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Episode 154:
Ritch Shydner
Notes: Released Aug 08, 2016
Ritch Shydner talks about his long career in comedy, his upcoming book and how the definition of manhood has changed through the year. Incredible episode!

Nuns, MadLibs and Blow Darts.

Sat May 31, 2014

I remember thinking if God is gonna be pulling the strings in my life, watching my every move, then I gotta get closer to him. So I became an Altar Boy to try and get on his good side. My grandmother loved that. She actually drove to my neighborhood to see me serve my first mass. My other 6th grade pals served as well. We got to see all the behind the scenes action. The priest was an alcoholic so he poured Welches grape juice into the challis instead of wine but if he ever yelled at us or was a dick, we always spiked the grape juice with wine. We didn’t realize we were causing a priest to relapse. He never flew off the rails but would always scream at whoever fucked up and gave him wine. He’d smoke cigarettes out in the alley before Mass and swear about the Cubs. “Fucking Sutcliff shit the bed again. The Cubs are the worst! The fucking worst.” He was right about one thing. The Cubs are the worst. And I LOVE the Cubs. But they are the worst.

One time he told me to go into the closet and get some Hosts and set them on the altar for him. Hosts are little bread wafers that the priest uses during the mass as a physical representation of the body of christ, which you will then eat as a sign of your loyalty. Yep, that’s a real thing. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So I opened the storage closet door and there on the floor is a brown box. I pick it up, open it and sure enough, there are bags of hosts. There was a shipping label from a warehouse in Cleveland. For whatever reason, I thought hosts were delivered by angels from heaven but apparently they are made in Cleveland and delivered by the UPS guy. Certainly not as romantic as I had only moments prior imagined. Now all I can think about is some guy making eight fifty an hour on an assembly line in Cleveland banging out the Body of Christ.

“Tommy, when are you going to be more like your brother? He’s a lawyer and makes a hundred grand a year..” His mom would say.
“I guess I could go back to school Mom, or I could just show up at work tomorrow and keep making THE BODY OF CHRIST!” my imaginary factory would say back to his fictional mother. Why can’t she be more understanding?

We would be assigned funeral masses to serve. The casket would be at the front of the church, the family doused in black sobbing in agony over the lost of their loved one. I was in 6th grade. They always had two 6th graders and then an 8th grader to make sure shit didn’t come off the rails. The 8th grader gave us the low down about how to work the funeral mass. He handed us each a thumb tack.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“You wait until you see the grandmother cry, then stick yourself in the leg to make yourself cry. The family’ll see you crying and you’ll make a better tip.”
“Who tips at a funeral mass?” I asked?
“Italians.”

I remember the first time I stuck myself. It hurt like hell. I actually shrieked. The family looked up at me and nodded, like yep, we’re in that much pain too. They gave me a ten spot when it was all over. I’d tell you that I felt awful but we were all broke, from fucked up homes, looking for a buck any way we could get it.
Plus we were at war. It was us against the priests and nuns. They were an unending source of misery and terror and we felt amazing if we could get any shots over their bow.

Most of the Nuns were treacherous miserable women who lived to torture children but there was one who was kind. Her name was Sister Sirby. She was so innocent and kind we almost couldn’t believe she was real. This was around the time we discovered spitballs. A spitball is a tiny piece of wet chewed up paper rolled small enough to fit into hollowed out pen tube, then blown out like a jungle dart as somebody or something. Spitballs would stick to the chalkboard so when Sirby would turn around all the savage boys would raise their hollowed out pens like Zulu bush warrios and shoot spitablls at her. The spitballs reigned down around her, creating a with a white outline around her at the board making it look like a crime scene.
She would whip around and ask who did it but by that time our shooters were already in our socks and we had put on our best angelic faces.

