Courtesy of Groundhog Comedy's Facebook page

Editor’s Note: Run by Michael Smith, The Ithacast is a weekly podcast featuring interviews with interesting Ithacans. You can stream the full interview below, or subscribe on iTunes.

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Ruben RC – Groundhog Comedy

Francisco Ruben Arce, a.k.a. Ruben RC, is a stand-up comedian, producer and host who has made himself a vital fixture in Ithaca’s comedy scene. First appearing on stage just 3 years ago, Ruben has not only honed his comedic skills but also stepped up as a producer, organizing and hosting events to help elevate Ithaca’s comedy scene.

In this episode, we talk with Ruben about his beginnings as a comedian and some of his heroes in the comedy scene. We also have a no-holds-barred chat about telling jokes in a culture of extreme political correctness.

If you’re interested in checking out Ruben’s comedy, he hosts an open mic every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at Lot 10. He also has a big show featuring several other local comics coming up on New Year’s Eve at the Starlite Room in Elmira.

NOTE: This episode features explicit language and potentially offensive topics.

Courtesy of Groundhog Comedy’s Facebook page

Below are 4 interesting snippets from the interview:

1 – How did RC get started with comedy?

While he lacked the confidence to be the “class clown” in his younger days, RC was always a comedian at heart. He says, “Comedy has always been my one constant throughout my whole life. Maybe I had been into different things at different times, but comedy has always been there.”

RC didn’t follow the typical path – dropping out of school at 16 and getting his GED – but that hasn’t left him any less intelligent or insightful. Comedy played a role there, too, arming RC with a curiosity that led him to explore the world on his own terms. Says RC, “[Comedy] was my first reason for seeking out knowledge. I wanted to have more knowledge of the world simply because I wanted to get more jokes. I hated it when a comedian I respected said some killer punchline and the crowd was laughing but I didn’t get it. That could not stand.”

2 – How did RC get started doing stand-up comedy?

Despite his lifelong interest in comedy, RC didn’t actually hit the stage until a few years ago. “It seemed too far-fetched,” says RC, “it was like somebody who liked basketball saying, ‘I’m gonna go be in the NBA.’ It doesn’t work that way.” Fortunately, he met another would-be comic, Evan Roberts, and together the two worked up the courage to do an open mic – which quickly led to a booking on the first ComedyFLOPS Comedy Festival.

The early positive response led RC and Roberts – who coincidentally shared a birthday on Groundhog’s Day – to form Groundhog Comedy and begin producing comedy shows. The two have since parted ways, but the name stuck with RC, who continues to produce more events under that name.

3 – What’s the state of the Ithaca comedy scene?

Though it’s small, RC takes a great deal of pride in Ithaca’s comedy scene and believes it has lots of room to grow. “The Ithaca comedy scene is so much better than people realize. There’s real talent here, people are really clever. When I started doing this I didn’t realize there were so many people doing it right next to me that were so good.”

As he continues to get more experience in producing and hosting shows, RC aims to bring more new life to the Ithaca comedy scene. Having opened for the likes of notable comedians like Eugene Mirman and Myq Kaplan, RC believes that bringing those bigger names is a great way to shine a light on the talent that already exists in Ithaca.

4 – RC’s take on people who get offended by his comedy

With comedic heroes like Louis CK and Doug Stanhope, it’s no surprise that some of RC’s jokes upset some people with gentler sensibilities. RC doesn’t worry – in fact he sees that as part of his job: “Laughing is a coping mechanism. It’s a release of pressure. That’s why part of my mission is to stick it to people who are too uptight. They say, ‘You can’t joke about this or it’s too soon’… I’m like, ‘Do you even get what a joke is?’ It’s because I’m feeling the pain too. This is my way of working around it.”

Those who get offended too easily or on other peoples’ behalves have earned the pet name “pridezillas” from RC. He recalls an example:  “I saw this article about white women wearing native american headdresses as fashion pieces, and how they’re apparently the worst people in the world because they’re taking something of extreme cultural significance to someone else and wearing it like a fashion accessory. Which sounds noble until you realize the guy who wrote the article is a white guy with dreadlocks.”

Check out a bit from this recent open mic (including theme song!):

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.