I've long been a fan of comedians, back when it was hip to go to a stand-up show. Back when there was MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour and no one knew who that weird looking guy with the glasses named Drew Carey was. So it seems only natural that the first interview I have for the new year is with a guy who is pursuing a career as an actor and stand up comedian.
Actor/Comedian Ryan Mooney
I stumbled upon Ryan Mooney's MySpace account a couple weeks back, checked out his personal website and had me a few giggles over the clips he had posted there. A few emails later and he granted me the opportunity to talk with him about what he's up to in his field.
Born in New York City and raised in Staten Island, Ryan grew up as one of two children of Charles and Laura Mooney, a footwear executive for a shoe company and an advertising executive for Time Warner. When Charles received a comedy class at Gotham Comedy Club as a gift and didn't end up cashing in on it, Ryan stepped in instead, starting his career in comedy at the tender age of 17.
Telling stories about family friends and his sister Erin, Ryan soon began making his way through New York clubs, eventually leading to his enrollment at the Lee Strasberg Film and Theatre Institute, which boasts such famed alumni as Al Pacino. It was there that he discovered a love of acting in addition to his stand-up routines, leading himself to pursuing a career in the fuller pallet of comedy endeavors.
Getting a chance to chat with Ryan, I can safely say that the kid who got picked on by the bus driver back in first grade is going to have some gloating to do in his future.
AwesomeZara: I'll start by saying that you have one of the most impressive websites that I've seen for a newcomer. Did you do the programming yourself?
Ryan Mooney: Oh no! I had to hire someone. I wanted to go all the way for the fans and have a great site for everybody to enjoy, and make it different.
AZ: I really like how it's got that New York vibe to it. Sells your "angle." Unless you're not looking to be seen as another New York comic.
RM: No, I love being a New Yorker and being from Staten Island. It is a part of who I am and my character. Something about New Yorkers stands out from the rest. Although I am trying to learn more dialects for my acting career. No worries though, I will never lose my Staten Island accent.
AZ: I was going to ask about the accent. Can you drop it if you want to?
RM: I am working with a coach to turn it on and off at the moment. I am in the beginning stages. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be able to turn it on and off when necessary. But as far as comedy goes I will always stand by it.
AZ: Are you planning on mining a lot of future material from your experiences as a New Yorker?
RM: Yes, I do talk what its like on being from Staten Island in my act and visiting other places. My material is mostly what's going on and or what comes to me at the moment.
AZ: Real life experiences.
RM: Yes, there is nothing better doing doing real stories, that's what comedy is about.
AZ: You had some really funny stuff about your sister in your act. Do people ever get upset when you do material about them?
RM: I do a lot of material about relatives. Occasionally it will get to my sister. But I never go too far where it gets hurtful. Believe it or not I have more people mad at me because I don't talk about them in my act. Sometimes when they see it they react kind of embarrassed but they know it's a joke and nothing about it is hurtful.
AZ: I prefer gentler comedy myself. But people like Sarah Silverman, doing the more hurtful and bitter stuff, seem to be really popular lately. Do you have limits that you set for yourself?
RM: Of course. Everyone is different. Me doing edgy material would just not fly. I know my voice what works and what doesn't. Everyone is different when it comes to what works for them. If you saw Bill Cosby doing dirty jokes it wouldn't fly.
AZ: Have you ever been compared to other comedians?
RM: Yes, believe it or not I had to audition for a manger at the club and he compared me to Rodney Dangerfield and I was totally blown away. He said it was the way I was relaxed on stage. That was the best compliment I've gotten. Also one time someone in an acting class compared me to Art Carney. Which was unbelievable. He was one of the best comic actors of our time.
AZ: Wow. I'd say. Dangerfield was a classic. Complete class of his own. How does it make you feel to hear the compliments like that?
RM: It's very honoring to get compared to people like Art Carney or Rodney Dangerfield. But I don't do anything to be like them. I am all about originality. I think at the end of the day there is no one like me out there.
AZ: In acting, do you find yourself following a similar path as the stand-up? Or do you try to test yourself?
RM: Acting is so much more different. As an actor you have to be able to do the whole nine yards, comedy and drama. I actually love playing characters in acting who are far away from me. I once played an violent alcoholic and I loved showing a different side to myself that people wouldn't expect normally.
AZ: Can I say that you remind me a little of Ralph Macchio in your "look"?
RM: Thanks. If they're looking to do a remake of "Karate Kid," I'm in. "Karate Kid: Staten Island Edition"
AZ: I mention that mainly because he had a long career in his early years because he could play the same age group. But as a "grown up" it was harder for him to get roles. So I guess I'm wondering if you worry about getting typecast.
