Comics are a cynical breed. Their goal is to make an audience laugh and one common way to do that is by pointing out holes in our beliefs and behavior.
Ryan Singer uses a different technique to get guffaws from the crowd. He thinks a sense of humor is necessary to possess any belief in the first place — including beliefs in ghosts, pre-cognitive abilities and Bigfoot — and he leverages this idea in his craft.
"When it comes to the paranormal world, the decision-makers who are in charge of television and stuff, they don't think that people who are into the paranormal have a sense of humor and that's a major problem for me," says Singer. "They're hypersensitive that you can't have a comedy show that's paranormal because they are going to think you're making fun of them. They're not 6 years old. They're adults who happen to believe in ghosts."
"If you don't have a sense of humor about what you believe," Singer adds, "you can't effectively communicate your beliefs to anyone." The comedian and host of the paranormal podcast Me and Paranormal You will deliver his unique perspective at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth over the course of two shows Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, in the Milburn Theater.
Like most comedians, Singer was bit by the comedy bug from the first time he made someone laugh. "I always wanted to do stand up," the Dayton, Ohio, native says. "I guess even when I was a little kid, I didn't know exactly what it was, but I knew there was a dude on TV making adults laugh, and I was thinking that I want to be that dude. To me, it was all about making adults laugh, and as I grew older, I became more concerned with making my peers laugh, but I've always been drawn to the idea."
Eventually, his obsession with scoring laughs turned to a need to create characters that Singer says was motivated by his discomfort with his true personality. "Most of my act is just me, but I think my love of characters or just creating them was born from being a kid who didn't think he was interesting enough," Singer says. He would carry those characters into his comedy and use them to express his own ideas and views on stage. Sometimes, Singer says his characters seem to drive his entire personality.
"I committed too hard to certain characters as a kid and I kind of became them," Singer says with a laugh. "After awhile, I was this kid who went around calling himself The Peacemaker, but it wasn't a character as much as a way of life. And in my early 20s, I was a cowboy for some reason. I was wearing my Stetson hat and my boots and Brooks and Dunn button-downs. I was just like, 'Who are you?'"
Learning to be more comfortable with himself through his characters allowed Singer to open up to his audience and explore deeper subjects in his comedy like science, the metaphysical world and, "How we're doing as a species and trying to present that in a positive way as opposed to telling you how shitty my day is and mining laughs from anger or darkness," Singer says.
Singer doesn't just explore people through the fantastical characters he's made up in his head. He also talks to them on his endlessly interesting podcast Me and Paranormal You. The show features discussions with people about their unusual beliefs and abilities. The first episode, "Origins," opens with Singer's declaration that, "It's more fun to believe," a motto that influences all of his interviews.
"'It's more fun to believe' comes with one qualification: As long as the belief doesn't lead to you harming yourself or endangering yourself or others," Singer says. "I do think it's more fun to believe as long as you don't act recklessly. It's always important to be skeptical to some degree because it's an ally to being a believer and to investigate and discover more."
Singer has a genuine interest in his subjects whether it's a holistic practitioner who specializes in quantum healing or someone known outside of cryptozoological circles like director and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who shares Singer's affinity for the Bigfoot phenomenon and even directed a found footage horror movie on the subject,Willow Creek.
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Singer also identifies with his subjects because he knows what it's like to question everything you thought you knew: His ex-girlfriend came out to him as a shapeshifter. He vowed never to talk about it in his first "experience" — what he calls his podcasts episodes — but the two eventually got together and both delivered an honest, heartfelt and even funny listening experience.
"I've seen it happen twice," he says referring to his ex-girlfriend's shapeshifting condition. "I've seen the results of it twice ... The only thing I'll say is that it's not something that she has any control over. She doesn't think of it as a power as much as it's a curse."
Singer says it can be hard for people with unusual beliefs to open themselves up to ridicule in an interview. "They know I won't judge them," he says. "If I open a conversation with someone who is maybe clairvoyant and I just casually mention, 'Oh, I dated a girl who can shapeshift,' then clairvoyance is nothing. This guy is genuinely talking about dating a girl who could change forms."
His openness to strange concepts has driven his comedy to an interesting and fun place. "A lot of people will say, 'Man, your comedy is weird' or, 'Wow, that's different,'" Singer says. "I think whatever it is that I'm doing has become the truest version of myself I can be at this point and hopefully that continues to improve."