Review: Tulsa joke writer uncovers secrets of comedy and comedians


by Tatyana Nyborg

Metro Campus Associate Editor

The blond, well-groomed and confident comedian, Ryan Howell, looks like a pastor or a bishop. If you meet him at a grocery store or at a post office, you would never assume that Howell is Tulsa’s “2015 Best Story Teller” and an organizer of the Blue Whale Comedy Festival.

Howell practices “clean comedy” or family friendly jokes, which are appropriate to tell in a church.

“I do not write political jokes, because politics move so quickly,” the comedian admits.

“I do not do too many jokes about sex either,” he adds. “I do not know much about sex because I am married.”

The Tulsa Community College (TCC) series of free “I Can’t” workshops are always good, but those with the participation of the comedians are the funniest.

In April 2017, Howell shared secrets of successes and failures of comedians at his “How to Write Jokes” seminar.

“A good comedian looks natural on a stage, like he is having a conversation with the audience. A bad comedian sounds like bad Shakespeare impersonator,” said Howell.

The award-winning joke writer stressed that a lot of rehearsing stands behind a good comedy performance.

“Some comedians do crowd work at the performance, but it is all planned,” he adds.

Well, nice to know, because some of us, ordinary people, think that comedians are born funny and that hard work is not applied to them.

Howell stated that “comedy timing is everything.”

“A good comedian is able to make an audience laugh four times within a 60 second period or every 15 seconds,” he said.

“A comedian must be an attention keeper and be very engaging,” Howell continued. “My acts are usually 10-15 minutes on a stage.”

It was very informative that the comedian went into deeper details how he “crafts a joke” at the seminar. The attendees of the workshop listened to him with much curiosity.

“When I craft a joke, I start to craft a funny premise,” Howell said.

The comedian suggested that the audience should explore or make jokes about busy times, the morning time or breakfast. It appeared that a member of the audience could not remember such as what she ate for breakfast. Howell played with the topic and said, “I forgot where my pants were this morning, too.”

“Turn sad and weird into funny,” advised the comedian.

Howell also uncovered his “dirty” secret that his first joke at each performance is always about himself.

Another discovery, which the audience did at the workshop, was that “Oklahoma comedians are not getting paid a lot” and “you cannot make it as a comic in Tulsa.”

“Every famous comedian on TV spent years on the road as a comic,” said Howell. “Hollywood, New York City and Chicago are big places for comedy.”

Despite that, there is no shortage of comedians willing to perform at Tulsa bars and restaurants and at the Blue Whale Comedy Festival.

“We book a lot of big names for the festival,” said Howell.

The Blue Whale Comedy Festival usually occurs in downtown Tulsa in the fall.