Ryan Hamilton Proves More Than Potatoes Come From Idaho

Comedian talks comedy, Jerry Seinfeld and coming to the Pacific Northwest

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Having your own Netflix special seems like it could be a great opening line for a single person, an invitation that expands the possibilities of “Netflix and chill.”

For Ryan Hamilton, it sounds more like a nightmare to invite someone over to watch his special with him.

The special, Happy Face, is nevertheless a great asset to have as a comedian, he adds. He tells Eugene Weekly that he always wanted a place where people could find his standup to share with their friends.

Hamilton’s comedy set often focuses on observations from his life, which includes jokes on single life, his smile and life in New York City.

He brings his standup comedy set to Eugene on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the McDonald Theater.

In a way, he’ll be coming home — although he says that Idaho doesn’t have a home when it comes to fitting into a certain U.S. region. Nevertheless, Idaho fits somewhat within the Northwest region, albeit he says it’s the “weird stepchild” of the region.

Before moving to New York City, Hamilton grew up in a small town in Idaho, Ashton, a city with a population of a little more than 1,000. Despite the small population, he says he still couldn’t make the high school basketball team.

“I often feel that I had a charmed childhood in what felt like the 1950s,” he says.

Hamilton keeps his comedy clean. He doesn’t get graphic in his jokes, and he says he didn’t do that on purpose. His clean comedy style came out clean naturally.

It also comes in handy since he likes to perform for a broad audience, and it makes sense considering his shtick about being an Idahoan in New York City, an outsider dealing with a worldview built around politeness even when approached by a drug dealer.

A clean approach takes more calculation and story development than working dirty for laughs. That required work ethic might have been what attracted him to work as an opener for Jerry Seinfeld, the king of observational and clean comedy.

Hamilton has been able to use these gigs as a way to pick the brain of Seinfeld to learn more about the craft of comedy. “He loves to talk about comedy,” Hamilton says. “He’s a master of [comedy]. He thinks about it and enjoys thinking about it, its principles and breaking it down, especially standup comedy.”

Hamilton says Seinfeld sometimes watches his set and gives some advice or lines. He adds that he always watches Seinfeld’s set to deconstruct his own performance. He says Seinfeld’s set is tight and there isn’t a lot of gaps. And that’s because Seinfeld is efficient in the performance. He’d rather have a show that’s shorter with nonstop laughs.

Hamilton says he’s working on getting his set to have the efficiency of a Seinfeld set.

Sure, you won’t see Hamilton on Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but he’s taken home some lessons from the TV show, as well.  

One lesson that emerged for Hamilton came from an episode where Steve Martin talked about talked with Seinfeld about how he always asks comedians what their opening line is. “It made me think a lot about not being sloppy,” he says.

Since seeing that episode, Hamilton says he spends a lot of time thinking about how to best open a show, avoiding the cliché: “How are you doing?”

One way he opens shows is if the introduction comes across as too big and overplays his TV appearances and Netflix special, he’ll start with: “Are you disappointed?”

Ryan Hamilton performs at McDonald Theatre 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 17. $34.50.