Comedian Ryan Long has a firm policy in our digital age – no arguing on social media.
The latter caused a kerfuffle earlier this week, turning the Canadian comic into the latest viral video star.
“When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything” shows two very different characters who end up thinking alarmingly alike. It’s an uproarious clip, impeccably edited and performed, touching on a subject few comedians broach.
The YouTube version boasts nearly 660,000 views in just five days, but Long says it racked up millions more on other platforms, including Twitter. The sketch’s success caught him by surprise.
“I’ve been making videos for 20 years. You’re never able to predict [which one goes viral],” Long says.
Conservatives rallied behind the clip, but Long says its impact isn’t necessarily ideological. Plus, some of his fellow comedians shared the clip, too, with Bill Burr dubbing it, “perfect.”
“Most normal people saw it and said, ‘that’s funny,’” says Long, who eschews political labels for both himself and his work.
Some naysayers blasted the clip, which Long attributes to a “really loud version of the Left Wing that thinks a certain way.”
A clip from the latest Patreon podcast https://t.co/yUaQbOBRMK
— Ryan Long (@ryanlongcomedy) July 19, 2020
Long’s satirical targets aren’t always what observers might assume. Another Long sketch, featuring an Always Trump and Never Trump duo, mocks “people defined by the Left or the Right,” he explained.
“I’m attacking the individual more than the ideology,” he says. “I have respect for people who have a coherent philosophy that they stick to, even if I don’t agree with it.”
Another reason he’s uneasy with labels? They often shift their meaning over time or change dramatically. Being a feminist today, he notes, isn’t the same as it was a decade or so ago.
Long recently moved from his native Canada, where he worked on a variety of comedy projects, to the Big Apple. No matter where he calls home, the comedian enjoys poking cultural norms. And, when a culture suggests a certain line of thinking is not just preferred but essential, it only fuels the budding counter culture around it … and his interest.
That subversive streak means he’s rarely blown away by the current late night comedy scene.
“I watch what goes on with [Stephen] Colbert and [Jimmy] Kimmel. I can make way better stuff than this, and my friends can, too,” he says, citing comics like Andrew Schultz for creating cutting edge comedy via their respective channels.
Long wouldn’t reject his own American-based TV show, but at the moment he’s giddy to be a part of something different, overseeing his own series of platforms where he calls the shots.
“It feels like I’m in the pocket of where the energy is,” he says. “It’s more important to be where the energy is and find that.”
It’s why he left Canada for New York City, the ultimate landing spot for artists eager to catch, and influence, the zeitgeist.
Long’s stand-up routines don’t just press on hot button issues. They stomp on them with both feet. The results are more thought provoking than pure shock, though.
“Fearlessness in comedy, like anything else, comes from experience,” the veteran comic says.
Creating comedy given the ongoing pandemic and race-based protesting isn’t easy. That doesn’t stop Long from poking and prodding the culture to see where the laughs, and insights, can be found.
“The media and Hollywood is giving you a list of options you can and cannot have,” he says. “Most people aren’t like that … you don’t have to listen to that.”
Long hasn’t been broadsided by Cancel Culture yet despite his edgy material, but he’s gotten blowback from an unlikely source – industry types. Some of the rougher comments he’s received about his work came from Canadian comics he knew from his days North of the border. He puts his trust in live audiences, not peers unwilling to speak to him privately about his material.
The pandemic interrupted a 10-year run where Long performed several stand-up shows a night to tune his comic instrument.
Performing live taught him the lines he could, and couldn’t, cross with his humor. Without a stage to call his own, he’s working without a social net.
“When you’re in a crowd you don’t wanna split the audience. You want everyone to like you. On the Internet you’re allowed to be a little more divisive,” he says.