I know enough people in New York to make it worth my while to visit the city. I think their camaraderie is what keeps me returning here a couple of times every year.
Heck, my best friend lives here.
I’m glad he does. I’m glad I have other close friends here as well. More than a handful are former students of mine.
One of them I absolutely wanted to see. His name is Ryan Harroff, whom I met through his aunt. She was a big shot at Ohio University in Student Housing, and I had plenty of talks with her department while I was living on campus.
When Ryan arrived, he brought with him a passion that’s stuck with him. Ryan loved comedy. I mean, he loved stand-up comedy, which he had been doing in high school.
For whatever reason, Ryan was as excited about my coming to watch him as I was to see him in a bigger setting. On campus, he’d led a weekend comedy program. He was good at it; he was its star.
Before I quit teaching, I’d told him I wanted to see him perform outside campus. He promised I’d get a chance.
During my visit, he signed up for an open mic night. He was one of 20 or so comedians who took the stage for four minutes each. All of them seemed to know each other.
Performer No. 6 was Ryan.
Before he took the mic, the host found out I was there to watch. I soon became the butt of several jokes, but you never go to a comedy show if you’re unwilling to handle the comedic heat.
I could tell you the jokes Ryan used, but jokes don’t translate well into words without context. Also, the best comics have a rhythm to their delivery, which allows them to elevate even the horrific to hilarious. I think Ryan can do that.
Yet while I’m certain he’ll do well on the comedy circuit, I admire him for just trying. Ryan’s chasing a dream, and I have no idea if he’ll catch it or not.
He was getting steady work on stage in Dayton, Ohio. Figuring if wanted to take his talent to the top, Ryan needed to be in a city that never slept, a city with comedy clubs from Westchester to White Plains, from DUMBO to Harlem.
His dream isn’t farfetched. He’s not some 5-foot-3, 24-year-old basketball player trying to make it to the NBA. He’s not a mountain climber who’s afraid of heights.
Ryan’s dream is sensible. He can make it in New York, and if he can make it here, he can make it anywhere. All it takes is practice, practice, practice.
I’m talking about practice.
His routine at Stella & Fly, a local bar, was practice. He’s showing others who took the mic that night what he had in his comic toolbox. From where I sat, his was filled with all he’ll need to get to where he wants to go.
Now, he might lose his passion along the way. He might burn out, as more than a few comics on the circuit here have done. Yet I can’t possibly know.
What I do know is he’s going to keep trying. At his age, what does Ryan have to lose?