Out comedian chooses to record debut album in Philly

Few events in the life of a comedian equal the recording of a debut album. Out stand-up Samantha Ruddy will reach that milestone later this month, and she’s chosen Philadelphia’s Good Good Comedy Theatre for the occasion. Material for the album will be captured during two sets at the Chinatown venue on Oct. 11.

A Scranton native now living in Brooklyn, Ruddy has long considered Philly an artistic home. As a kid, her family often drove down for vacations and to visit one of her older brothers, who lived in the city for many years. As she matured, she came to enjoy discovering the town on her own terms.

“I love Philadelphia. I love being there,” Ruddy told PGN. “It has a lot of nostalgic childhood memories for me. I spent my teenage years escaping Scranton and going to the big city to hang out with my brother. Even though I’ve never lived in Philadelphia, I feel like I have a relationship with the city.”

Ruddy holds a lot of affection for her hometown too, a place she describes as “a very funny area, with a lot of real characters and interesting people.” It is also where she first began to discover comedy — initially through her family and later in improv classes geared toward children and teens.

“I have always been a dork about comedy,” she said. “My mom got me into ‘Saturday Night Live’ when I was a kid, because she loved it. My oldest brother was a big comedy nerd too, so he started exposing me to stuff that was a little more sophisticated than what I could handle. That all contributed to me falling in love with comedy.”

But it wasn’t until Syracuse University, where she was a student, that the comic, now 26, began to view comedy as a viable career path. She began performing in 2013, at the age of 20. Her early experiences also included a college sketch group and a stint as a writer for a comic newspaper in the vein of “The Onion.”

Although she has risen steadily in the six years since she started doing open-mics, Ruddy feels she still has a way to go in perfecting her brand.

“Being good requires so much work and repetition,” she said. “I still feel like I’m developing my voice. People say it takes 10 years, and I’m at year six. But I feel my voice getting more developed every year. I will write a joke now and know it’s not really me, and that’s not something I would have done three years ago. If I wrote a joke three years ago, I would just tell it no matter what.”

Ruddy has racked up some excellent experience along the way, primarily in the form of her “day job” as a warm-up comic for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” (For the uninitiated, crowd-warmers perform before a television taping in order to raise the audience’s energy once the cameras start rolling.) Earlier this year, she made her network television debut performing a set on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

When Ruddy was approached with the opportunity to record her first album, the choice of venue was an easy one.

“Good Good is wonderful,” she said. “The size of their space is perfect, and I love the owners. It was sort of a no-brainer to do it there.”

Since opening in 2016, Good Good has presented a wide array of nationally famous comedians and local performers alike. It is also known as an affirming venue for queer comics and queer audiences — which can be a sharp contrast to some mainstream comedy venues.

Ruddy appreciates the opportunity to perform in spaces that are LGBTQ-friendly. However, as her career progresses, she has begun to play a wide variety of venues, some of which are more conservative.

“I love queer rooms, and I love working material out in queer rooms, but I also love working rooms with people who think differently than I do,” Ruddy said. “It allows me to get a grasp on whether my comedy is broad or whether a certain joke is going to work for a large audience that isn’t necessarily queer or liberal.”

At the time of our conversation, both of Ruddy’s shows were nearly sold out, with the possibility of adding a third set based on demand. (It’s clear that her love affair with Philly is a reciprocal relationship.) On Oct. 11, she will be joined by two fellow comics, Kate Willett and Philly native Chanel Ali, who will serve as her own crowd warmers.

The future is bright for Samantha Ruddy, but at the moment, she is singularly focused on creating the best debut recording possible.

“Right now, my finish line is this album,” she said. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about. And I’m glad I get to do it in Philly, because Philly’s the best.”  

Samantha Ruddy performs on Oct. 11 at Good Good Comedy Theatre in Chinatown. For tickets and information, visit goodgoodcomedy.com.