by Ryan Meehan
It’s a good thing sitting still, paying attention aren’t the skills you need to become a standup comedian, because Rich Ragains possesses none of them. And while his ADHD kept him from being a teacher’s pet or even a good student, it has helped him develop and act that even his Teachers would be proud of. In an odd sort of way, his quick thinking and improv skills also helped him become a high school wrestling champion, but that fact really has nothing to do with his current career. Rich’s career began on a dare when he was talked into taking the stage at an open mic night after the guy who was scheduled to perform backed out! And because that one guy lacked either courage or scheduling ability, Rich now enjoys a career in standup comedy that has taken him from Northern Canada, all the way to the sunny Bahamas. Rich has also written a book entitled “No Excuse Dad,” which discusses the lost art of hanging out and is the host of the new program “Tractor Fanatic”. Rich Ragains is the perfect choice for your next event. With clean jokes, hilarious true-life family stories and this show will leave your people rolling with laughter. When not performing for corporate groups or private parties, Rich performs at the nations top comedy clubs such as the Comedy Caravan, Stardome, Funny Bones, the Punchline, and Zanies. He is also a contributing writer for National Lampoon’s Sports Minute Or So. Rich has opened for the likes of Dave Chappelle, Carrot Top, Larry the Cable Guy. He’s been seen on Country Music Television, NBC and been heard on Bob and Tom as well as XM and Sirius radio. We are extremely lucky to have Rich Ragains as our guest today in 7 Questions.
RM: Which comedians did you see when you were younger that drew you to stand-up? Did you have interest in the art form the first time you saw it; or did it take a while for you to really become a fan?
RR: My Mom used to let me stay up and watch “The Tonight Show” when she was too tired to put me to bed. When I was little, the very first comic I ever saw was Dick Cavett and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was maybe 5 years old and I remember thinking I was watching a funny way of talking. At that point I didn’t know what standup comedy was. When he would talk, the crowd would laugh really hard. Even then I felt like they were laughing for me. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but I remember thinking to myself, “I can do that.” After that I wanted to be like Dick Cavett. I wanted to talk like that. We would be outside with the neighbor kids playing cowboys and Indians and at the beginning of the game some kids would yell, ” I get to be a cowboy! and other kids would yell, ” I want to be an Indian! I would yell ” I get to be Dick Cavett!” Then we would play cowboys, Indians and Dick Cavett.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between the industry of stand-up comedy as it was two decades ago when you started and stand-up comedy today? Do you think that the success of YouTube has helped or hurt clubs when it comes to actually getting people through the door?
RR: As comedy progresses, what you get over time is more good and more bad. For instance, what we were spoon fed in the early days we saw on TV, those guys were real pros. But the only shows that had comedy were Johnny Carson and a few specials, so you only saw the best of the best. They didn’t have all these media outlets starving for content. That was great for the quality aspect of comedy but we were limited on the creative end. I believe for comedy to be an art form, you have to have all kinds of comedy that span the entire spectrum. You have to have squeaky clean church acts and you have to have raunchy dick/fart/booger stuff. There are some fantastic Christian comedians- I mean very talented professionals. That’s great for comedy. Those guys get a bad rap sometimes from club comics; and they shouldn’t because it’s way harder to be clean and be funny than be dirty and funny. Let’s face it- Farts are funny. I think fart jokes are God’s perfect joke. Think about it. It is its own microcosm of the paradigm of a joke. Built in setup-suspense-punch. First of all, they sound funny. Second, they smell bad which makes people hold their noses and run. And third, they come out of your butt, which has been a funny body part since the dawn of time. Kids always laugh at fart jokes because they have the purest and most honest since of humor. They laugh at that because they can’t help it. They don’t have time to think and judge like we do. Thinking too much ruins comedy. That’s my barometer to tell if you’re getting old. If somebody farts and you don’t laugh, give up. You’re old and no fun. On the other end of the spectrum you have dirty comedy which Christian crowds will say is no good because they feel guilty laughing at it and they are way too busy judging it- which is the worst way to watch comedy. I respect classy people who just don’t prefer dirty humor. That’s a personal preference. I don’t respect people who think all dirty comedy is bad – It’s not. It’s truthful; and if there is anything uptight, judgmental people need more than anything, it’s the truth.
