Wiley’s Welcomes America’s Greatest Storyteller
Written By J.T. Ryder
I prepared for my upcoming interview with comedic storyteller Ron Shock in the same manner that I approached all of my subjects. I researched reviews of his performances from across the country. I listened to all of the stage material of his that I could find. I read all of the somewhat vitriolic rants on his web blog. I collated and compressed all of my thoughts down into a series of poignant, thought provoking questions, took a deep breath and dialed his telephone number. As soon as I heard his raspy, whiskey soaked voice answer the phone and he launched unceremoniously into a review of his day, I did what any professional interviewer would do; I threw my notes right the fuck out. I realized instantly that there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to be able to force this interview to follow any semblance of order.
Ron immediately put me at ease with his laid back, conversational tone; the hallmark of a true storyteller. He makes you feel as if you were sitting on the back porch, listening to stories being spun by your favorite grandfather. Not the one who used to whack you with his cane and tell you that you’d never amount to anything, just like your father. No, not him. The other one; the nice one. Ron Shock would reminded you of that grandfather, spinning stories about his life, making them all seem so funny and fanciful. Well, maybe “grandfather” is not the right depiction to use. Maybe a grandfather after he’s smoked quite a bit of “medicinal marijuana” for his “glaucoma.” A cross between Garrison Keillor and Ken Kesey, really.
Our hour-long conversation ranged hither and yon, touching on topic after topic, such as politics, poker, religion and bowel movements, shifting between these subjects seamlessly. Now I realized why the man, one of the Original Texas Outlaws who sprang from the same scene as Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and Brett Butler, was known as The Greatest American Storyteller.
J.T.: You’re performing at Wiley’s Comedy Club on June 21st through the 24th. You wrote to me saying that you really liked playing that club. Is it the area’s ambiance? The type of crowds?
Shock: You know what it is? The owner is a comic. The previous owner, Wiley himself, while not a comic, loved comedy and there is that love of comedy and Wiley’s isn’t like other clubs because they’re (the other clubs) are in it for the money. Wiley’s is actually in it for the comedy.
J.T.: Well, I’ll ask the most obvious question that you’ve probably been asked a billion times, ‘how did you get into comedy?’
Shock: I had a little consulting firm at the time, but it pretty much ran itself. The service I provided was done by computer and it was easy for me to have time off. I went to college. I’d take six hours a week out of my not-so-busy-fucking-schedule. Just to take courses that interested me and I didn’t know anything about the theater, so I took ‘Introduction to Theater.’ Well, Hayden Rorke, who played Col. Bellows on ‘I Dream of Jeannie’, was friend of my professor. He comes on a day when we had to do a skit that we had written ourselves. I performed my skit and afterwards, he said ‘That was pretty funny! Let’s go have lunch.’ We had lunch and he asked me what I was doing in college at my age. I told him that I had been a success in business and had made money and now I was bored beyond belief. He told me ‘You ought to do stand up comedy.’ The following Tuesday, I went to a local comedy club and it was like a light shone on me, like ‘This is what you’re supposed to do.’ I went on stage that Sunday, amateur night…and I bombed. Horribly. A fight breaks out between the comics and spills into the room while I’m on stage. It can’t get any worse. Monday morning, I put my business up for sale and I’ve been a stand-up comic ever since.
J.T.: How would you describe your show to the uninitiated? Is it a political or controversial type of show?
Shock: No I don’t do political stuff much. I will go after certain controversial figures, I don’t go after groups, I name names…individuals…like Oral Roberts or Pat Robertson. I’ll take something ludicrous that they’ve said and from there go into a rant from there. My show has no point. I make people laugh. That’s what I do. There are things that I feel very deeply about in life, but I can’t make them funny, and I don’t want to preach without making it funny. My calling seems to be as a stand-up comic, not as a comedic philosopher. So, no…I don’t have a point, other than there’s a lot of funny shit out there if you can start to look at it from a funny point of view. I do a lot of long stories, I mean, I’ve led a very interesting life.
Writer’s Note: On December 14, 2011, Ron Shock was diagnosed with urethral cancer, a rare, aggressive form of cancer. He succumbed to the disease on May 17, 2012…and the world lost yet another comedic luminary. This article was originally published in the Dayton City Paper on June 20th, 2007.