Every year around Christmas time I do a State of the Ramble review of the year where I talk about what was good, what was bad and what's next. This one was originally written and posted on my Patreon, you can read it here.
I hope you have a wonderful end of the year, whatever that looks like to you, and make sure to check out the rest of the entries in the State of the Ramble series every year around Christmas time.
Another year down, another State of The Ramble. 2022 has been a year of duality, it’s felt simultaneously long and short, busy yet idle, the calm and the storm. At times frustrating and stagnant yet looking back on what I’ve done I realise I have made some good progress. More often than not when looking back on old gig photos I have found myself going “Was that this year? That felt like ages ago!” The longer the pandemic goes on, the harder I find it is to differentiate between individual years, it all feels like one big long multi-season story arc in a TV series that we all wish would wrap up already. I hope wherever you are that you’re doing okay and having a good holiday season, whatever that looks like to you.
This year’s State of The Ramble might take on a more cynical tone than usual due to the fact that frankly I’m knackered. This end of year crunch period at work I found a lot more taxing than usual, I’ve been dealing with some RSI pain the past couple of months, oh and I got an email from my bank a couple of days ago telling me that my debit card has been compromised. I had to laugh when the guy on the phone told me they’d tried to withdraw 10 grand out of my account, I bet if the scammer knew I was an amateur comic they would’ve known better and just deleted my info. Merry Christmas to me!
I don’t really know if many people read these, but I have always preached the philosophy that if you want to improve, you must reflect. You must also find a way to measure progress. This year I will be using the metrics of The List, Gigs, Social Media and Last Years Goals to find out how far I’ve come, as well as set the goalpost for next year.
On the 8th of March 2022 I created the above list as a way to keep myself on-task and hopefully finish off some projects that I’d had hanging over me for many years now. I’ve forever been that guy who’s always coming up with ideas for projects, but rarely the guy who actually finishes these projects. My friends and colleagues have been great at reminding me of the list whenever I started talking about a new idea that I had, so in that case I consider the experiment a success. How did I get on with actually completing items on the list? Let’s see.
✓ Solo Show On The Road - Completed in August when I went up to Nelson and performed my solo show at Studio One to an audience of about 20. The local comics insisted that I had gotten unlucky and that usually it was a lot busier, but I think my lack of fanbase might have had more to do with it. (Stick a pin in this idea of a fanbase, I’m going to come back to it later.)
✓ Double Header Show - Completed in May when I did a double bill show with Matt Threadwell at The Wunderbar to an audience similar size to my Nelson show, Matt brought most of the audience with him that night. The show was a lot of fun, and I got to really stretch my muscles creatively designing the promo for this show, overall very satisfied with how it went.
✓ Jokes I Don’t Do Anymore - Completed in June some time, all 3 episodes can be found here on YouTube. This was a massive project that I had been wanting to do for years and kept putting off. The initial step was very daunting as I had to organise, convert, tidy up and then watch about 30 old sets I had filmed and was keeping on my hard drive. Once I had clipped out some of the best bits amongst what was (if I’m being honest) mostly chaff, I had to format them and subtitle them, which was the real agonising part.
✖ Quiz Project - Currently incomplete but I could probably cross it off on a technicality. The particular quiz I had in mind is one of my own making which I’ve more or less completed, I just couldn’t find a venue that wasn't going to charge me to run it as ultimately I think I’d like it to be free entry. The gist of it without spoiling too much is that it’s a pop culture / geek themed pub quiz that’s less about right and wrong answers and more about starting a conversation with your teammates. Hoping to run it in 2023 some time, although I could almost cross this one off as earlier in the year I stepped in to host a Crack Up Quiz Night in Christchurch here, so I have done A quiz, just not necessarily MY quiz. I severely underestimated how much time would go into making one of these, and battling RSI did not help one bit.
✖ Fringe Show Project - Another grey area. When I created this list, I had an idea in mind for a fringe show that I was going to work on based off of 7 different types of hate we feel in modern society. As of right now I did the photoshoot and I’ve written about half of the show. I applied for a couple of fringes this year and was unfortunately not selected for them, so I hit a bit of a wall with this project. However, I have been tentatively offered a slot in an upcoming fringe in 2023, I won’t say which one in case it doesn’t happen as these aren’t guaranteed yet. I have a concept for a show called Mul-TAY-Verse which is basically a solo show version of my improvised storytelling show format called This One Time. More on that later.
So how did I do? 3 out of 5 complete and 2 more that are more or less complete just waiting on a couple of things outside-ish of my control. I give myself an A- for The List.
NON LIST PROJECTS
Was I naughty and worked on stuff not on the list? Unfortunately yes, although due to some of these projects being time-sensitive I allowed them to override the list. I’ve felt like the last two have been at a bit of a roadblock for the past couple of months, so I’ve been working on a few other things in the meantime. Some of the other projects I completed this year were:
Ramblin’ With Ruddle: The Lost Tapes - Another big project I had hanging over me that I had been meaning to do for years. RWR was a short form interview series that I used to do between 2018 and 2019 when I had first got back to NZ from Japan. A while back I was a silly billy and deleted the video files off of my YouTube, I thought they were lost forever but I discovered that at some point I had backed up the audio files of all of these on my hard drive. I picked some of my favourite interviews, recorded some new intros and in-between bits and have tidied the audio up and compiled it all into a 4 part series which you can access by being a member of this Patreon. They’re about 40 to 60 minutes each. I quite like them as they paint a good picture of my life at the time.
