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Alumni Spotlight: Ron Babcock '01

August 2, 2017

Less than five minutes into “This Guy,” the comedy album from Ron Babcock ’01 and Sure Thing Records that debuted at #1 on the iTunes comedy chart, Babcock shouts, “Comedy has arrived, people, and its name is Babcock!” While the line is clearly meant to be self-deprecating, it ends up fulfilling its own prophecy, serving as the call to action for a comedic odyssey through the mind of one of America’s funniest stand-up comics. On “This Guy,” Babcock shares his hilarious thoughts on topics as diverse as Coinstar, beards and time travel while keeping his finger firmly on the pulse of the awkward absurdity that is American comedy.

“Most of stand-up is failure,” Babcock said. “It’s one of those things where it’s a process profession. You have to be in love with that process because that’s all it is. Success is the most minor part of the process.

“I always describe it as you’re swimming through a sea of failure to islands of success. You get on that island, you take a break and you enjoy it, and then you jump back in.”

How did a native of Wilkes-Barre evolve into a comedic powerhouse who has been featured on “Adam Devine’s House Party” and “Last Comic Standing,” and what role did The University of Scranton play in that development? It’s a question we explored when we caught up with Babcock during his morning commute from his home in South Pasadena, California, to his new job editing the relaunch of “Muppet Babies,” which will premiere on Disney Junior in 2018.

Babcock knew somewhat earlier than most that the University was the right place for him thanks to his father, George, who was the Associate Dean of the School of Management.

“It’s very simple – my father was a teacher at The University of Scranton,” he said. “My entire family – my three older sisters and one older brother – went to The University of Scranton. I knew I was going to The University of Scranton since the first grade.

“I was very at home on the campus before I set foot on the campus as an actual student.”

As a student, Babcock majored in communications. He first realized his talent for editing after he produced a marketing video for the study abroad office out of camcorder footage he recorded while on a Semester at Sea, which he cited as one of his favorite undergraduate experiences. During his senior year, he produced an hour-long documentary on Scranton landmark the Hotel Casey called “The Hotel Casey, The Perfect Hotel,” which can still be found on YouTube. Afterward, he and a fellow classmate collaborated on a 40-minute sketch comedy video called “Three Credits to Freedom,” which was Babcock’s first foray into comedy.

“We were big fans of ‘Mr. Show with Bob and David,’ and so we basically ripped off them,” Babcock said with a chuckle. “It was a very meta show where the whole show was about us not doing the show.

“We had some ideas, and instead of just talking about it, we went out and actually made it, and it started me down that road, started me down that path.”

After graduation, Babcock moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to start a comedy magazine with Ryan McKee, a friend he had met while on Semester at Sea. One thing led to another, and the duo began performing stand-up together.

“We started performing as a duo because we were too afraid to get up by ourselves, and we actually had some success,” Babcock said. “Our first year doing it, we went to the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and won. That gave us a little more confidence, and we started doing stand-up on our own.”

Along the way, Babcock balanced his life as a comic with his life as an editor, performing across the country while working on television shows like HBO’s “The Life and Times of Tim” and co-hosting and directing the “Why Would You Eat That Challenge.” During a national tour in 2014, the seeds were sown for what would eventually become “This Guy.”

“I was going through Austin, Texas, where Sure Thing Records has this great comedy room,” he said. “After the show, they asked me if I was ever interested in doing a record.

“We picked a date, and I went back out to Austin.”

Babcock said the album was recorded live in one night.

“It was mostly material I’d had for a while with some new stuff I’d written a month or two before,” he said. “That was mostly the all-stars from my career up to this point.”

On the day the record was released, it shot to number one on the iTunes comedy chart, providing Babcock with a standout “island of success.”

“It was very gratifying,” he said. “You put work into something, and it’s nice to see that, oh, people are buying it and listening to it, so it’s not just being released into the ether.

“It’s nice to have something that is digital, that people can buy, that is less than 10 bucks. A comedian once told me whenever you make anything, you’re just making deposits into a savings account. If you write a script, or you make a CD, or you do a little video, you’re just putting things into this little account. You’re just constantly making deposits. You don’t necessarily know when those investments are going to pay off, but the more you put in, sooner or later, those dividends are going to start to pay off. People will notice something you made years ago, and that will turn them onto you, and then you’ll have other things they can check out, and then that will lead to more and more opportunities.”

Babcock is currently working on material for a follow-up album he hopes to record next year. In September, he will appear at the Altercation Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas. He just finished working on Adult Swim’s “Mr. Pickles,” and he’ll continue working on “Muppet Babies” through the end of the year. When asked if he had any advice for current students or budding comics, he responded with the wisdom of a man who has spent a good chunk of his life trying to make the world laugh.

“I come back (to campus) from time to time, and I give talks to the communications students, and my advice is always the same: make stuff,” he said. “You’re at this place for four years with all these resources around – don’t be afraid of failure. This is the place to just do things and find out what you’re good at and find out what you’re not so good at because it’s this wonderful little place where you can make stuff and try new things. 

“I think it’s really important to take advantage of everything there. If you want to try something, give it a whirl. It’s a good place to discover what you do and don’t like.”

For more information on Babcock, visit heyron.com. “This Guy” is available on iTunes here

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