Ryan Cownie: Can't Stop Goofin'

September 11, 2022

Photo Credit

Ryan Cownie


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez


I’m so glad that Ryan Cown­ie was our 250th guest on Com­e­dy Wham Presents. What a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to rem­i­nisce. Rem­i­nisce about pre-pan­dem­ic com­e­dy in Austin and how much the Austin com­e­dy scene has evolved since we launched our first episode in Jan­u­ary 2016. Before the pan­dem­ic, Austin comics like Ryan Cown­ie who need­ed to spread their wings would flock to either Los Ange­les or New York City to chase their dreams. These days, Austin is thriv­ing and burst­ing at the seams as far as oppor­tu­ni­ties for comics. With its 5 clubs, the­aters, bar shows, bar­ber­shops, brew­eries, bode­gas, and who knows what oth­er cre­ative venues exist, there are end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties for per­form­ers.

And so with a bit of a bust­ed heart from the expe­ri­ence that is Los Ange­les, and a detour through his home state of Nebras­ka dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, we wel­come back Cown­ie to this rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent com­e­dy scene from whence he last lived here, a cool five years since our first episode with him in 2017.

You can lis­ten to Cownie’s orig­i­nal inter­view with us when he shared his ori­gin sto­ry. It’s worth ref­er­enc­ing here because Cown­ie is one of those rare gems of comics that got their start with standup com­e­dy before they were even allowed in a bar (and there­fore have to line up chap­er­ones to get them admit­ted to said bar).

I'm just floating through life. This is now the first time I don't have like an actual, forward thinking plan. And it's kind of nice.
Ryan Cownie

Can I rem­i­nisce some more? Before every­one got wise with the inter­net, it was a rare treat to have a spe­cial taped in Austin. I felt so lucky to get to watch Cownie’s tap­ing for his debut com­e­dy album I Can’t Die at The Velvee­ta Room on Octo­ber 6, 2017 (thank you trusty cal­en­dar). While the audio itself is immense­ly fun­ny, being there in per­son and watch­ing some of the fun­ny visu­al ele­ments he brought to the stage that night with­out ever men­tion­ing them in words, makes you feel like what you wit­nessed was tru­ly special.

While it’s sad that Los Ange­les did not suit him (les­son learned: please don’t hand your babies to strangers), now that he’s back in Austin, I had to ask Cown­ie what his plan was. After all, he men­tioned he went to Los Ange­les with a five year plan in his pock­et. Cownie’s response? I’m just float­ing through life. This is now the first time I don’t have like an actu­al, for­ward think­ing plan. And it’s kind of nice.” A reset after being chewed up by a big city and when you’ve been per­form­ing com­e­dy the major­i­ty of your life cer­tain­ly seems warranted.

I so des­per­ate­ly want Austin com­e­dy audi­ences to fall in love with this com­e­dy goof­ball, because his com­e­dy is so unique and so unique­ly sil­ly. To get a feel for his com­e­dy, check out the short mock­u­men­tary Cown­ie”. I rewatched it recent­ly and it still holds up today, even though it was record­ed and released in 2013.

One part of Cownie’s charm that hasn’t changed much (actu­al­ly, it may be more intense since his retreat from Los Ange­les) is his per­sis­tent­ly goofy per­son­al­i­ty off stage. I grew up with a father who spun a tall tale every time he opened his mouth. You’d rarely ever know if he was being seri­ous. For me, that type of humor on stage is like a com­fort blan­ket of famil­iar­i­ty. When Cown­ie shares a sto­ry on stage, even if you know it’s true, you aren’t ever sure if it’s real or not. And he plays his youth­ful looks to his advan­tage, too. How can you not believe a youth­ful inno­cent look­ing mug like Cown­ie’s? As you get old­er, fak­ing out peo­ple gets hard­er and hard­er to pull off. And, if my expe­ri­ence with my dad is any indi­ca­tion, after years of tall tale telling, when dad called to say I had an acci­dent and my 18-wheel­er crashed down a ravine”, you just don’t know whether to believe them or not (he did actu­al­ly have that crash and walked away mirac­u­lous­ly). And so I couldn’t resist ask­ing Cown­ie, how his expe­ri­ence of always goofin’ it up and tall tale telling had affect­ed his life off-stage, he paus­es, then responds I’m sin­gle, so…..”. He admits, My favorite thing is to get things real­ly seri­ous. And then goof and then like turn it around.” May not work in per­son­al rela­tion­ships, but on stage? That’s art.

My favorite thing is to get things really serious. And then goof and then like turn it around.
Ryan Cownie

Cownie’s will­ing­ness to exper­i­ment con­tin­ues to be part of his per­son­al­i­ty, too. When COVID-19 shut down com­e­dy stages, Com­e­dy Wham launched the Iso­la­tion Com­e­dy Show (our episodes are still avail­able on our Twitch and Youtube chan­nels) and Cown­ie jumped in with sketch and char­ac­ter work. He per­formed a hand­ful of times always bring­ing the most insane cos­tume ideas. It was one of the high­lights of 2020 to get to see Cown­ie per­form. Beyond com­e­dy, Cown­ie has always had an ear for music, whether it was rap under the names Thad New­man or MC Grave­born. While he admits he’s aged out of doing rap, his love of music con­tin­ues. In the last two years, he’s released albums under two dif­fer­ent names. The first is The Friend­ships, a musi­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion with Seth Cock­field. Their debut album Mas­sive Poet­ry was released in 2020 and mix­es elec­tron­ic pop, rap, sound clips, and ethe­re­al vocal effects to cre­ate a real­ly fun lis­ten. In 2021, he released The Coro­n­a­do Kids album Nev­er Thought which is avail­able on Band­camp and is a more somber, dark elec­tron­i­ca expe­ri­ence. Both are now on my music rotation. 

I’m glad Cown­ie has evolved as he’s got­ten old­er, which returns me to the fact that he’s our 250th guest. Com­e­dy Wham has also evolved as we’ve got­ten old­er. Like Cown­ie, there’s much that has­n’t changed. For us it’s being pod­cast­ers at heart want­i­ng to intro­duce the world to comics at all lev­els of their career. For Cown­ie, it’s being a goof­ball who does­n’t care to take life too seri­ous­ly. With the pas­sage of time, we’ve ven­tured into new things. For us, it’s cov­er­ing fes­ti­vals, a thriv­ing events page in 3 Texas cities, writ­ing for the Austin Chron­i­cle, and hav­ing con­tribut­ing writ­ers on our team. For Cown­ie, it’s not hav­ing a plan, mak­ing music that’s more evolved, plug­ging that debut com­e­dy album, pod­cast­ing with his pals on Why Should We Care?, star­ring in a movie set to release this fall, and being the best damned uncle he can be. We’re both watch­ing what the Austin com­e­dy scene has become since our first inter­view togeth­er five years ago. Who knows what will hap­pen in the next five years, but if I had my say, I’d want every­one to watch Cown­ie goofin’ on stage as much as possible.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear these words and more from Ryan

Fol­low Ryan

Ryan can be seen and heard:

  • Co-host of Why Should We Care? podcast
  • Com­e­dy Album — I Can’t Die (2019)
  • Music Albums
    • The Friend­ships Mas­sive Poet­ry” (Spo­ti­fy)
    • The Coro­n­a­do Kids Nev­er Thought” (Band­camp)
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Ryan Cownie