All My Covid Jokes - Around May this year I realised that a lot of the jokes I had been doing around the pandemic weren’t hitting as hard, so I thought the best thing to do was film them while they still had a bit of juice to them, retire the jokes and then a year or so later release a mini-spesh of this 15-or-so minute set, hopefully when the pandemic is winding down or over and we are all ready to laugh at the jokes again. My friend Jake filmed it on May the 13th and I’ve been sitting on the footage ever since. I am hoping that during the downtime over the holidays I’ll find a minute to edit this. I plan to release a version on YouTube for free, and then post the entire set uncut here on the Patreon as there’s a couple of jokes I feel haven’t aged particularly well and I’ll very likely cut out of the free version. You’ll also get to see me do a set of normal jokes ahead of the Covid stuff, as well as a total blunder on my part where I forgot where I was up to in the set.
Classy Comedy - In November this year I had the possibility of some very lucrative corporate gigs come about, again I don’t want to say much in case they fall through but what I can say is I needed to create an 8-10 minute promo video and I needed to be able to do long sets totally clean. To test if I was able to, I ran a show called Classy Comedy at The Piano in Christchurch. The lead up to this show had a few speedbumps, we ended up having to move the date of the show and it ended up being on the same weekend as Christmas In The Park. On top of that, it was raining on the night which didn’t help the audience size. Luckily I have a few friends and family who were immensely supportive and came along to help fill up the room. The show went well, I did about 46 minutes of clean material which was an enormous relief. We shot it using 4 cameras, my friend and film expert Jake is currently working on an edited version that I will very likely be uploading here for Patrons to see.
Merch Store - Boy am I glad to have this thing finally live. If you know me then you know I’m a big fan of merch/apparel design and I pretty much exclusively wear tees that I have designed. I got a lot of requests for the Been Dyin’ Since Day 1 tee, as well as the Horse Jesus one. I took my time in finding a decent supplier of these, I used to sell them on Threadless, but people here weren’t keen on ordering stuff from the states, especially when they had this picture in their mind that I’m just sitting on boxes and boxes of tees in my house somewhere and I could just give them one (for free, more often than not). Anyway, my grumpiness aside, if you want to check out my merch store you can visit This Link and order your very on Taylor Ruddle, Funny Bones, Queazy, Can Do Comedy or Futilitees merch!
My Branding - Some of you eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed the new logo and branding on most of my pages, this was something I’d been wanting to tidy up for ages as well. I’ve tried many different colours, fonts, icons etc over the years and I think ultimately I had to strip everything back to basics and I’m really happy with the end result. I’ve always been a black and white sort of guy, I wear pretty much exclusively black clothing and have often been referred to as “a simple creature” so I feel that the minimalist look works best for me. Silly / comic book style fonts never felt quite right, hand drawn and calligraphic ones definitely weren’t for me, and distressed / punk rock style ones were also a bit edgier than I am. In the end the best option was the bold and chunky font Futura. I feel like it conveys the sort of quiet confidence that I embody in my comedy. I’m far too indecisive to ever settle on a symbol to use as my logo, so I went without. The Funny Bones skull is probably the closest I’ll ever get to having an actual logo mark.
Throughout 2022 we ran 3 open mics and 1 mid-level ticketed show. The Runaway Mic is our brand for the open mic show and we ran them at Five Stags Rangiora, Sprig & Fern Merivale and Union Fare Prebbleton. Our numbers for Five Stags have been up and down, mostly down toward the end of the year so we are considering reducing it to quarterly or thirdly in 2023. The open mics at Sprig & Fern and Union Fare have been great, really consistently drawing good numbers and the shows have been great, the local comics seem to really enjoy doing them too so I predict we will keep these going full steam ahead in 2023. Wigram Hotel started off great but the last 6 months or so has been an uphill struggle, the locals don’t seem to be that interested in comedy, and the bar/restaurant has had a really high turnover in management so each time we are sort of starting from scratch with the new manager in terms of helping us promote the show. I imagine we’ll try a couple more in 2023 but I’ve got a feeling we will axe it if the numbers are still low.
This One Time - This is a pet project I’ve had for a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to find a way to run an improvised stand-up night that doesn’t rely on “where you from, what do you do?” sort of crowd work. It’s an awesome show, I tend to leave each one with a sore jaw from how much I was laughing, check out a trailer here that should explain how the show works, but otherwise come along to a session, they’re so much fun.
The Classic - I went up to Auckland in October to MC the Overload festival’s main stage area which was an intense weekend but so much fun. During this time I managed to get a couple of spots at The Classic which was bucket list stuff for me, had so much fun and can’t wait to be back in 2023.