RM: Yeah, we are both scrawny New York guys. At this point I'm just looking to find work as an actor. It's not something that is worrying me at the moment. There will always be characters people are remembered for. But if people want to see
me in particular roles, I would be more than willing to go along for the ride.
On stage at Caroline's on Broadway
AZ: And as a stand-up, you get a chance to get comfortable on stage. Do you plan on going into theater at all?
RM: If there was a role offered to me in theater I would take it, if it fit me well.
AZ: Ultimately, where would you like to see yourself go in your profession?
RM: I see myself doing television and movies in the future. I love sitcoms and actually wrote my own which I plan on producing and shooting in May. That is in the works right now.
AZ: What's that one about?
RM: It is based on my life, my misadventures with my family in Staten Island. I would love to have Tony Danza and Fran Drescher play my mom and dad. So if they are reading this and want to get involved in the next big thing, CALL ME! I plan on shooting it in May and putting it on YouTube to give it some exposure. It is a very exaggerated version of my life, of course. It's called "Something About Ryan".
AZ: Just promise me that you'll use mousse instead of gel, 'K?
RM: You got it!
AZ: The Farrellys are great. Are they an influence of yours?
RM: No, Chris Farley and Adam Sandler were both big influences on me. I remember seeing Adam Sandler in "Billy Madison" as a kid and I was laughing so loud people kept turning around. They are both the reason I wanted to be in movies. Also John Ritter in "Three's Company" was great. "Three's Company" is my favorite sitcom. John Ritter, Norman Fell and everyone else were so good on that show.
AZ: I love Ritter! He was the best physical comic actor out there. Are you learning pratfalls at all?
RM: It is something I would like to do. In my stand up I am always very physical.
AZ: Any advice for people who might be interested in trying stand-up?
RM: Work as hard as you can at your craft. Give everything you do in life 100%, whatever it may be.
AZ: Speaking of which and going back to your sitcom, did you write the script?
RM: Yes, I wrote the sitcom. I read books on writing sitcoms and always wanted to star in a sitcom. It has been a dream of mine. I wrote my sitcom script back in 2005 in a two week period. Right now I am doing a few re-writes on the script before we shoot the pilot in May. It is meant to be multi camera. But the pilot will be single camera.
AZ: Just hit you? Or was it brewing in your mind for awhile?
RM: No, I was always thinking of writing a sitcom for myself. It just happened that when I did stand up the characters in my family got really developed onstage so it was easier to incorporate that in script.
AZ: How do you secure funding to do the filming? Or do you pay for it out of pocket?
RM: I will be paying out of my own pocket for this one. All I want is people to enjoy it and hopefully the word gets around.
AZ: If the pilot is a success, will you continue on with more episodes?
RM: Well, I'm hoping to do more episodes but in a studio with a live audience if it's successful. I know people are going to love it. It's very original and very funny. We need more sitcoms. There are just not enough, which is a shame.
AZ: So many fail though. I'm wondering if you're worried about that, or have other things backed up to keep going with?
RM: You know, right now I am just worried about filming it. As long as I do the best I can do, I will be happy. The rest is in America's hands.
AZ: Absolutely. And the people like what they like. Which brings me to something cheesy.
AZ: You're an Aquarius like I am.
RM: Yes I am.
AZ: So I was going to do a quick check to see if/how much we're alike. Mind playing the "either/or" game?
RM: No problem.
AZ: Sweet. I love torturing people with this. Pepsi or Coke?
RM: Neither. I'm a water drinker. If I had to choose, then Coke but I try to stay away from soda. I am a health nut.
AZ: That's so un-New York of you. Time to move it on out to Cali...
RM: Love California! It's a lot of fun out there.
AZ: This is one that people might understand better if they visit your site for the clip, but... Goobers or Raisinettes?
AZ: Hahaha... seriously?
RM: Yes, my favorite candy. How can anyone not eat a whole bag?
AZ: That's awesome. My daughter was totally confused when she was watching that bit with me. "What'd he say?" Loved it.
RM: (laughing) New Yorker's are the best.
AZ: Here's the really telling one... Sell out and make lots of money OR stay true to your roots, but never be really wealthy?
RM: That is so hard but I would have to say always stay true to your roots. You never want to disappoint your fans. Having someone see a bad movie is a waste of time and I know I don't want my time wasted. I would only do a project if I felt 100% about it.
AZ: And that's really a true sign of someone who is dedicated.
RM: Thank you.
AZ: You're welcome. Who has been your biggest supporter?
RM: My parents, 100%. My mom and dad are my biggest fans. They believe in me and support me to the fullest. I am so lucky to have great parents like them. It can be
very tough pursuing a career in entertainment, and they are there for me whenever I need them.
