Ryan Hamilton has a reason to put on a happy face

The comedian previews his show, which is on Nov. 16

By Nick Hawks

Ryan Hamilton first discovered he was funny when he was 10 years old. Growing up in a small town in Idaho of just 1,000 people, Hamilton dreamed of writing a comedy section in a newspaper. Although that isn’t exactly his job today, you can say he’s “made it,” even if he won’t. 

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” Hamilton said over the phone in an interview with The Cauldron, when asked on his breakthrough moment. 

Hamilton, who was in Seattle at the time of this interview on tour, was being modest. The 43-year-old comic put himself on the map in 2005, winning Sierra Mist’s “America’s Next Great Comic,” award and has been piling up the awards ever since.   

Currently on a cross-country comedy tour, he has a 1-hour special on Netflix. He has appeared on several late-night TV shows, such as “Conan” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”  He’ll be in Cleveland’s Ohio Theatre on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. 

During the interview, Hamilton talked about the life of a standup comedian, noting the things you may not take into consideration, like travel and interviews. He has made an effort to take better care of himself recently, from eating healthier and exercising regularly to getting enough sleep at night. Thankfully, at 11:30 a.m., our interview wasn’t too early in the day for Hamilton. He spends a lot of time on the road, in Seattle at the time of our conversation. One of the things he talked about is his mindset and approach onstage.

To some, the prospect of standing in front of strangers, under bright lights and telling jokes would seem uncomfortable, if not downright terrifying. However, to Hamilton, that type of anxiety was never something that stood in his way. 

“I’m somebody that doesn’t take a lot of physical risk,” Hamilton, who doesn’t drink or do drugs, said, but when it comes to performing in front of a crowd, there isn’t really much of a downside. Every time he steps onto a stage, something he has done hundreds, if not thousands of times in his career by now, he finds a way to get better. 

Hamilton has a “clean” sense of humor, often taking bits of his everyday life and exaggerating them to fit the frame of a joke. Initially, when trying to find his voice, he experimented with one-liners, emulating one of his idols, the late, great Mitch Hedberg. If you aren’t familiar with Hedberg, he’s the “ducks eat for free at Subway!” comedian. 

It took time for Hamilton to find the voice that suited him, noting that over time, his style just naturally came to him. Now, you can describe his humor as poking fun of his personal life, with everything from his upbringing in Idaho, where he received a shotgun as a birthday gift when he was 12 years old, to his naturally happy appearance.

“Where do you want to begin, should we start with my face?” the comedian begins in his Netflix special, appropriately titled “Happy Face.” “I look really happy all the time, and I don’t feel like this, I really don’t.”  

Everything that he jokes about on stage takes inspiration from his real life. 

“You don’t get that kind of detail in a joke unless you’ve actually lived it,” he said at one point in the special, which was shot in 2017 in New York City. 

When listening to Hamilton perform, you can’t help but imagine him as a relative of Jerry Seinfeld, comparisons that Hamilton has heard plenty of. Everything from physical resemblance, with both of them having large foreheads and cheeky smiles, to delivery – if you close your eyes, it might be hard from you to distinguish whose voice is Seinfeld’s and whose is Hamilton’s. And of course, perhaps most notably, their clean sense of humor. 

Also like Seinfeld, Hamilton does not consider himself much of a political comedian, although he does address it in “Happy Face.” 

“I am not a political comedian, but I am not, a little bit,” he said. “How can you not be, a little bit?” 

Hamilton does not like to dive too deep into politics, but he does find it a fun and unique challenge to find an angle that can make both sides of an issue share a laugh. 

You can share a laugh with Hamilton, as he will be in Cleveland performing at Ohio Theatre on Nov. 16. Tickets are in high demand for the performance.