One day this kid Brian showed us a sewing needle with short pieces of yarn scotch taped to the bottom.
“What is that?” we all asked.
“Watch this,” he said with a demonic grin. He slide the needle and yarn into his hollowed out pen shooter, took a deep breath then blew into it. The needle flew out and stuck into the chalkboard.
Our whole world changed in that moment. He figured out a way to make an actual jungle dart. The next day Sister Sirby turned her back to write something on the board and ten kids raised their blow dart weapons and lit her up. About five were dead on ass shots. The darts pierced her one inch thick tweed skirt nun armor and went right into her nun ass. She shrieked and jumped in the air.
She swatted the needles off her ass and picked them up off the ground. She asked who would dare shoot a servant of the lord with darts like this. 10 angel faced boys all realized they had just crossed a line but not one raised his hand. I remember thinking  maybe the devil will go a little easier on us than the big guy in the sky. That was the last time we shot a nun with blow darts but certainly not the last time we gave Sirby a hard time.

There is a thing called MadLibs. It is a collection of stories with words strategically taken out so that you can add your own words, thus making up your own story and teaching you about nouns and adjectives at the same time. Sirby would read her favorite student MadLibs aloud in front of the entire class. As 6th grade boys hurting toward the onslaught of puberty, we would slip and sexual innuendo into the a MadLib here and there and see watch in amazement as we got a Nun, oblivious to our devious plan, read aloud or Junior High Versions of Penthouse Letters. It was always just one word here or there until one day I crossed the line.  An example of a MadLib would be like this; The _____________ went into the __________ cave and ____________ with ______________.
So I wrote The hard sausage went into the supple moist cave and exploded with white cream. (Even in 6th grade I liked to overwrite.)
Sister Sirby, completely oblivious, stood in front of a classroom of savage sixth grade boys  and read my MadLib masterpiece aloud. It was too much for us to take. Mob mentality took over and we started laughing hysterically. Kids fell out of their seats. She laughed because we were laughing which made us laugh even harder but it was clear she had no idea what she was laughing about.
The next day Sirby stood in front of the class dead quiet and dead serious. We thought she was going to give us a stern talking to but that is not what happened.

Back then, fake wrestling was HUGE. Hulk Hogan, Rick Flair, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, etc. So theatrical, so intense and physical. There were tag team matches where somebody would be on the ropes, taking an incredible beating, then somehow, someway, their arm reached over to their corner where they tapped in their partner who’d lunge over the rope and save their partner from certain demise. That is what happened with Sirby that day. We had her, almost down for the count, and there she stood, defeated, or so we though, until the door flew open and the meanest nuns in the history of the catholic church came flying in. She had murder in her eyes.

“How dare you..” She said as she started open hand slapping boys in the front row, “Making Sister Sirby read your pornographic stories…” WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!
She worked her way through the entire class as Sirby looked on in approval. The Nun looked like Hulk Hogan when he ripped his shirt off and the arena went crazy, then he suplexed the bag guy and pinned him. We were on the wrong side of Hogan that day, the bad guys, about to be pinned.  Like a biblical atrocity, the crazy Nun slapped every male child in the class, then stormed out. Sirby stood over us, then without a word, turned to the chalk board and started writing. We were defeated, broken… or so I thought.
That’s when I saw what real insanity looks like.

Brian reached into his sock and took out his shooter and loaded a blow dart into it. I shook my head and whispered, “Don’t do it, she’ll kill us all.”
He took a deep breath then blew into his dart gun. The dart whizzed across the room and BAM! A bulls eye into Sirby’s left ass cheek. She jumped in the air, spun around and screamed “You’re all evil children! Children of the devil!”
That’s when I knew we had crossed a line. It’s alright to make a nun read your elicit stories, maybe even shoot her with a blow dart gun – ONCE, but shooting her twice, after another nun just ran through the room like a drunk Irish cop with a billyclub, you have to draw the line somewhere.
Brian later apologized and she forgave him. She was the real deal. You get a little older and realize maybe the Nuns were right.

We were all little savages.


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A little taste of the new one hour…

Mon May 26, 2014

Bourbon_Shot

I am an alcoholic. Have been since I was 17. I was born into chaos and drinking was my birthright. I have been sober for 12 years now but when I was bottoming out, friends would say, you’re not an Alcoholic, you’re just a heavy drinker that needs to cool it.