UCSA O Week Show - This was another massive one, this year’s show was coordinated by my good buddy Matt Coombe of Laugh Mob. I ended up stepping in at the very last minute due to a lot of the other acts having caught covid and it was such a fun night. I was reeling from my second dose of the vaccine and hadn’t had a lot of sleep, as well as the usual paranoia of “do I have it?” that comes with every sniffle or cough. Despite all that, I still ended up having a great time, and I’m grateful to them for having me.
What do I want to do gig-wise in 2023? I’d love to consolidate some of our open mics and take them down from being monthly to weekly. I’ve made no secret to my cohorts Tina and Matt of Can Do Comedy how much of a struggle I’ve found it to be promoting 4-5 different gigs in different venues with different lineups every month. It’s done my head in at times trying to keep track of posts and ads, and my RSI didn’t help at all. They have both been very understanding and suggested ways to make the promo more generic and save me from sitting at the computer for 2-3 hours every night working on ads. I really miss the ease of which I could promote the Tuesday open mic at Kensington Fun House. Comedy, here every Tuesday from 8pm, free entry. Haha. Simpler times.
I give myself a C for Gigs. I would’ve liked to hit the road more, as well as get bigger audiences into my solo shows as well as our weekly open mics, improvement needed here in 2023.
After a lot of convincing from those close to me, and while feeling a tiny bit like I’ve sold my soul to the devil, I jumped on board the gravy train and created a Tiktok account. I’ve also been posting regularly on Reddit, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. The fact that they all basically use the same format for their videos makes this process a bit easier, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I’d wasted a bunch of time uploading all the individual clips from Jokes I Don’t Do Anymore as regular YouTube clips. Although to be fair, Shorts weren't a thing when I did that. One of my tasks for early 2023 is going to be a slight tidy up of my YouTube page, which will be my main focus next year. A friend of mine today said that more people watch YouTube than watch television and all the other apps, which really stuck with me. If you’re a comic or other sort of creative who’s on the fence about posting clips online, I say go for it.
Overall I’m really surprised as to how well the clips have been doing, it’s the first time in about 12 years of trying to create art, design, videos, comedy etc that it feels like people are actually seeing and appreciating my work, feels like I am beginning to make tangible progress. The next step is hopefully using some of this exposure to create an audience for myself and start selling tickets. More on this at the bottom.
As of right now, (Christmas Eve 2022) here’s how my followers/subscribers are looking:
Facebook: 226 likes • 369 followers (still no idea what the difference is)
Tiktok: 11 Followers, 143 Likes
I would have given myself an F for social media, except due to the really encouraging growth I’ve been seeing in the last couple of weeks I’m going to bump myself up to a D. I’ve always struggled to get any sort of engagement on social media, but it feels like I am starting to make progress in this department. Excited to see what 2023 brings.
LAST YEARS GOALS
I didn’t really set myself any concrete goals at the end of 2021, I just wanted “to hit the road more” so in a sense I accomplished that goal as I did 3 or 4 road gigs this year. I also stated that I want to continue collaborating with Matt & Tina at Can Do Comedy and run more shows as well as start one up in the CBD, I didn’t accomplish the second part but the first part we certainly achieved.
I’m going to give myself a D initially for setting vague goals in 2021, and bump myself up to a C because I more or less did achieve the couple of things I wanted to do.
OVERALL GRADE FOR THE YEAR: C-
Not terrible but definitely room for improvement. I now have my goals in mind for 2023 and I think I will finish 2023 feeling more satisfied than I have 2022.
I mentioned building an audience a couple of times above and that is to be my main goal for 2023. I have had all these creative and fun ideas for things like the quiz, merch, venues to play, videos, podcasts and so on, but ultimately unless there’s somebody watching these things it’s just shouting into the void. Audience needs to come first, then I can start to think about the fun creative side projects.
One flaw I found in The List system was that there wasn’t a definitive end date to it, it was essentially just work on all of these until they’re done, but as you read in my report above, quite often the scope of projects change due to things outside my control. What I’ve decided to try out for 2023 is the idea of quarterly goals, which should give me the flexibility to change goals as they progress rather than being locked into them. I’m also going to have specific goals in mind rather than vague, open ended ones.
2023 GOALS FOR Q1 (JAN-MAR)
• Reach 500 Subscribers/Followers on Youtube, TikTok & Instagram.
• Have the All My Covid Jokes special edited, clipped and ready to launch by May 2023 (1 year after filming).
• Upload 50 joke clips to Youtube, TikTok & Instagram (Roughly 3 per week).
• Try to make 1 of these weekly clips a new or topical joke if possible.
• Perform solo show A on the road at least once.
• Perform solo show B on the road at least once.
That’s my list of goals for the first quarter of 2023. I'll create another (hopefully shorter!) of these check-ins at the end of March 2023 and evaluate how well I did.
I appreciate you reading this far, that brings to a close the State of The Ramble 2022. I hope 2022 was a good year for you and that 2023 brings us all some much needed good fortune!