The next generation of Kent State comedians perform in Cleveland

Ryan deBiase

Three KSU alumni will perform at the Cleveland Improv

Kent State has produced its share of successful comedians in the past. The likes of Drew Carey and Arsenio Hall have roamed the campus before becoming nationally recognized personalities.

A new group of comedians is emerging from this region of Ohio. Steve Byrne, Ryan Dalton and Chad Zumock are all recent Kent State graduates who will be performing at the Cleveland Improv.

Byrne, a theater graduate, has enjoyed success as a featured act on shows such as “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend.” He recently finished touring with Vince Vaughn’s “Wild West Comedy Show,” which is soon to be made into a movie.

Byrne said he maintains a full touring schedule, performing at various improvs, comedy clubs and universities.

“I’ve performed at, I don’t know, thousands of colleges by now,” he said. “But I’ve never gotten to do a show at Kent State, which is kind of weird to me.”

Byrne said his comedic styling is very diverse, ranging from sketch to stand-up to improv and crowd work.

“I would say it’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’ve got jokes where I can set the mike in the stand and just tell jokes without moving; I’ve got a lot of jokes that are very animated and physical. I tell clean jokes. I tell dirty jokes.”

Byrne, who graduated in 1997, said he never expected to be a comedian while studying at Kent State.

“I was a theater major and that consumed a lot of my time,” he said, “but I never assumed, ever, that I’d be doing stand-up. But after the first time I tried it out on stage, that’s when I realized I was done. I was like, ‘This is it. This is what I’m going to be doing.'”

Dalton, a 1998 graduate, said he majored in “loitering.”

“I mean marketing,” he laughed. “I was a marketing major.”

Like Byrne, Dalton had no intention of becoming a professional comic while at Kent State.

“It was always an idea I always toyed with but never really took seriously,” he said. “I had no idea.”

Dalton cites one reason for his jump into stand-up.

“Steve (Byrne). He pretty much put me on stage my first time,” Dalton said. “After that, I took some workshops and got better. Then I got some laughs and I was hooked. Once you get your first great set, you’re hooked and that’s all there is to it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Dalton’s father, James, is an architecture professor at Kent State. He said he returns to the area frequently to visit family.

“My parents live in Kent so I come through there all the time,” he said. “I lived in Cleveland and got my start there.”

Zumock, a 2001 graduate, said his experience at Kent State fed his comedic ambitions.

“The best seven years of my life,” he said, laughing. “I had a great major – it’s called ‘general studies.’ General studies means ‘stand-up comedian,’ I guess.”

Zumock worked for the Daily Kent Stater, TV2 and even performed in a sketch comedy troupe while studying at Kent State.

“I used to write columns (for the Stater), and I actually got kicked off,” he said. “And we had a show on TV2 called ‘Last Call.’ It was really popular.”

Zumock can recall a time when Kent’s Robin Hood presented sketch comedy and improv acts every Monday, and the comedy scene at the university was creative and vibrant.

“It was a weird time at Kent,” he said. “There were all these really talented people floating around. They all went on to do crazy things.”

Zumock said he is looking forward to this “reunion show.”

“We’re coming home,” he said. “I’m really excited to do it in front of family and friends. It’s really cool that I went to Kent, Steve went to Kent, Dalton went to Kent.”

Contact features reporter Ryan deBiase at [email protected].