By Natalie Cuomo
Photos by John Cafaro
Ryan Long started his stand-up comedy career in Canada. In 2019 he left the Great White North for the comedy mecca of New York City, and his career exploded. He’s the host of The Boyscast podcast and the creator of many viral satirical sketches. His ability to write and perform thought-provoking material, while making people laugh through dark and confusing times, is his calling card. Ryan also creates hilarious man-on-the-street videos, where he interviews strangers and reveals the side of humanity we can both cringe and laugh at. He is currently on tour supporting his latest special, “White Immigrant,” which can be found on YouTube. Long took a minute from his busy schedule to sit down with Natalie Cuomo to talk about tattoos, walking the line of taste on stage and more.
What made you want to do stand-up?
I was doing all sorts of other comedy endeavors and stand-up is the purest form. I felt like it was the natural progression and the simplest way to compete in terms of who is funny.
You started performing in Canada and now you’re based in New York City. Do you see a major difference in doing stand-up in the two countries?
In New York, it actually kind of matters. Knowing you’re at the center of comedy makes you more confident in pushing forward because you’re more tapped into what’s on the pulse as you start to build. But in Canada, I think it was cool to have a place where people aren’t paying as much attention to you at first. It allowed me to develop a unique style before coming to New York.
How do you cope with the highs and lows of doing stand-up?
I just try to systemize everything as much as possible so the lows and highs just become data points as opposed to being tied to my emotions and mood. I try to hone and trust my instincts so I’m comfortable with the tradeoffs I make. For example, one adjustment might give me a bigger laugh but I like it another way better. Or one decision might appear to be better or worse for my career, but my instincts are telling me that it’s not the path for me.
Do you feel like tattoos are a part of your identity?
I think my identity was kinda formed by being in bands and stuff, so probably having a bunch of old band-guy tattoos suits that. I’m glad I was in a band then and not in this era, though, or my neck and face would probably be covered too [laughs].
Do you have any comedy-related tattoos?
I have a tattoo of my podcast The Boyscast that I got live on stage, drunk, while doing the podcast, which is kinda funny.
What’s the best/worst experience you have had getting a tattoo?
One time my 18-year-old cousin got a tattoo gun and at our family gathering he drunkenly gave me a tattoo that says “mother.” We kept telling my mom it was her Christmas present and she kept telling us to stop immediately. It looks terrible and was the first tattoo he ever did.
When doing your man-on-the-street videos, do you ever find that a person’s tattoos tell you everything you need to know?
I think so. Someone’s tattoos tell you a ton about what type of person they are. Or at least were. Also, their shoes.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
When I was young, my friends all wanted to be Tom Green and Jackass or maybe the Beastie Boys.
What are some of the most influential comedy specials you’ve listened to and why?
Honestly, what got me into comedy were Adam Sandler’s comedy albums more than any stand-up specials. But I think Dave Attell’s “Skanks for the Memories” probably influenced the specials of everyone in New York, and then influenced me.
How do you find balance between work and personal life?
Not very well. Mostly I just like hanging out and talking shit with friends, and comedy facilitates that. So I don’t really need a ton of other “personal time.” I’m fine with most of my life just being comedy and making videos and podcasting. It’s more when the running a business aspect becomes too big and the actual making stuff portion is too small that I know I need to rearrange things.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I make notes on my phone constantly, but also I just sit down and write. I block out multiple blocks of time every week and just do it whether or not I want to.
Do you have a process for finding ideas for your sketches?
I do a lot of satire sketches so usually the ones that do the best are something I feel like I’m really right about but no one’s really said it or said it properly or succinctly. I try to have the right format and right amount of actual raw comedy that would be funny regardless of the framing. Sometimes there will be a big cultural event and I’ll sit down and think about what I want to say about it. And sometimes I have a dumb idea I just can’t stop thinking about. Then I’m like, alright, I think I have to make this. “Racist Grammar Police” would be that type of idea. It has no point, just usually one line that I can’t stop thinking is funny.
In a time where people seem to be getting more offended, how do you walk the line between thought-provoking and edgy comedy while trying to please people in 2022?
It’s calmed down a little bit, but I feel like comedy clubs are always kind of fine. It’s more the industry that wants everything super safe. But since I’m not in the industry, I don’t have to worry about that, which is an advantage in the actual “being funny” space. Since I run a digital media company, I’m less worried about people writing bad articles about me or losing jobs and more worried about getting my socials deleted or banned—so the threats have sort of shifted around. In comedy clubs people who are actually at a show in bad faith are increasingly a minority—and as long as an audience member is there in good faith, not trying to hear something offensive to complain about, it’s up to the comedian to find what the lines are of each crowd. Then you do a show where everyone just wants to hear the most offensive stuff and it can feel equally gross and then my instinct is to go the other way.