Jan 28, 2016
Today’s interview with comedian Ritch Shydner is unusual for at least three reasons. First of all, Shydner is the first guest of my 10th year of producing the Mr. Media podcast.
Second, he may be the first guest I’ve ever connected with as a Facebook friend first and then invited to be a guest on the show.
RITCH SHYDNER podcast excerpt: "It's 1977. Friends of mine have bar bands . When they took breaks, I jumped on stage and did comedy. It was all kamikaze stuff. One night, a bar owner came over and said, 'You want to open for a band next week? I'll give $50.' I was excited; I gotta do this. Next week came, I realized I didn't even know who the band was. Outside, on the marquee, it said, 'From New York City, THE RAMONES.' I walked in, the place was packed with punks. I didn't know what punk was yet. But there were mohawks, shaved heads, flannel and leather. I went back to the bar and the owner was laughing, 'They're gonna kill you, man! You're not gonna make 15 minutes!' But to me, it was like a rodeo event: I'm gonna stay on no matter what the bull did! The owner said, 'I'll go double or nothin'--you won't make five minutes!' I said, 'I'll take it,' and he introduced me. I don't know what he said, but all the audience heard was, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, NOT The Ramones!' I had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage and it was biblical. They were spitting', throwing' stuff, booing me. The whole crowd hated me before I got on stage! I'd only been doing comedy a couple of months--I didn't know what to do. It's not like I could do my special punk material that I wrote the night before. I said 'I'm from New Jersey,' and they were booing! One of the guys sitting ringside had had it and he shot this mug of beer at me. I shook it off, but they they all started throwing beers! My friend said later that every time they hit me with a beer, they'd cheer. And every time I started talking again, they'd boo! Offstage, the bar owner is waving the $100, saying, 'Come get your money!' I went back to the kitchen, which was behind the bar. The Ramones were standing there--long hair, leather, guitars--waiting to go on. I am soaked, head-to-tie, with beer. And one of The Ramones goes, 'Cool act, man.'"
And third, he may be the least self-promotional comic I’ve ever encountered. How’s that, you wonder? Well, when I asked him if he had anything special coming up that he wanted to promote, he mentioned performing at the Borgata in Atlantic City from January 24 to 30. Anything else, I asked? “I’ll be at Cleveland Hilarities Feb. 3-6,” he replied.
RITCH SHYDNER podcast excerpt: "A podcast is, when you're not really in show business, it's good make-believe that you're in show business. I've seen guys post, 'I'm gonna go tape a show today.' I go, 'What show?' 'It's a podcast.' 'That's not a show!' Podcasting is like a comedic circle jerk. 'You come on my show; I'll go on your show, we'll make believe we're in show business.'"
Which left me thinking, Is this the only comedian in America not hosting his own podcast? As it turns out, the modest Mr. Shydner has two big projects on the verge of release. First is a memoir, Kicking Through The Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980's Comedy Explosion, due out soon. And he also wrote a short film, The Last Lift of the Leg, which he screened with a live audience for the first time at the Tribeca Theater in New York City on January 31.
• 4:35 Ritch Shydner shares his views on (most, not all) comedians who do podcasts;
• 23:30 That time a young Shydner opened for The Ramones;
• 37:40 That other time when an inebriated Shydner walked up to Morey Amsterdam and got schooled by the legendary comic and "Dick Van Dyke Show" co-star on how much the up-and-coming standup didn't know about the history of comedy in America.