Photo courtesy of Tommy Ryman
From behind thick tortoise-framed glasses and underneath a head of wavy auburn hair, Tommy Ryman has no problem admitting he can only do one pull-up.
By accenting his physical looks and nerdish personality with a delightful innocence, high-pitched voice and absurdist outlook on the world, Ryman has sustained a comedic success.
This weekend, Ryman will headline a series of shows at the Joke Joint Comedy Club in St. Paul.
His process of creating a joke, he said, is simple.
“I have always just written what I thought was funny,” Ryman said. “I come up with a premise, and I just kind of talk it out. I basically do a stream of consciousness — just my brain firing off things.”
Throughout much of Ryman’s stand-up set he falls into a conversational tone and naturally repeats words and phrases, reiterating the ridiculousness of a joke’s premise. One of Ryman’s quips about adopting a dog strategically repeats that everybody told him he had to get a “rescue dog.”
Ryman’s onstage persona lends itself well to personal narratives, as many of his jokes focus on stories about everyday topics and his eccentric family relationship.
“I just try to be relatable,” Ryman said. “My [jokes] are more personal stories.”
For example, Ryman often recounts the story of when his wife bought a rat — a “rescue rat” — that died shortly after the purchase.
“Everybody can relate [to a pet dying] — its stuff that’s been talked about by comedians, but it is just my side of it,” Ryman said.
Notably, Ryman’s set seldom features explicit material.
“I try to be cleaner. Over the years, I have done more of that just because that’s how my writing is,” Ryman said. “That’s the comedy I enjoy telling.”
According to Ryman, using clean material allows his act to be accessible and translatable across comedy clubs, corporate events or college campuses.
“It makes it easy so you don’t have to worry if this will offend somebody,” Ryman said.
So far, Ryman’s approach has paid off.
After starting stand-up in Minneapolis, Ryman went to perform on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in 2014, gaining national exposure for his act.
This bolstered his career, allowing him to tour the country for the past couple of years along the college circuit.
Being on the road, however, has not stopped Ryman from creating new material.
“I am always writing. … I am always building a new set,” Ryman said.
After constructing a new hour of stand-up, Ryman is planning to release his second album later this year, with the tentative title “Having the Time of My Life.”
“I have really taken more time with this album,” Ryman said. “It’s more storytelling and biographical than my other album.”
Ryman planned the album to exclude topical humor — he mostly stays away from using jokes regarding political or social issues.
“I don’t necessarily do that for an album because then it will be dated,” Ryman said. “You want something people can listen to forever.”
Where Joke Joint Comedy Club, 801 Sibley Memorial Hwy, St. Paul
When Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 9:45