Since moving to Toronto in 2011 to pursue a career in comedy, St. John’s native Ryan Dillon has become one of Canada’s most promising comics, banking numerous notable appearances. This April, Dillon returns home to record his debut comedy record, but not before catching up for our latest Q&A.
(Note, this interview took place before Dillon’s April 28th home showcase)
You’re returning home to St. John’s to record your first ever comedy album at The Fifth Ticket Hideaway on April 28th. Talk me through everything surrounding that.
Ryan: I’ve done tapings before. I did a taping for Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network for Just For Laughs, and that was my first experience being recorded. It was a great experience and it went really well. I thought to myself that I’ve been doing standup, really, since 2013.
I moved to Toronto thinking I was going to be a sketch/improv guy. I did improv in Newfoundland for years thinking that was what I was going to be.
When I moved to Toronto, standup became its own thing that I loved. It’s something I always wanted to do since I was a kid. I had material that I wanted to put online and put on SiriusXM. I thought, I’m already being flown down for a show, why don’t I just record it and see what happens?
Take me through the early days of your career. I can imagine there were some interesting times.
Ryan: It was tough, man. You go out every night to every open mic you can and you bomb every night in front of all the best comics in Canada. You got to just keep working slowly up, but I think it was just a drive and wanting it more. You always want to be the hardest working person in the room. I kept grinding it out and also just being kind.
It sounds crazy, but honestly just not being a jackass can really help a lot. I think that’s where I’m happy to be from Newfoundland, because we grew up to respect your neighbour and show love and compassion to the folks around you. I think Conan O’Brien said it best when I said “be kind, work hard and great things will happen.”
I think that’s the mantra I tried to hold onto when I started and I feel that’s why I’ve come as far as I have.
Newfoundlanders are known for being remarkably funny/witty folks. What do you attribute that to?
Ryan: I think it’s because we have this outside point of view. We’re off to this island on the side looking in at everyone else’s problems and thinking this is no big deal! We like to poke fun at everything in the world. If you don’t laugh at it, you’re just going to be miserable all the time. When you think of a place like Newfoundland and Labrador, we’re some of the happiest people in the world, but looking at the map it shouldn’t make any sense. We’re on an island and there’s nothing, but I think that’s why the arts are so strong in Newfoundland, because we create our own entertainment. We entertain ourselves and that’s why we have such natural talent in the province.
You’ve had some really big gigs early on in your career, including appearing at Just For Laughs. How do you hope to continue that momentum?
Ryan: I was really happy with how well I did, but just because you did the festival doesn’t mean you stop growing. There’s still room to grow and get better. I think back, and it’s only been a year and a half since I did JFL and it’s already like I can’t wait to go back again and show what I’ve got this time, because I’ve only gotten better since. That’s the big thing, not getting comfortable. As soon as you get comfortable I feel you have to shake things up like move or go to a new city. I feel like when comfort starts to happen you can kind of plateau. It’s always about challenging yourself and finding something different and bigger to go to. That’s what led to this album. I wanted to challenge myself with that and see what happens, release it and move on from there.