Ryan Conner's new comedy DVD Chinese Secrets is exactly the kind of project you look for from a comedian. I was going to say "new comedian" but the truth is Conner's been kicking around the comedy circuit for quite a while. But, as is life in the world of stand-up, there is no such thing as an overnight success, and one never becomes a skilled comic without first putting in the hours. So although he may be new to you and me, Conner isn't new to the game and this DVD proves it. Conner is smart, witty, incisive and approachable and he has the crowd on his side from the first moment he takes the stage. He is relaxed and comfortable and with him in the driver's seat, we feel safe. There's no need to check Google Maps or bring along the Tomtom; Conner knows exactly where he's going and he knows the best routes to the punchline like the back of his hand.
Conner walks through this world with his BS-detector set on "high." He isn't afraid to call people out on their ridiculousness, whether it's a Chinese tea scam, an anti-Foreign Language class Southerner, or his girlfriend (whom he assures us isn't retarded.) Even as a child watching his grandmother trying to grasp the process of teaching English to his Vietnamese-born adopted brother, Conner knew there were some things in the world that just didn't jive and fortunately for the rest of us, he hasn't lost that ability to pick up on - and share - those blips in the matrix.
At the same time, Conner doesn't paint himself as completely innocent and he's just as willing to put his own shortcomings under the microscope. He calls himself out for his less-than-stellar attempt at learning a foreign language, accidentally "coming out" on Facebook, his embarrassing Laser Tag PTSD condition, and the cringe-inducing toast he gave at his brother's wedding.
There are a lot of topics covered throughout the hour, but my favorite moments are the longer narratives that come in the final quarter of the project; the tale of his attempt at trash talking during a Fantasy Football season with the help of a random Mike Tyson quote is a particular highlight. Not only does Conner find the funny in the moment itself, but he also fills us in with important backstory that provides just as many laughs. Conner explains why his website address isn't what you would assume it is and then brings down the house with the so-ridiculous-it-has-to-be-true tale of his encounter with a Live Action Role Playing nerd. If you've ever wondered what would happen when modern-day weaponry meets medieval swordplay, your time has come, and this is a battle more epic than anything you've ever seen on Spike's "Deadliest Warrior."
My only real criticism has nothing to do with Conner or his material, but with the recording quality of the project. The audio levels and EQ aren't always optimal, and at times it's a little hard to understand what's being said. Overall, though, it's a minor concern and no reason to pass this one over.
In the end, Chinese Secrets has done exactly what it was meant to do. It showcases Conner and his humor and introduces us to a talented comedian. It also makes me excited for what's to come from Conner in the future. If he continues to bring us comedy like what can be found here, he won't be a secret for long.
Chinese Secrets is available at Ryan Conner's website or at any of his live appearances