As the comedy scene in Malta explodes, James Ryder has been in the thick of it all, with appearances in the adult panto ‘Sinderella’ and on stage as one third of the comic trio, ‘3 Guys and a Mic’. His summer tour-de-force of hilarity continues this week when he headlines alongside Steve Hili in the Clueless Comedy Collective’s resident stand up comedy spot at Sliema’s Step Down Bar on the 19th of September. He takes center stage at King’s Gate Arms in Msida on the following night, again with Clueless Comedy Collective who have been taking Malta’s bars by storm in the past few months.

A striking feature of James Ryder’s shows is the way in which he has audiences eating out of the palm of his hand. His easy, laid-back and conversational style have drawn people from across Malta. He has crowds young and old literally doubled over the entire night, and we wanted a glimpse into the mad brain behind it all.

Ryder, a Malta boy through and through, splits his time between Sliema and Tokyo. We caught up with Malta’s comedy bad boy while he was touring in Japan to ask him about the thrills and spills of the stand up comedy world and what it is about telling nob-jokes to strangers that he loves so much.

What led you to stand up comedy?

I spent a good 10 years at theater school, because there’s not a lot of things to do in Malta as a weird kid, and I decided I wanted to try something that wasn’t happening in Malta. Best decision I made.

How would you describe your stand up comedy and humour?  

I’d say it’s very deadpan. I like to use well-timed pauses and silences to build up to a punchline that comes completely out of left field.

How many of your jokes are about things you have observed in real life?

Most of them, really. That’s what stand up comedy is after all. Observational comedy. I try and keep myself on the lookout at all times for potential material. Some call it creepy, I call it people-watching with a purpose. Again, there’s not very many things to do in Malta, so might as well. 

What has been your greatest moment on stage?

Without a doubt, Rock of Ages. I had a part where I tore off my suit, revealing a tight powder-blue spandex suit and breaking off into a dance routine. Always got the audience going.

What advice would you give to people who want to get into stand up comedy?

Your first 5 stand up comedy shows will most likely bomb. In my case, the first 10 bombed. In Tokyo, I bombed almost every time. No matter how good your material is, there’s always a chance that your audience won’t have the humour for it. So, remember to gauge your audiences and practice crowd work to know what they like.

If you could appear alongside any stand up comedy performer – living or dead – who would that be and why?

Mitch Hedberg. He was always a lateral thinker. He always kept audiences laughing and he always kept it clean. He never depended on swearing or shock topics to get a reaction.  I recommend anyone who ever has an evening where they can’t find things to do in Malta look him up on YouTube, the man was a LEGEND!

What would be your stand up comedy dream gig?

‘Live at the Apollo’ because I would love to be in front of a huge televised audience. That would be an incredible experience. 

Can anyone be a stand up comedy star?

Literally anyone can be a comedian. It’s all about telling a good story. If you’re thinking of trying it out, contact the Clueless Comedy Collective. Winter’s coming, and instead of sitting in your mum’s kitchen complaining that it’s colder inside than outside, you could start your own comedy adventure.

What do you like about performing with the Clueless Comedy Collective?

I love getting to spend time with a group of people who love comedy just as much as I do. I’ve seen some of the members grow into powerhouse performers, and I always have a great time when I share a stage and a mic with them. They make great drinking buddies too!

Are there any stand up comedy acts you wish you’d written?

George Carlin’s last special: “You are all diseased”. This man was a genius. I never fail to laugh at his jokes even though I’ve heard them all before. He had so much to say.

How do people react when you tell them you’re a professional stand up comedy performer?

They either ask me to tell them a joke, as if that’s how that works, or they tell me a joke and tell me I can keep it for my next gig. Then you get the people who just look at you and say “I don’t like stand up comedy” really accusingly as if it’s somehow my fault.

How do Tokyo stand up comedy audiences differ to Maltese ones?

Japanese audiences are more reserved than the Maltese, but pretty much everyone is more reserved than the Maltese. And the Maltese are a lot more up for laughing at themselves which is always nice, and opens up the possibility for more audience interaction.

Where can we see James Ryder perform his stand up comedy in Malta?

James Ryder performs on Thursday 19th September at 8pm at the Step Down bar in Manwel Dimech Street, Sliema, alongside comedy genius Steve Hili. The show is supported by acts from the Clueless Comedy Collective and is free entry (first come, first served). The show is sponsored by Underground Sound and the Step Down Bar, Sliema.

What is the Clueless Comedy Collective?

The Clueless Comedy Collective is a group of Malta’s youngest, funniest, and most talented performers. It is an eclectic, international mix of stand up comedy performers with a wide array of perspectives, insights, and dirty jokes,

Their members have performed at venues such as Step Down Bar, Coffee Circus, The Thirsty Barber, The Thirsty Lawyer, Black Gold, The Farson’s 2019 Beer Festival, Fat Harry’s, the Electro Lobster Project, the St. James Spazzju Kreattiv, the Yorkshire Fringe Festival 2019, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.

Words by Tanya Phillips & Theo Navarro.