Considered to be one of the best stand-up comedians in the country, Ritch Shydner brings his unique insights and observations to both men and women alike, enlightening them on what makes relationships tick. Throughout his career, Shydner has emerged as the well intentioned but poorly informed guy who is just trying to figure out relationships. He now shares his philosophies on relationships in a new one man show "Your Man Is A Hero." Of his comic aptitude, The Los Angeles Times states "Few comedians can match Shydners eye for detail and ability to evoke the wrenching emotions attendant to the turbulent side of romance." The Austin Chronicle boasts "If I only have one life, let me live it as an audience member when Ritch Shydners on stage."
Born in Pennsville, New Jersey (exit 1 off the Jersey turnpike), Shydner was brought up in a small middle class town. He later studied business and sociology at Gettysburg college, and is still famous for a flagpole incident he attempted 20 years ago, which pretty much sums up his college career. After drinking with his buddies, he had the idea to jump off the roof, and grab onto a flagpole. He hit the flagpole head on, blacked out, and went sliding down the pole ala Wile E. Coyote.
Upon graduating, he traveled around the country not really knowing what he wanted to do. He did some substitute teaching back in Pennsville, tried to sing in a band, managed a band ("the biggest scam of my life"), and hung out with his buddies. He was living in the second room of a trailer, which Ritch describes as "about the size of a coffin. I woke up one morning at a 45 degree angle with a hangover and knew I had to change my life.
Shydner began to work for a radical congressman, which sparked his interest in law school. He attended George Mason University in D.C., and it is there his comic talent began to flourish. He began writing a lot, and sending material to Mad Magazine, National Lampoon - basically everywhere, but never got an answer. Feeling the need to express himself, Shydner took to the microphone.
Being that in the mid 70s there was no "comedy circuit," Shydner went to an open mike night for folk singers at a local coffee house which he remembers as "a bomb shelter where hippies went to play chess and burn incense. It was during the 70s disco craze and all these hippies were there trying to wait it out." Taking a deep breath, he hoped on stage, bombed... and he was hooked!
In the beginning, Shydners comedy not only reflected his life at the times, but the audience he was playing to. The subjects were sex, drugs and rock n roll. Although initially he wasnt making a huge impact on the crowed, Shydner comments "Even if I made one guy laugh, I knew I had connected with them. I was clueless at the time, and didnt think that this was something to make a career out of."
In 1978, Shydner took a trip to New York City hearing that a few comedy clubs had sprouted. "At the time there were about 30-40 of us. There was a camaraderie, and feeling of support from your fellow comedian." Shydner went back and forth from NY and DC where he started opening for every band that came through town, and began to make a name for himself as a. comic.
In 1982, Shydner brought his act to Los Angeles. Slowly he started getting called in to audition for casting directors. "I knew nothing about auditioning. I would go in, and before I started to read, Id have to explain that I had rewritten the material." Deciding it was time to enroll in some acting classes, Shydner studied for about 4 years, and it paid off. In the same year, he landed a regular role on "Married With Children" and a bit part in the feature film Roxanne." He has gone on to guest star on "Roseanne" and "Designing Women" to name a few. Shydner has also made numerous appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show" and the "Arsenio Hall Show." Last year, Shydner starred in his own critically acclaimed HBO special "One Night Stand."
Seven years sober, Shydners new one man show "Your Man Is A Hero" is a good example of how his life and his comedy has changed over the years. When he and his wife moved to the L.A. suburbs, he came up with his "Canyon Man" routine - a routine his audiences constantly requests about L.A.s obsession with Jeeps in a town that has no hills.
On a deeper level, his humor has more warmth and understanding than his earlier days in the coffee houses. It not only reflects his life with his wife Kay and their daughter Savannah, but his observations on men and women, alone and together. It is Shydners ability to make his material relate to all ages and both men and women, that makes him have such mass appeal. As a result of the changes in his comedy, Shydners performance has evolved into a theatrical piece and not stand up routine. Shydner recently teamed up with director Mark Travis, whose forte is autobiographical solo performances, to fine tune "Your Man Is A Hero." Some of Travis work includes the critically acclaimed play and HBO special Time Flies When Youre Alive and A Bronx Tale, which is now being made into a motion picture starring and directed by Robert DeNiro.
Influenced by the comedy of Lenny Bruce, Red Skelton, and George Carlin, Shydners biggest influence is Art Carney. Not surprisingly, Shydner has a pilot in development similar to "The Honeymooner" with his friend and fellow comedian Rick Ducommun. He is also in the process of writing a book that will be a manual to relationships based on his observations. He admits "Although I dont have a license or degree to write a guide, I know how to lead people to a punchline, and show them the humorous side of "Your Man Is A Hero." Shydner writes everyday to stay fresh, and in the past 8 years hasnt been off the stage for more that 2 days. In between his family and work, Shydner has time to root for the Orioles and the Phillies, and is trying to convince his wife to let him buy a boat.