There’s a difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic. A heavy drinker laughs, loves, excites and saddens like an alcoholic but can walk away from the drink to live and drink another day. The best way I can describe what it feels like to be an alcoholic is this…

My daughter is 6. Once a week she’ll go upstairs, pull a dress out of my wife’s closet, put it on along with a pair of her heels and walk around the bedroom pretending she is a princess on her wedding day.  I asked my wife if she was like that when she was a little girl? Yep, she did the exact same thing. It was something she and her friends dreamt about her entire life on and off until her actual wedding day. She would put on a dress, dance around, fantasizing about what the day would actually be like. As she got older, the fantasy would change. Friends (or potential bridesmaids) would come and go, the choices of food would change, who would sit where and why, and on and on until the real day finally arrives, the one you’ve been dreaming about your entire life.

The morning of your wedding day you wake up, all butterflies, your mother and sister sit and laugh with you as the stylist does your hair. You walk into the living room in your dress as your mother and father tear up with pride and joy. The ride to the church you’re careful not to catch a glimpse of the groom and jinx it all.

The bridesmaids giddily stroll down the aisle, arm in arm with the groomsmen as then the doors are closed. You walk over, in the perfect dress, on the perfect day and wait behind the closed doors. A church filled with everybody you love and care for on the other side here to support you on one of the greatest days of your life. The organist strikes the keys and everybody stands and stares at the door waiting for your grand entrance. Finally, the doors in front of you open and there before you in all it’s magnanimous glory is the fantasy you dreamed about since you were six…

That’s how I feel ever time I see a glass of whiskey.

That’s the difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic. Every time I drink, time stops, fear stops and all my dreams come true as long as I do one thing – never get off that bar stool. So there I sat, a fat bloated bride balls deep in delusions of granduer while a Polish plumber covered in shit in gease watched Jeopardy at the end of the bar screaming out ssać mojego penisa at Alex Trabec.

“What’s that guy screaming?” I asked the bartender.

“Ssać Mojego Penisa means suck my dick in Polish.”

Makes sense. To this day, whenvever I face any jeopardy, I yell out Ssać Mojego Penisa. You never know where you’ll get your life lessons from. Sometimes they come from the Dhali Lama, sometimes they come from a polish shit slinger at a bar called Yakos on Foster Avenue.


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17 years ago I started doing stand up comedy.

Sun May 18, 2014

There were four comedy clubs in Chicago. Three owned by the same guy and the fourth about an hour south of the three. I really only fit into the one an hour away so I had a problem. How could I grow as a performer when I had no access to stage time? The answer? Find a place that will let me do a comedy night so I will have at least one spot a week to perform. I found a bar in Rogers Park (Chicago) that gave me one test date. I called every friend, kind of friend, and half my enemies and asked them to come out to the show. I had only been doing comedy for about six months at the time so I thought I was the shit. You need to have that absurd kind of ego in the beginning or logic would come in and shut everything down. Nothing about stand up makes sense. There are no rules. No guaranteed career path. The only guarantee is that the more you perform, the better you might get. I say might, because I know people who have been doing this a long time and didn’t get better, because it takes more than performing to improve. You need to study your performance. You need to be honest about what is working and what isn’t. You need a small group of peers, even if it’s just one person, that you can bounce ideas off of. Nothing is more dangerous than a prolonged serious conversation with yourself. The outcome is almost always questionable.

So I got the place. The deal I negotiated was I keep the door, the bar keeps everything else. I rented 110 folding chairs and charged $5 at the door. There were three comics on the show. John Kuhn (no longer doing comedy) and John Roy (a North American touring headliner with multiple television and festival appearances) although at this show, like me, he had only been doing it for months. I had to set up the mics and lights (never did that before) put together a guest list, and seat people, and then do a set at the show.

I LOVED IT! It was a success for a couple of reasons. People came out. People had a good time. I made people laugh. So did the other comics. I learned a lot that night. That if I worked hard enough, I wouldn’t need to rely on other people for the most precious thing in comedy – stage time! Since then, I have always had “a room.” A spot that I book and can perform at whenever I want. Another reason this is a great thing for a comic is that you can trade spots with other people that have rooms and expand your stage time. You have a great show, people will want to be on it. Trade spots on other shows that are great. Broaden your experience. Grow. Learn. Advance. From that one show, I went through a series of six venues until I settled on a weekly show (Sundays) that I did for four years straight. When I moved to LA, I did the same thing and last Saturday (May 17th) was the sixth anniversary of the Radford Hall Show, my favorite show I have ever been a part of.