Doug Stanhope is one of my all time favorite comics and sometimes he says things that are so bad it literally hurts my feelings. But he is the most honest comedian in the world. He faces the slings and arrows like nobody has being “filthy” as some people say. Because he famous now, people forget how hard he had it when he first started, when he was inexperienced and not as funny as he is now. Do you know what kind of balls it takes to go tell the truth and bomb like that? You have to have both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. I think it seems like there’s more bad comedy out there now because we have more access to it. But on the other hand, because of that accessibility there are more styles and originality that just didn’t exist in the old days. It’s very important that young comics recognize the pioneers and forefathers and their contributions and the old guys respect the new stuff. They have both helped each other and made comedy what it is today, but people don’t always appreciate that. Big message here- if you’re a young comic or an old one, don’t be bitter and judgmental. We can all learn something from acts that are different.
RM: Could you briefly tell us a little bit about “Tractor Fanatic”? What inspired you to get involved with that project?
RR: I spent a lot of time growing up on my Grandparents farms and always LOVED working with tractors. I met Dennis Gage through a friend and they wanted to do it. Had a bunch of fun.
RM: What’s the central focus of “No Excuse Dad” and what would you like people to take away from that book? What type of information contained in that book would be valuable to me as a 34 year old guy who doesn’t plan on having kids? If the answer is “nothing”, what book would you recommend that I read in its place?
RR: I wrote that book because of a deadbeat dad I met. The message of the book is that the very best things you can do with your kids-and I mean the very best things you can do with them are things that are cheap, easy or free. That’s why you have no excuse to be a good Dad and show up for the job. And that starts with just hanging out. That’s what kids need most. This biggest problem we have in America isn’t crime, or race or politics. It’s stupid ass parents who don’t raise their kids right. Period.
RM: Is your desire to work clean fueled by more than just the ability to do corporate gigs? Who do you think is the best clean comic in the country right now? Do you think if you had to put together a set which contained some off color material and profanity it wouldn’t feel right when you finally went to perform it?
RR: I want to work clean because I want to work more. When I do a club show, all bets are off. I say what I want. Brian Regan is my favorite clean comic. He’s the one clean comic who actually has the respect of all the bitter, pissed off dirty comics hating on the clean ones. He’s just really funny. Whenever I get done working a week with another comic and we part ways I always yell “Take Luck!” And they always yell back, “You too!” Just like in that classic bit.
RM: What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you onstage during one of your performances? And what’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you off stage in all of your years travelling the country doing stand up?
RR: Onstage when two ladies got in a fistfight during one of my shows over which truck was better. Ford or Chevy. The Chevy lady won and she drove a Toyota. ‘Murica! Offstage was when me and Mark Klein got snowed in by a blizzard doing a show at a dog/horse racing track and we had to park the car in a horse stall and hide in the jockey quarters to get away from a toothless bartender that was dead set on getting my pants off. Man, if I only had a nickel…
RM: What do you think is the most important trait a comedian has to have in order to attain the type of universal appeal that suggests they can do well in almost any room?
RR: One thing? Experience. And talent. And the ability to keep your ego in check. Tom Sobel gave me some of the best advice when I was coming up when I went to a clean show and dropped 20 F- bombs because I was having a bad day. He almost lost the room because of me. He could have screamed and yelled and he had every right. I felt awful about it. But he very calmly and very respectfully laid it out for me. He said, “Rich, you have to remember that you don’t always have to make the show about you”. Wow.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
RR: I’m working on writing a brand new hour for Sirius. Next week we are taping at the Laughing Derby in Louisville for Steve Hofstetter’s new show called Laughs. It airs on Fox.
Official Website: http://www.richragains.com/
Rich on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ragains
Rich on Twitter: https://twitter.com/richragains
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