Ryan Croft doesnt want to be douchey. And the idea he wants to apply to an upcoming road trip comedy tour might be overused. In the end, he doesnt care.
The term gets thrown around a lot, and usually, its full of shit, he said. Whatever. We are definitely low-budget DIY.
Croft, an Oklahoman turned Chicagoan, and three other windy city comedians are loading up his 05 Saturn Ion with family-sized jars of peanut butter and jelly, bread and clothes and hitting the long, winding road for a comedy tour that passes through Othellos in Norman on Friday.
The name of the tour is Creatures of the Night, Croft said. Because why the hell not.
The quartet includes Croft and fellow Oklahoman Jacob Lowrey, with the addition of Kansas City and Chicago natives Colby Cusick and Corey Craig. The group hits several Midwest stops, including Lawrence, Kansas; Springfield, Missouri; and Norman.
- Provided by Ryan Croft
- Jacob Lowrey spinning a fanciful yarn at a house show in a basement somewhere, probably.
For Croft and Lowrey, who left the Oklahoma comedy scene nearly a year ago, this is a homecoming.
Im pretty excited to come back home and do comedy for some old friends, Lowrey said. Its also been a while since Ive woken up shirtless and hung over on my parents couch, so that will also be a real treat.
The two grew up on opposite ends of the metro, Croft in Edmond and Oklahoma City and Lowrey in Norman, but because of the tightly knit community here, they were bound to cross.
Weve known each other for years and only recently realized it, Croft said. We became comedy buddies at Othellos, and he finally stalked me all the way to Illinois, where I caved in to being the much-needed older brother figure in his life.
Lowrey sees it the same way.
We vaguely knew each other in Norman, he said. Now, we look and sound a lot alike, so people mistake him for my ex-con brother.
Lowreys start in comedy was fluid and nonchalant. He just started going to open mics and performing. It wasnt such an easy process for Croft.
I would watch these local comedians James Nghiem, Ryan Drake and you should include them so they know I name-dropped them, Croft said. Id watch these longer sets I had never seen someone in my peer group do, and it was genius. But I had no idea how to write a comedy set.
Schooled in journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma, Croft was familiar with narratives. He had written sketches and done improv. Whether fiction, nonfiction or half fiction, sharing information that interested him was what he did. But his personal breakthrough, the moment he realized he could write a comedy set with ease, didnt come in any familiar form. It came in the form of a eulogy.
A close friend had committed suicide, and Croft wanted to give him the proper send-off.
He was a really good friend, but I was trying to write, and all I could think about were jokes that he would like, Croft said.
When the eulogy was finished, Croft was wary; he didnt think it was quite the right feel. He read it to another friend, who encouraged him. Croft decided that what he had on his hands was a comedy sketch. It was a bit macabre, he said, but it was a comedy routine nonetheless.
I [performed] it a few times and realized more than being about breaking into comedy, [the jokes] were really cathartic, Croft said. But after I had broken the code, I was like, this is how you write. I just have to write from what Im thinking and work that into something thats going to make people laugh. Thats why my comedy stayed personal.
Crofts material centers around stories of the sad-sack variety, he said. He likes building his narratives, roping in a few one-liners and characters but leaving the bulk of his impact to the story, which usually involves him getting hurt in some way.
He isnt sure if its a curse, but theres plenty of that material. Whether its getting hit by a car at the age of 7, falling through a roof or the time a cleated soccer player fractured his sternum, he has innumerable tales of pain to recount.
Storytelling is great if you can figure out how to do it effectively, Lowrey said. Thats definitely where hes headed.
While both comedians continue to refine their material, they acknowledged theyre playing to very different scenes. Obviously, Chicago is bigger, offering seven or eight open mics a night compared to OKCs two or three, they said, but the variety of communities is what sticks out.
Oklahoma has a great, tight-knit community, but its one tight-knit community, Croft said. In Chicago, if you dont like the people youre hanging out with, you can go to a different show down the street and youve got a whole new tight-knit community.
While theyre happy figuring out the scene, Croft and Lowrey are also impressed by Oklahoma comedys growth.
Im psyched what dudes like Zach Smith, Ryan Drake, James Nghiem and others are doing for the OKC scene, Lowrey said. Its cool that theyre all so dedicated to building their [city]. Hats off for sure.
Print headline: Homecoming cards, Big-city comedians prove theres no story without their roots.