Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Brother The Comic

Since we’re on the subject of family this week, I’d like to give a big hats off to my little brother, the comic Ryan Dalton, who just rocked his television debut on Comedy Central’s Live in Gotham City earlier this summer.

What he’s up to makes me think about talent, and how far that gets you in the business (answer: not far, or very far, depending on whom you meet).

Here’s the message I sent out about my brother’s resounding TV victory:

It’s true—they not only let him out of his special room, they taped it. My brother, comic extraordinaire Ryan Dalton, is making his television debut FRIDAY 6.27.08 on Comedy Central at 10 pm EST.

Ryan’s stand up has led him to repeat performances in the country’s best comedy clubs. He was recently a featured comic on MySpace and is a regular drop-in guest on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom morning radio show. He’s posted in-depth, sensitive clips from his adventures on the road with fellow comic Steve Byrne on YouTube and was catapulted to international fame when his video of a gorilla picking his nose was bought up by an Australian production company.

Ryan hated to leave his satisfying past careers in food service, retail, and car sales for the world of stand up. But comedy needed him, so he has braved the late nights, booze and fawning crowds for our benefit. Please show your support for his courage by tuning in …

Now I’ll warn those of you who like your humor clean, that my bro is not your man. His humor isn’t all dirty though, and it isn’t mean-dirty. It’s exuberantly dirty. Yes, exuberantly! And also smart, funny, and dead on. That’s what we want from our comics, right?

He’s also one of the most courageous people I know. Because he’s not only a writer, he’s a writer who has to perform his work, no notes, in front of mostly drunk and occasionally rough-tempered crowds.

And you thought Thursday night at the B&N was bruising?

The other thing about the work he does is that unless he’s in front of the aforementioned audience, he isn’t getting paid. The fact that he’s getting paid at all is a feat.

Now the rest of us writers know that even if we don’t show up anywhere for months on end (and most of us would probably prefer not to), we can still work and get paid. We can use our writerly skills as teachers, journalists, ad copy hacks, what have you, and many of us do. Hell, we might even sell a book! And all of that could happen without us having to whip out the old black turtleneck for a reading. In short, we can continue to be writers, even if much of the paid work isn’t our creative work.

But comics have to perform to be comics. They can be television writers, but that happens after you’ve made a name for yourself being – you got it – a comic. And there’s this huge lu-lu of a wage gap. Either you’re doing free stage time before the monkey show, or like my brother you’re just starting to make a name for yourself, getting some good gigs and some national media, or you’ve got your own show.

Daunting, daunting odds.

Now, the thing about talent. When I saw my brother’s first video tape nearly 10 years ago, it was playing in front of a roomful of my friends, who ranged in age from mid twenties to forties, and I was terrified. What if he sucked? But I guess compared to facing the college bar audiences he started in front of, my friends were pretty tame.

He wasn’t worried, and I tried not to be. And then I realized he was terrific. Natural talent. Great timing, great material.

I remember thinking at the time that there was no question of his ability. The only questions were would he stick with it and keep growing? And would he meet the people who could make him successful?

Yes to the first, clearly. And he’s on his way with the second.

I’m hoping once he makes it he’ll string me along.

Quinn Dalton is the author of a novel, High Strung, and two story collections, Bulletproof Girl and Stories from the Afterlife.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that all comics today seem to think that it has to be R rated to be funny? Does it have to do with starting out in bars where the drunks can't understand you if you don't cuss? I don't get it. I don't mind listening to some profanity - but if you can't get a laugh without it then you are really just not funny.

Quinn Dalton said...

Why is it that people who make snarky comments on blog posts can't put their name behind their words?

I'm a little late responding to this, but I encourage "anonymous" to view the clip of my brother's Comedy Central performance which I linked to in my post. Then you can decide for yourself whether or not you think it's funny. You might not like it, and you might not even agree with my estimation of his talent, but there's no question he's got you beat in the courage department!