Northeast Pennsylvania residents may notice a familiar face on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Mayfield native and comedian Samantha Ruddy, 26, recorded a stand-up set for the talk show last month, with it slated to air sometime between now and the holidays.
Ruddy, who has performed all over the country during the past three years, met the booker for “Late Show” a year ago. The booker liked Ruddy’s set, and after some back and forth, she reached the final cut and found out she landed the gig two weeks later.
“It felt amazing,” Ruddy said during a recent phone interview from her place in Brooklyn, New York. “I cried. I missed the text at first. I wasn’t looking at my phone. I was being a bad millennial, and my manager had been calling me. I freaked out. I was on a walk with my girlfriend, and I just started bawling.”
Landing a set on “Late Show” is the biggest opportunity in an already impressive string of milestones Ruddy’s collected during her career so far. She was named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s “Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People,” has written for College Humor and Reductress, headlined clubs such as Carolines on Broadway and performed on shows including “Whiplash” and “Patton Oswalt and Friends.”
As for her biggest moments, Ruddy points to performing during the Stella Classic Nightclub Show with some of her favorite comedians — Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black and David Wainn, the brains behind “Wet Hot American Summer” — and a spot during San Francisco Sketchfest in front of 1,000 people. She also took part in what was a huge piece of her childhood when she appeared in videos for Comedy Central.
“I grew up on Comedy Central, and to see my face with the ‘Comedy Central’ logo (in the frame), that made my entire childhood,” Ruddy said. “Those are some of the things that I was the most ‘Oh my God, this is so cool’ (about).”
Aside from watching Comedy Central, Ruddy’s first taste of comedy came when she studied under NEPA native, comedian and actor Chris Barnes at Comedy Dojo improvisational comedy school at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple. As a young teenager, learning the ropes of improv and comedy made for a fun experience.
Barnes said Ruddy came into class with a natural gift for comedy but also listened and took direction really well. How she punished herself when she felt she could do better set her a part from the rest, Barnes said. While some would consider that a bad thing, he said, it showed her willingness to learn and improve.
“She cares about it. That’s what that means,” Barnes said, adding that he’s kept up with Ruddy and her career over the years. “She has the gift a lot of people don’t have, a keen intelligence and (is) willing to be the brunt of the joke. … Her honesty is above and beyond what I’m seeing today. She understands the structure, the rules, the laws of a joke.”
Ruddy tucked away her comedy side as she entered Holy Cross High School and got involved with sports such as track and other extracurriculars. She rediscovered her love for the craft in college at Syracuse University, where joined a junior comedy group and, at 20, performed at her first open-mic night.
“I got to do stand-up for the first time, and I loved it,” she said. “From that moment, I just never stopped.”
The comedian finished college a semester early, graduating with an information technology degree, and stayed in Syracuse. She joked she got to have a “Van Wilder” moment, while travelling and performing stand-up before landing an internship at a tech company in Boulder, Colorado.
During her time out west, she ended up feeling her heart actually was in comedy, and she decided to move to Brooklyn to pursue it as a career. A little over a year later, at 24, she signed with a management company, which opened up all kinds of opportunities for writing and performing. Ruddy began booking shows and writing gigs all over.
“I got really fortunate,” she said. “That’s what I knew that this was serious.”
To her parents, Paul and Patrice Ruddy, her knack for comedy came naturally. Smart and willful, the comedian always succeeded at whatever she put her mind to.
“Sam will set a goal for herself and reach it,” her mom said. “She’s all about the research and the hard work, and she masters it. She’s always been driven.”
In a family where “sarcasm was served as a side dish,” Ruddy’s parents said she held her own with quips and wisecracks growing up. She also had an interest in the arts, playing guitar or ukulele in her room after school. From her gigs hosting talent shows in middle and high school to improv shows downtown, her parents attended every performance. They’ve seen their daughter headline in New York City and attended her “Late Show” taping.
“We’re proud. Very, very proud,” Paul Ruddy said.
Her comedy style consists of concise jokes, some with misdirections, that are silly and disarming but have a bite to them. Though she’s never used a joke she originated on her Twitter account (a verified one with 22,000 followers), she sometimes feels out a joke on the platform. She described her jokes as about “anything and everything,” from being a millennial to hailing from NEPA.
She draws inspiration from her home area because she doesn’t feel Scranton is like any place else, as it mixes the East Coast “right-to-the-point” characteristics with Midwestern politeness to create distinct, intriguing yet endearing personalities. The funniest people she knows come from the Electric City, and she isn’t the only one who thinks so.
Ruddy recalled how comedian John Oliver featured the city and its idiosyncrasies a few times on his TV show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” and how NBC set “The Office” in the city, which nearly became a character on its own. None of those things were by accident, Ruddy said.
“Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the funniest place in the world,” she said. “I didn’t even realize how funny it was until I moved to New York. New York is the city that never sleeps. It’s supposed to be like no other place in the world, and it doesn’t even have as many quirks or weird things going on as Scranton. I love Scranton so much.”
Ruddy continues to showcase her talent and connect with people around the country. Her “Late Show” set may be the first time some people will see her perform, but, for those who know her, it’s exactly the place Ruddy is supposed to be.
“She can handle that, and that will get her where she belongs,” Barnes said. “She belonged there when I met her, but she wanted to learn the rules and laws and apply that. Some people think they don’t need (to learn the rules), but she’s too smart for that game. She wants it more. She’s got it.”
Meet Samantha Ruddy
Residence: A Mayfield native, she lives in Brooklyn, New York
Family: The daughter of Paul Sr. and Patrice Ruddy, she has three brothers, Louis Senofonte and Paul and Stephen Ruddy.
Education: Graduate of Holy Cross High School and Syracuse University
Claim to fame: She is a comedian who has performed on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” been named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s “Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People,” has written for College Humor and Reductress, appeared in videos for College Humor, and headlined clubs and performed on numerous shows. Visit samantharuddy.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@samlymatters) for updates.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT