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Richard Ryder has a wardrobe background – but you wouldn’t know it. Not if you critiqued his own self-proclaimed “shitty” style, which fashion guru Tim Gunn would no doubt disapprove of. You can’t blame the queer bear, who lives in Toronto – a city in a country where spotting a double-extra large shirt, he says, would be as likely as finding a Canadian who hasn’t heard of Celine Dion.
“I’m a sloppy, white comic,” Ryder ‘fesses. “I don’t dress for anything. If it doesn’t stretch, I don’t put it on.”
Which is why his performance ensembles are limited. He’s not into suits (“You really need a waist. Otherwise, you look like a brick in a tie.”), but he’s trying to improve upon what he calls the Dane Cook look: jeans and T-shirts.
“Mind you, they’re not as nice as what he wears and my ass doesn’t look as good in my jeans as his does in his,” he says. “What I’m looking for is simple and undistracting. I’m aiming for simple pants and plain, solid-colored shirts that look good with a long-sleeve tee underneath. I’m all about the long-sleeve tee underneath.”
And all about the three female comediennes – emcee Vickie Shaw, Cleveland-based Dana Austin and musician Roxanna Ward – he’ll share the stage with at the Michigan Lesbian and Gay ComedyFest at 6 p.m and 9:30 p.m. March 8 at Dearborn’s Ford Community & Performing Arts Center. “I love women. We speak the same language! They get me and can relax knowing I’m not trying to ‘get’ them. Now, lesbians on the other hand … ,” he jokingly quips. This will be Ryder’s Michigan debut – and a chance to make his closet brim with more clothing than Mariah Carey’s.
“I need to take advantage of my American trips to pretty up,” he says from his hometown, adding he sticks out like a case of herpes when he inquires about 44-size pants at Canadian stores. He’s breaking from the intense atmosphere of his unsuspecting day-job – a temp for a frenzied wealth-management company, a position he took after lower wages and higher demand forced him to quit his 13-year career in television wardrobe. Luckily, he possesses just as many talents as RuPaul, which will make it easier to score jobs when his temp term ends in April.
Just don’t depend on him for any sexual role-playing. He sucks at it. “I had one boyfriend once who said to me, ‘Why don’t you act like a dirty cowboy coming into the barn after a long, dusty day?’ (I said), ‘You mean, Ew, pooey!?'”
Ryder will continue life atop the not-so-smelly comedy heap, though there are other directions he could drift in: He’s got guitar skills, he can make horned “Lord of the Rings”-ish costumes – and he can play that stereotypical gay hairdresser, like he did in 1995’s Olsen-twin turd, “It Takes Two.” The part, which was offered to him at the last minute by the casting director (who happened to be his pal), was short, but it must’ve left an impression on parents. They constantly bombarded him on the streets, asking, “Were you in the ‘It Takes Two’ movie?” Maybe it was the homemade shirt, silk-screened with a pair of scissors, that he wore? Either way, he was baffled – and horrified! – by their reactions.
“I’d just stare at these people going, ‘Oh, my God! Your poor child needs to get out more,'” he recalls.
Aside from the film being called a “time-waster,” or, as one critic put it, “I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than sit through this again,” Ryder’s name was absent from the credits. When he saw it with a pal, he wanted to see his scene, and leave. She convinced him to wait until the end – when his name should’ve appeared.
“Because my character was an afterthought, they hadn’t included me in the credits – so, I had to sit through that whole piece of poo to watch nothing,” he regrets, adding he was, at the very least, expecting to be credited for his appropriately-designed tee.
Before doing ‘dos in “It Takes Two,” Ryder, who’s 42 (“which in gay years means I’m dead”), studied acting at the Toronto High School for the Performing Arts, and then became one of the youngest cast members of Theatresports, Toronto’s improv theater company. He performed alongside pre-famous “The Kids in the Halls” and “Waiting for Guffman” star Linda Kash, and though he’s carried fond memories with him, he’s not sure fellow performers have, too. “I was so young. I was one of the newer kids; I’m sure I bothered everybody,” he laughs.
Evidently, Ryder didn’t annoy Kevin McAlpine, the director of development for the ComedyFest’s sponsor Triangle Foundation, when he inquired about scoring a spot for the night. “We know who you are. Are you available in March?” he recalls him saying during their first phone call.
“It was a real pleasure, ’cause I’m not – even in Toronto – necessarily regarded in any way,” Ryder continues, explaining how he’d like to turn comedy into a full-time gig. “I’m ready to go on the road. I’m just working myself up to it.”
Which means, American malls, its time to start stocking up on those 44-sized pants. Pronto!
12th annual Michigan Lesbian and Gay ComedyFest
6 and 9:30 p.m. March 8
Dearborn’s Ford Community & Performing Arts Center