I write this now because this week’s guest is Jay Davis. When I first moved to LA, he had the hottest comedy show in town. Movie and Music stars all over the audience and the top comics in the world riding his jock weekly for spots. It was insane. Every Tuesday 400 people would pour into Dublins on the Sunset Strip to watch COMEDY! I respect his hustle muscle and am really glad he came by to do the show. We got into how Dublins came about and how he did a stadium tour with Dane Cook. It’s a really fun episode and I hope you enjoy it.

See you soon, Mick


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What is Huscle Muscle?

Fri May 16, 2014

I want you to remember Day 67. Why Day 67? Why not Day 1? Day 1 is amazing. It’s filled with passion, encouragement and support (from yourself, family, co-workers, a mentor, etc.) You are going to change the game forever. Your project, job, dream, goal is going to be achieved. Nothing is going to stop you – EVER! You’re a beast. An animal. The world doesn’t know what to do with you. You could pick up a car and hurl it through a building! Who ever thought you could be this excited and motivated. Day Ones are amazing. They are needed. Everybody loves them. But not everybody loves Day 67. By Day 67, almost all of the things that happened on Day 1 are gone. Which is why by Day 67 almost everybody quits unless you have your Hustle Muscle trained to withstand negative thinking, self-doubt and fear that is sure to arrive and knock you on your ass. The Hustle Muscle can only be developed by reacting positively to failure therefore failure is crucial part of success. You tear a muscle to make it stronger. The same is true with the Hustle Muscle. You hurt, want, need, so strongly that the idea of failing makes you quit. Think of the twisted thinking – quit so that I can’t fail. But I think that way all the time. I want to protect my ego, my reputation, my sense of well being. Why try and fail, when I can talk about it, pretend it will always be great, and never risk trying to do whatever “it” is and actually fail at it, proving what I secretly believed about myself all along – I am no good, other people are better, they know what they are doing and I should have never tried in the first place – WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!!!

How can you get around such powerful negative thinking?

1) When you start thinking like this, recognize it immediately.

2) Understand that historically, nothing in your life has ever ended well when this was the way you were thinking, so using the FACTS about this kind of thinking – you have to focus on whatever the next right indicated action is. Usually when this thinking happens, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed. The whole goal, dream, project is hanging over you in its entirety. You have to make it smaller. Narrow it down to the next right indicated action.

3) Bring your body and your mind will follow. There will be days when you will be lugging around dead negative weight. Your mind will be talking shit all day. “Quit” “It’s too hard.” “Nobody likes you here.” “You are making a huge mistake.” If you had a sprained ankle, you would still have to get through your day with the pain. This is the same thing. Like a sprained ankle, you will need to carry around a wounded mind and let it talk shit, knowing that it will heal and get better. I don’t know why the ego attacks like this. There are many books out there with vast theories. All I am trying to offer is a solution to the dilemma so you can move forward. Bring your body and your mind will follow. Don’t want to go work out? Fine. Drive to the gym, work out, then go home, the whole while your mind is complaining and guess what – you still worked out and worked that Hustle Muscle.

1) Recognize negative thinking when it is happening.

2) Narrow down your actions to the next right indicated one.

3) Bring your body and your mind will follow. NO MATTER WHAT.

Just a few suggestions from a fellow knucklehead trying to get through this life with some dignity, grace and kindness. I hope to meet you along the way. See you soon, Mick


5 Comments




XXL shirts are finally in!

Tue May 13, 2014

For those of you who have been waiting for your 2XLs, your wait is over! I have 25 shirts going out today all over the world! Keep working that Hustle Muscle and send me a pic of you in the shirt so I can get you up here on the site! And as always, I am looking for family owned businesses or cool people doing cool shit for shout outs at the end of the podcast. Just email me here through the site with a link to the business or person and I will check it out and put together a little ad for them. See ya soon, Mick


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