Optimistic wit is a gift that should be shared. Comedian Rio Hillman will share his gift with Douglas County in two shows, on Tuesday at El Azteca Restaurant in Myrtle Creek, and again next Thursday at the 4 Play Lounge in Winston.
A mainstream comedian who writes jokes about daily occurrences that mixed crowds can relate to, Hillman smoothly delivers punch lines.
In a standup performance online, Hillman told a joke about daily stereotypical interactions. He shared about going to the doctor to get a physical. While taking his vital signs, including height and weight, the nurse checking him in said, “I bet you’re pretty good at basketball.”
Looking at the audience, perplexed, Hillman said, “She was a bigger girl, so I was like, ‘I bet you’re pretty good at making sandwiches.’ I’m the bad guy now. Let’s just say I didn’t get to see the doctor.”
His two Douglas County shows will be number six and eight on his 30 No Day Off Comedy Tour that takes place today through May 26 in West Coast states, Idaho, Utah and Montana. He’ll also perform at the Mill Casino on Wednesday in Coos Bay as part of his 30-day tour.
Hillman was a late bloomer in comedy. Born in Chicago and raised in Wisconsin for most of his life, Hillman, in his 40s now, moved to Stockton, California, in June to dedicate himself to comedy on the West Coast.
Before coming out West, he worked in various positions at a Wisconsin warehouse distribution center for years prior to transitioning into comedy.
He joked about coming from Wisconsin in another online standup performance, where he said, “Yes, black people live there. We’re like VISA, everywhere you want to be and some places you don’t want to be.”
It took him about a decade of practicing at comedy clubs at night in the Midwest before he decided to quit his day job. He started out at She-nanigans in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he discovered comedy wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“The place would let me get up every week and try it out and not be good for about two years while I hosted a show, not knowing what I was doing,” said Hillman, who claimed he has a better understanding of comedy now.
Today he usually plans jokes for a show, but sometimes he ad-libs. “When you’re up there live, someone will say something that triggers something, then I go with the flow. Sometimes I do go off script,” he said.
Often, the crowd determines the order of his jokes, with Hillman starting with a smarter joke for some crowds or a harder-hitting joke for other crowds. At times, he studies a crowd before a show to determine the jokes they’ll like.
Like any profession, comedy requires work, according to Hillman. He said he studied famous comedians like Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, George Carlin and Dave Chappelle, watching them for traits like pacing, transitions and rhythm.
“What’s great about comedy is that there are no rules to it, and everybody has a different way of doing it,” Hillman said.
Perfecting a joke can also take about six months of work, Hillman said. He often takes scenes from daily life and writes jokes around them. In an hour show, he’ll tell smart jokes, dirty jokes, stupid jokes and one-liners.
“I like to write whatever I think is funny, and sometimes it’s everything,” he said. “I’m trying to find that crowd who likes me no matter what color it is.”
Comedy is a daily job for Hillman. He gets up everyday and prepares for gigs. He reads the newspaper, watches television to jog his mind, watches people at the library, listens to himself on tape to perfect his act, and improves upon sketches he’s working on. He also often books his own shows. He’s worked in 25 states so far and looks forward to meeting new people every day.
“Laughter is the biggest high in the world; I like it when people tell me they enjoyed the show,” Hillman said. “I also like traveling. I connect with people face to face and start to learn about people more and more.”
Connect with Hillman at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at El Azteca Restaurant, 335 N. Main St. Myrtle Creek, for $10, or at 5:30 p.m. with a $25 dinner package. This show is for those ages 18 and older. Call 541-863-6808 as seating is limited. Also see him at 9 p.m. May 4 at the 4 Play Lounge, 263 S.W. Main St., Winston, for ages 21 and older, at $8. Karaoke will follow at 10:30 p.m. For information, call 541-900-1414. Also see Hillman at www.riohillmancomedy.com.