by Ryan Meehan
Comedy’s Ron Babcock is a comedian based in LA. You can see him this fall on Comedy Central’s new show House Party. He’s also been on “Last Comic Standing”, HBO’s “The Life” and Times of Tim, and The Rotten Tomatoes Show. He’s been to dozens of festivals including being selected as a “New Face” for the 2012 Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. He creates a lot of web content. He produced and co-hosted the Why Would You Eat that Challenge on YouTube’s Tasted. He also produced and starred in web series for MTV and AOL. Some of these have been turned into internet memes, which always makes his mother sigh. He’s really good at nailing casual conversation, and he’s our guest today in 7 Questions.
RM: What was your first experience being on stage like? What was the biggest mistake you made in that performance?
RB: My first time on stage doing standup was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I did a “Semester at Sea” in college. Basically, it’s a cruise ship full of college students that travels the world. Some people called it a “Mattress at Sea”, because there was a whole lot of boning, but for me it was a “Semester at Sea.” That’s it. On one of the last nights they had a talent show and my buddy Ryan McKee and I did that whole I’ll-sign-up-if-you-sign-up thing. That night, we both took turns going up and both did amazing. Imagine performing in front of 700 people who wanted to see you succeed. If it wasn’t for Semester at Sea, I don’t think either of us would even be doing standup and making literally hundreds of dollars a year at it (wha what).
RM: You’re big web series guy, having done plenty of work within that format. Is it possible that with the popularity of some of these sites like Netflix and Youtube that eventually online TV will take a pretty decent chunk out of cable’s ratings? How much of the entertainment that you personally consume for your own enjoyment is primarily available on the internet?
RB: The way people consume media is changing very fast. I’m in my 30’s and don’t have cable. Everything I watch is either online or through my Xbox 360. Between Hulu, Netflix, HBOGO and Amazon Prime – I pretty much have my bases covered and it’s still cheaper than a basic cable package. That being said, there are still MILLIONS of people who get their entertainment via a cable subscription. But most agree that the cable companies glory days are in the past.
What’s really interesting to me is that a lot of young people view cable as something old people watch. On the Why Would You Eat That Challenge, about 30% of our views came from mobile devices (iphones, ipads, etc…). That’s how kids watch stuff now and it makes total sense to me, because they get to be in complete control of this little screen. It’s like a digital cocoon that they don’t have to share with anyone else. It’s hard to have that intimate of a viewing experience with a giant TV in a living room with your dad scratching himself on the couch.
The only problem is people are dumping a lot of money into new media, but no one’s making a ton of money off of it. We’re all still trying to figure that part of the equation out. I’m happy though because all that investment capital is what keeps paying my rent.
RM: Speaking of your online work, what was it like working with Betty White on the “dating Older Women” piece? Have you or your friends been able to use any of those pointers for any worthwhile cougar hunts?
RB: That woman is even sweeter than you’re imagining. Before the interview, I leaned over and said, “Betty, I just want to give you a heads up that I do off-kilter interviews, so I’m going to be asking you some weird questions.” She looked back at me and said, “I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth. You just lead the way.” I haven’t gone on any cougar hunts yet though. I prefer to be the one hunted.
RM: When you test out a joke and it doesn’t go over well at all, how many more times do you give that joke a chance before you let it go? And does that number vary depending on whether or not you tried it out for the first time in what is traditionally known as a “tough room”?
RB: Hmmm, I don’t have a set rule. If I’m excited about the joke, I keep telling it. I’ve finally gotten to the point as a comic where I’ve stopped asking the audience “is this funny” and have graduated to “this is funny and here’s why.” I love to run stuff in tough rooms because it’s a great way of discovering what part of the joke has legs. There’s nothing like a tough room that will make you really tighten up your shit.
RM: What is the theatrical version of Ron Babcock like? How does he differ from that of the comedian that acts in strange YouTube videos? And which one am I talking to right now?
RB: The real me speaks in a Russian accent and drinks the tears of abandoned cats. You’re not talking to him. No one has ever talked to him.
RM: What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve encountered so far on “Tasted”? Have you always had a fascination with bizarre tasting foods, or was that just something that you saw as a career opportunity so you jumped at it?
RB: The job at Tasted just fell into my lap. Michael Truly (the leader of all things Why Would You Eat That), gave me a call because he knew I could produce/edit and host. I’ve always considered myself an adventurous eater, but nothing could prepare me for some of the stuff we ate. The worst was the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper (2 million units on the Scoville scale aka the same level as law enforcement grade pepper spray). It felt like I was eating fire. Hours later, I could actually feel the pepper move through each ring of my intestine. It was a truly awful experience and here’s the video to prove it — http://youtu.be/VP9E_YtW7Es?t=1m42s
RM: Is “Just for Laughs” generally nerve racking because there are so many other comedians that you are performing and essentially competing with, or do you enjoy the whole process of meeting up with everybody and sharing a good time? Who were some of the comics that you really enjoyed hanging out with while you were up there and why?
RB: Here’s the thing about New Faces. It’s really tough to get. It was my third year auditioning and I had never even gotten a callback before. You typically have to perform in three showcase auditions before being selected for the fest. This part of the process lasts for about 5 months.
Then when you get to Montreal, the first show you do is in this 500-seat auditorium that is full of every casting director, manager, agent, network head, etc… It’s actually required that they go to the New Faces showcase. It was incredibly nerve racking. It’s like, “Welp, here’s your chance pal. Don’t fuck it up.”
On top of all that, I closed out the show and everyone before me had DESTROYED. So not only was I nervous to perform, but I also had to hold my own after a lineup of extremely talented comics. Thankfully it went well. Afterwards I remember Will Weldon and I raced outside and bought sausage dogs and beer. We both had been too nervous to eat beforehand. It was a weird sight. Us shoving food into our faces like drunk hobos while audience members tapped us on the shoulder to say, “Nice work you two!”
I enjoy hanging out with pretty much all comics. Comedians can be a lot to handle sometimes but damn are they the best group in the world to get drunk with.
RM: What was the whole experience of “Adam Devine’s House Party” like and how did you end up with the chance to work on that show? He seems like a pretty animated guy – both on that program as well as “Workaholics” – is he one of those comics that is always “on” or is he pretty low-key behind the scenes?
RB: Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a better way to do my first ever standup spot on TV. The Workaholics crew are some of the nicest and most welcoming guys I’ve ever met. Adam Devine was really friendly and has a knack for putting you at ease. The guy is like the definition of fun. The director, Kyle Newacheck (who also directs Workaholics) was really supportive. The whole thing felt like I was making some silly sketch stuff with a bunch of friends. We shot the sketches during the day and the standup at night. By the time the standup taping rolled around, the nerves had left and I was able to just on stage and have fun. That’s always been how I look at performing. I figure that if I’m having fun, chances are the audience is having fun too.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
RB: I’m planning a summer tour that’s going to take me all over the US. Also, I’m going to be making a lot more videos this year. I just spent way too much money on camera gear so please subscribe to my youtube channel to make me feel not as bad about it —
Official Website: http://www.heyron.com
Ron Babcock on Tumblr: http://www.heyronblog.com
Ron Babcock on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ronbabcock
Ron Babcock on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ronbabcock
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