F*%@ Taboos I'm Happy: A Conversation with Adrian Ryan (September 8-October 20)
Pirooz Kalayeh: I love the freedom in your writing. You will go anywhere. Is this why you gravitate towards comedy? Because of its freedom?
Adrian Ryan: Hi! Thanks a million for your mention of "freedom" in my writing. That fills me with glee. It seems to me that humor is very mysterious and powerful---it transcends just about everything.(This forms the basis of the second of Adrian's Three Magical Rules to Eternal Happiness: "Always laugh at tragedy.")Also, it's simply the way I've always express myself...my speaking voice and writing voice are basically indistinguishable from each other.
PK: I hear the laughter - all the way from here. Has it been difficult making this flip for you at certain times. And, if so, how did you manage to laugh? Was it the writing? Was it your imagination? Your heart?
Adran Ryan: i am easily confused. allegedly. let's see...is it difficult for me to make "this flip"? you mean to laugh at awful things? well...this notion wasn't firstly mine you understand; i can't lay claim to it. who was it? mel brooks who said it? "comedy is tragedy, plus time." maybe it wasn't mel brooks. who knows. good heavens. what the fuck were we just talking about?
PK: I love it. Don't sweat the small stuff. (I said that.) Actually, we were talking about how you like to go to humor. I was wondering what brought this on. Was it from facing a lot of tragedy, or just a natural tendency? For me, I end up going cartoon-y at the slightest drop of a hat. I don't know when this shift actually happened. I cried a lot when I was a kid. I'd hit a bird with my light saber, and that was it, crying. I couldn't speak English and got sent to the principal's office, and then I started crying.
I guess crying got replaced with laughing at tragedy because I was tired of crying. It was also a great way to enter a space, laughing and not crying. What was it like for you? Was there a particular moment, when you started laughing at things more?
Adrian Ryan: welp, upon deep and thoughtful consideration of your question, i'd have to say it is just a natural tendency. i suppose something deeeeeeep inside me just sought an expression that mirrored itself; but it seems, upon reflection, entirely organic---this tendency to laugh at extreme things. on that note may i please point out that i loathe and despise trite, polite humor and, dear god, JOKES. i like people who display unique wit and insight, not those who memorize "jokes". egads. the entire notion makes me quiver.
also, on the same subject, wasn't it Gilda Radner who said something like "all of the funniest people I know are also the saddest?" something like that? well, i disagree. i used to agree, way back in high school when i was a wretched drama queen of sorts, i guess, but. not anymore. which is just about the only thing gilda radner and i ever disagreed on. not that i ever new her, of course. at least not in the biblical sense. i'm far too young. word.
PK: Funny you say that about Gilda. I had the same reaction in a weird parallel with rock 'n' roll. As a big drama queen myself, I would often say shit like, "27 is my heaven" or work real hard at being a slinky snake of sexual machismo. Real childish actions that were about me trying to match up with the mythos surrounding Morrison and the rest. Thank, God I grew out of that one. So I hear you on the Radner thing. This whole idea that one needs to be a member of the depressed and insane in order to be funny or an artist is just so yesterday and bad news bears. It's strange how so many artists believe that this is the stepping stone to becoming artists themselves. It's so serious. I can see how valuable your ribs at pop culture are within this framework. The seriousness as to how we take celebrity and the myth surrounding it is so far from the things which make a difference in our day to day lives. Might as well make fun of it. That suddenly makes what was previously useless into a valuable stain-my-pants laugh, and allows for people to take pause on their personal views of reality TV, celebrity, and whatnot.
Do you find yourself going for taboo material? Is this where the magic happens?
Adrian Ryan: do i go for the taboo? indeed, heavens no. that would mean i spend time searching for taboo things to go to, as it were. i merely reflect upon whatever i am faced with--specifically celebrity in the case of Celebrity I Saw U. or whatever i've been thinking about, should i take a mind to put it in print. are we talking about the porn stuff, particularly? indeed? you might be shocked to learn that while i am undoubtedly the most sexually obsessed beast ever to trod sod, i am not an afficianado of porn. i own no videos, no vidio files, no magazines.....zip. i'm quite peculiar, you understand: i think i probably the most peculiar person i know. and i have a vivid imagination. who needs porn? even for the cheese factor? i have only written the porn pieces etc. as they were either assigned or commissioned. ironically, my erotica has been widely reprinted and published now, including in Susie Bright's latest book (i think). an entire of chapter of that is merely a reprinted email conversation she and i had about seducing hotel bellmen. indeed. peculiar. or are we talking about the prostitutes? or....
PK: We can take taboos wherever you want to take them, or, indeed, not take them, and we are back full circle to freedom. There is no taboo. This equals freedom. It is what you are faced with--be that Celebrity I Saw You or porn or etc. I get it. Have you ever felt like something was off limits? Or was there a time when certain topics were off limits, because you were afraid to put yourself out there like that?
Adrian Ryan: i'm so confused now. let's talk about my gigantic penis.
PK: Okay. Tell me about it.
