedy is that you have to travel to do it. This can take you to places that you never thought you would lay eyes on (Afghanistan, yes beautiful Afghanistan). It can also take you to places you don’t want to be caught dead in (Fort Wayne, Indiana; Erie, Pennsylvania; and the whole state of Michigan). Seriously, some of the establishments I have had to perform in should have had Patrick Swayze working the door. You can spend upwards of 40 weekends on the road a year. At least that is my limit; some comedians spend the entire year on the road. Brutal.
Standup comedy is a labor of love. There is tons of rejection, disappointment, and a complete lack of pay. The only way to get better at standup comedy is to get up and fail consistently. This is why Cleveland is the perfect place for comedy.
I believe that Cleveland can be to comedy as Seattle was to grunge music. This town is a breeding ground for comedy. All the ingredients are here! The weather sucks half the year, our sports teams are tragically and historically bad, we are the butt of jokes nationally, and I am pretty sure our mayor is a muppet. (Have you SEEN Frank Jackson? There is no way that he is a real person).
Let’s face it. This town has incredibly bad self-esteem. Hell, the only time we really make national news is because some monster has been up to some kidnapping, murdering, or announcing on ESPN that he wants to take his talents to South Beach. We actually take great pride about how bad we think we have it. We complain about how bad we have it now, could have it down the road, and have had it in the past – self-deprecation is in our blood. However, if you are an outsider taking potshots at Cleveland, go fuck yourself. You don’t know how awesome it is here and we don’t want you stopping by and mucking it up.
When I travel to other parts of the country and mention I am from Cleveland, it is often met with indifference and boos. The boos are 90% from people that have never been here. It’s like the city of Cleveland showed up to a party that these people threw uninvited, ate and drank everything, and clogged the toilet. Where did all of this animosity come from? My favorite response to hear is, “Oh you’re from Cleveland? I’m sorry.” Sorry? Um, for what? Living in a city? I do not have a malignant tumor, and even if Cleveland was a tumor, it would be benign.
I’m always the first person to represent Cleveland everywhere I go. I love it here. Mainly because Cleveland is full of real people working real jobs to make a real living. Perform in places like Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. They are full of fake people living fake existences. If you meet a fake person in Cleveland, they’re not actually fake. It turns out they are just insane and need medical attention. Cleveland doesn’t have time to be fake because it’s had a long hard day and the hot water tank needs fixed.
The proof is in the pudding, ladies and gentleman. We’ve had some famous comedians come out of Cleveland in the past (Drew Carey, Steve Harvey, Martin Mull). Now there is a new crop of chucklechompers getting ready for their come up. Here is a fun fact about the current comedy scene in Cleveland. Did you know for the last three years in a row Cleveland comedians have been invited to participate in the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal? It’s just the world’s largest comedy festival and everybody from show business is there. No big deal. It just goes to show you that comedy isn’t reserved for the East and West Coast. Quality standup comedy is being hand-picked out of the 216.
You need some ideas on where to catch some fine live comedy? I got you. If you ever get some free time during the week, make sure to head on down to the Reddstone in Battery Park. It has the best open mic I have ever done, every single week. Stop in to one of our great comedy clubs downtown (The Cleveland Improv, Hilarities 4th Street Theater) and check it out. Unlike other cities, the Cleveland comedy clubs are actually located in the actual city. A lot of other comedy clubs around the country are located in some fake outdoor town mall in the suburbs. I take great pride in that. Nothing is worse than doing comedy between a Hollister and a Cold Stone Creamery.
Comedy is big in Cleveland and is only going to get bigger. Come check out what we’re up to. You won’t be disappointed... but then you’ll find something to be disappointed about. Probably the weather.