We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Conner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, how do you think about risk?
I’m active in weighing risks around things like physical safety and investments. But in terms of my career and creativity, I don’t believe in considering risk. What risks do people worry about? Things like, “Will I ‘make it’? Will I be able to pay my bills?” Well, what does “making it” mean? To me, it means living a life that makes me happy, that isn’t confined by fears that I’ve been told to have. Being able to pay the bills is obviously important, but if that informs your creative decisions, you’re on a slippery slope.
Let’s suppose I decided there was too much risk in doing comedy full-time or doing challenging material. In the former scenario, I’d be a hobbyist who lived his life wondering what would happen if I believed in myself. In the latter, I would be disgusted with myself for doing what people want to hear instead of taking the supposed risk of being myself and following my own path.
Delusion is dangerous. I’m not advocating that. There’s a reason I didn’t try to be a professional basketball player. But if you have the tools and you’re willing to work hard every day to hone them, risk is nothing but a limiting concept that has to be destroyed in order for you to be a free artist. If you’re in a creative field and you can forget about the idea of risk, I guarantee you will see enormous growth.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Stand-up is my forte. I’ve been doing it for over 17 years, touring the country for 15 of those years. It’s never been easy, but also not difficult because it’s fun. There’s a ton of effort involved, but when it’s fun, it doesn’t feel difficult. On the creative side, the challenge of stand-up is to constantly churn out new stuff, while honing the existing material. That and getting on stage are the only things that matter and that I can control. The business stuff is mostly out of my hands. Comics/writers can pitch shows, audition for things, and put ourselves out there. But whether those projects get bought or picked up is up to other people who are considering tons of factors into their business decisions and NONE of them are personal. So, I don’t consider the business side to be challenging either. It’s just something there.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that the only thing I have total control of is creative effort and output. So that’s my focus. I’m currently working on preparing for a new stand-up special/album, shopping a novel and a tv show, writing a feature, and writing another novella. My reward was in creating those things. Not what happens with them after I’ve created them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Okay, here’s where you find out I’m mentally 90 years old. Anyone who visits has to go to Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena. The library is mind-blowing. The gardens are awe-inspiring. The LA Arboretum is great too, especially if you like being threatened by peacocks. Barnsdall Art Park in Los Feliz is great too. There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house and amazing views.
Food… For cheaper stuff, I love Tacos Villa Corona and Regent Coffee. For medium-priced restaurants, I recommend Connie and Teds and Petite Trois. And if you want to part with a lot of money for an incredible meal and unforgettable experience, go to Providence. It’s the best restaurant in LA and I don’t think it’s close.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mom and my grandma (who sadly passed away before I started comedy). They’re the people who saw something in me back when I barely existed and they never wavered.
And I can’t leave out The DC Improv. They’ve supported every single step of my career.
Photo by Mandee Johnson Photo by Lyle Robinson