There's Something about Ryan...
AZ: I know that you're a big fan of older sitcoms, like you mentioned with "Three's Company." What's one of your current favorites?
RM: "Two And A Half Men," "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "'Til Death." Brad Garrett is doing an amazing job. Everyone needs to watch this show. It has the marriage thing down to a tee.
AZ: Are you married?
RM: No, I am currently on the market right now.
AZ: Aha. I ask because I'm wondering who your sister was telling the six chest hairs story to.
RM: Oh man, that was so long ago. I have a lot more chest hair now.
AZ: You'd sent me two DVDs where you did stand-up at Caroline's and then another one at Gotham. I was wondering how far apart the two were filmed.
RM: They are 2 years apart those DVDs.
AZ: You were right about the growth in your act, although the young, nervous, fidgety thing was funny.
RM: Yes, the more shows you do, the longer you do stand up, the more comfortable you get on stage. I think about 4 years into it I got really comfortable.
AZ: Do you get really nervous before going up in front of people? Or have you found ways to calm yourself?
RM: I always get a little bit of adrenalin. But once I get up there I know what to do.
AZ: If you released a comic CD, what would you title it?
RM: Ryan Mooney: Too Cool
AZ: Nah, shouldn't it be, "Karate Kid: SIE"?
RM: (laughing) Nah, my acting teacher told me once "What are you doing here? You're too cool. You should be outside leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette (which I don't do) and hitting on girls!"
AZ: You ever get stand-up groupies?
RM: You know, it's always nice to have people come up to you after a show. I haven't had many groupies. Although one time a bunch of girls from a show all found me on MySpace and wanted to meet up. But no, I'm not living the rock star life just yet.
AZ: That whole Myspazz thing is weird.
RM: Yeah, I love it. It's gotten me in touch with so many great people like you.
AZ: Awe... Now all you gotta do is say "Goobers" again and I'm sold. You ever stop hearing your accent?
RM: No, ever since I've been working with a dialect coach I just STARTED hearing it. But it is what makes me me.
AZ: You mentioned being pretty quiet in your personal life. That's a pretty Aquarius thing to do. Be on stage for strangers, but relaxed for friends.
RM: I was always very shy as a kid. I kind of came out of my shell as a teenager. But I am still a shy person. I don't like a lot of attention drawn to me in crowds. I get embarrassed and I am very shy sometimes when meeting new people. But once I get on stage it's so different. I'm playing a character and going by a script.
AZ: You prepare your set in your head before going on? Or do you wing it?
RM: No way! I won't go up there if I'm not prepared. Usually it's what material I am working on at the moment. I write down a order and remember it.
AZ: Ever completely bombed?
RM: Every comedian has. That's like asking a gambler, "Have you ever lost money?"
AZ: (laughing) Point taken. How much did that suck?
RM: It's like getting punched in the stomach. But you go back the next night and try to fix the mistakes and do better.
AZ: Did you get a chance to perform while out in Cali?
RM: Yes, I did The Comedy Store out there a few years ago. It was great to perform there. The audience was very nice. And the comedians out there are great too.
AZ: Your New York stuff must have gone over well.
RM: Yes, I find that people who are not New Yorkers love to see a New Yorker! They're not used to seeing a New Yorker with the whole Staten Island attitude.
AZ: You'll have to mock the Californians more in New York.
RM: True, I love valley girls though for some reason. I have a thing for them.
AZ: Old school valley girls were cooler. The 2.0 versions are a little too Parasite Hilton for me.
RM: I love Paris. I have a little bit of a crush on her. She actually sent me a autograph from jail. I sent her a "Something About Ryan" script. Figured she was in jail could of used some comedy.
AZ: I kid. She's a sweetie, I've seen her do some charitable work that gets overlooked. But don't tell anyone I said that. We all are supposed to hate her here.
RM: Yeah, she seems like a good person. I am glad the media is not giving her such a hard time anymore. Hopefully she sees "Something About Ryan" when it hits YouTube and invites me to party with her and Nicky. (laughing)
AZ: Just tell her you'll bring your own Goobers.
I had a great time getting a chance to chat with Ryan. He's not just funny, he's also warm and extremely nice, not to mention the fact that I didn't have to do much editing to his grammar. Which, in the day and age of people and their IM tendencies, speaks volumes.
Be sure to look for Ryan on MySpace, out in the comedy circuit and with his upcoming pilot to be featured on YouTube. I guarantee he'll make you laugh as much as I did.
You can check out Ryan's clips on his website at: www.ryanmooney.com
You can also add Ryan as a friend on MySpace at: www.myspace.com/mooneycomic
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