Adrian Ryan: speak not of my giant penis! not now! i'm in a tori spelling movie! no kidding---that's where i've been (sorry to evaporate), but I’m playing a small part in a horror movie with....well. i already said. a HORROR movie! peculiar.
anyhow! someone on the set said offhandedly, "That's the thing about you, you can say anything, because everything thinks your kidding." i think that sums it up. probably. it's early. they've made me get up early for this movie: i never get up before 9. egads.
PK: What are you doing on a movie set? An actor too? Well, my fine thespian, you'll have to dish some dirt on the film. What got you into acting? And on a Tori Spelling film?
Adrian Ryan: well, yeah: acting. since i was a weeeee little nipper, little nipping. i'm just a smaaaallll part---a horror movie...i can say no more! actually, i can say plenty more, soon...i am rushing off now; this is the first day Tori will be on the set, and i want to poke her with a stick! POKE POKE!
[4 days later]...
my part is done: i was on the set for four days. egads, it was fun. and indeed, tori spelling! i didn't think i would like her, but i did; she was charming and adorable, and we were 15 inches from each other for two days. she smells purdy. it's a horror film, a lovecraftian sort of thing, called Cthulhu. fabulous catering. sorry for the bump in communication. where where we?
PK: Beats me. How about you tell me how acting and writing meld for you?
Adrian Ryan: welp, although not all writers are actors, and certianly not all actors can write, for me the acting and writng (and visual art and singing for that matter---neither of which i really do) are cut from something of the same cloth: the outward expression of an inner idea or process...i haven't acted much lately (i've been writing a book! don't ask: it is top secret!!!), but this little venture has whetted my appetite for it again. i've been acting since i was 13 and writing forever. literally, maybe: the only psychic i ever really believed told me circa 1992---long before i was writing professionally---that i was a writer in England in the 20's in my last life! LOL! that's a weird story...
PK: Tell me a bit more about the psychic. How has seeing psychics, clairvoyants, etc., changed your life?
Adrian Ryan: welp; i don't go to a lot of psychics...see; i worked at an old and famous haunted in hotel in Portland, just out of college. I was the graveyard concierge. after a year there, a strange little guy named Mark was hired as an assistant manager. he was in his late thirties, rather goofy looking, someone you would never, ever notice. but i did notice---many strange things. first: he didn't work graveyard shift, but, indeed, he was always there, finishing up something or other. the thing was, he had almost always been there since around six thirty the previous morning....which meant that by the time 3am rolled around on my shift, he'd been up nearly 24 hours. but he was never tired, nor grouchy---then he'd drive home for three hours and be back, fresh as a daisy, 630am. in fact, he was, indeed, the most inoffensive and, well, kind person i'd ever met. it wasn't drugs: we had plenty of coked up folks, and they were easy to spot. he was not one of them. also, i saw him physically threatened by local crazies, i saw him screamed at and almost assaulted: he never lost his temper or stopped smiling. it was very peculiar.
well, after a few months working with him, one night, through a strange series of events i won't get into, he admitted (under much duress) that he was, indeed, either "crazy or psychic", that he had been taught psychic thises and thats by an old woman of his acquaintance in England, and he had spent the better part of his youth helping to unhaunt houses. that was why he was never tired he said: he could rejuvenate his energy, and he was adept at psychic readings. or, that was his story. testing him, he agreed to go to a secluded part of the hotel one night and "read" me. he blew me away...he was, of course, correct about everything...past present and future. it was an unnerving experience. of course, you meat a zillion people who think they are psychic or whatever, but this guy really took the creepy cake. to this day: he was right about it all.
PK: So what's in store for Adrian Ryan's future?
Adrian Ryan: well, indeed, most of his futuring is now firmly past: this was in the mid 90's...closing in on eight years. at the time i wasn't writing a bit, and he not only told me that writing was indeed my vocation, and that it had been before, but that I would leave portland for a bigger city and become a well known writer...then i would begin acting again, but that that wouldn't happen for close to seven years. we capped off there, but. egads. here we are. i wish i knew whatever happened to that guy..
PK: Well, how much of that is your own will power? It wouldn't have come to fruition if you didn't believe it was possible, right? Isn't this part of the freedom of who you are? I mean you write like you live life. You don't think about taboos. You just roll. You're like, "Seattle what's up?" "Celebrity: I lust you," and then "Tori Spelling she smells purty." That sounds to me like you made some choices, but you were pretty open to see them coming. What do you think?
Adrian Ryan: well, i haven't lived long enough yet, nor gathered enough info on life to make a decision whether or not he merely set up a self fulfilling prophesy for me...but right now? i would have to say no. i believe that guy. i really do. i do not believe many people who claim to be psychic.
PK: Sounds good to me. Anything you care to share about the not-so-distant future. Better yet, what is the magical Adrian Ryan doing right now?
Adrian Ryan: what is the magical adrian doing right now? well, i'm thinking that if you keep calling me magical, there's a good chance i'll have sex with you. so, thinking about that mostly. also, i've been quite busy working on my first book. i mean, i've been IN books, but never did a whole one, all by meself. the subject? TOP SECRET! i'm also working with a local producer to get a series of local theatrical readings done...but that is longer term: we wouldn't run 'til next October. and so!
Adrian Ryan writes for The Stranger (Seattle's only newspaper) and is a fine thespian. You can visit him at www.adrianryan.com to catch up with his past, present, and future.