“Where should we start? Should we start with my face?” Comedian Ryan Hamilton asks an audience during his Netflix stand-up special “Happy Face.”
From there, Hamilton takes the gregarious crowd through his likeness to a 1950’s caricature, his fish-out-of-water life as an Idaho native living in New York City and his run-ins with crack-smokers on the bus.
Hamilton became a mainstay in comedy clubs nationwide over the last few years. He was also a regular on shows like “Conan” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Since his special was released last year, Hamilton says his shows have been packed, and he’s started to perform at larger and larger venues.
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Hamilton has been touring with Jerry Seinfeld, and he’s gobbling up all he can as he works alongside the comedy legend.
“It’s been amazing,” Hamilton said. “It’s been expanding my act, I’m really growing a lot watching him.”
Something Hamilton has been watching closely is Seinfeld’s work ethic. Even though he’s been in the business for four decades, Seinfeld still writes every day.
Hamilton says it keeps him on task.
“Being on the road with him just makes me want to write more, create more,” Hamilton said.
It seems to have spurred quite a creative boom, as the sets he’s been doing since his special are almost completely comprised of new material.
Though Hamilton says he still throws in a few jokes that audiences know.
“I’m very conscious [that audiences have already seen my special] so my show now is pretty much all new,” Hamilton said. “I want to provide people enough that they want to come back again and makes them say ‘that was something I’ve never seen before.’”
His act is classic observational comedy, and his warm demeanor and clean delivery make for wide-ranging appeal.
The most edgy joke in his special may be when he skirts the line of politics, with a hilarious take on the day after the 2016 election and how odd it was going about daily life the next day — but even then it was easily digestible and completely non-controversial.
“Maybe some people see it as walking a line, but that’s not my intent,” Hamilton said of his foray into political humor. “I just like the way working for a broad audience pushes me creatively.”
Hamilton’s creative process sounds like it runs parallel with that of many comedians these days.
He’s always keeping a note tab open on his phone for the time when an idea may strike. Then, he says he tries it out on stage, finds where the laughs are, then elaborates on it.
“When I get a core bunch of jokes on a topic then I try to build it out,” Hamilton said. “ I like to have one subject and expand it.”
This makes for the sort of routine that crescendos and creates bigger and bigger pay-offs as the audience grows more comfortable with the premise.
He’ll be coming to Madison to perform at the Comedy Club on State this weekend with shows Oct. 18 through the 20th.
The local Madison club is one Hamilton has frequented over the years and he speaks glowingly of its reputation among comics.
“It sounds weird, but some clubs just know how to train an audience,” Hamilton said.
According to the comedy veteran, Madison’s crowd is a smart, fun audience that respects his act and allows him to work out his material in a great venue.
While his jokes may be silly as he delves deep into the mundane and the ordinary with his keen comic comb, he admits they reveal certain truths about him.
“[I] write these jokes and they’re about silly things,” Hamilton said. “But underneath it all, you can really get a feel for who I am.”