Above-the-belt Utah comedic duo promises laughs without offense
By Autumn Thatcher
Special to The TribuneFirst published Jun 21 2014 01:01AM
The comedic duo of Ryan Holyoak and Ryen Schlegel — aka Holy Schleg — is easy to spot upon entering Juniors Tavern on a recent afternoon.
Sporting MVP medals dangling from a red, white and blue ribbon around their necks, Holyoak and Schlegel smile like two schoolboys up to mischief. As if on cue, once they recognize their interview is about to start, they wrap their arms around each other in the booth and flash their medals.
When asked about their prestigious awards, they break into laughter over their improvised enthusiasm surrounding the medals, which were awarded to them for the March into May contest Salt Lake County held for its employees to encourage activity through walking.
"We lost miserably," Holyoak says. "Our team was Walking Phoenix."
It turns out the MVP medal was awarded to Schlegel, who was unanimously nominated by his team for the award. He happened to receive two of them, and it works perfectly as a conversation starter for Holy Schleg.
The comedians officially joined forces two years ago when a mutual friend asked them to perform together at a show he was hosting at the Complex. After their first show together — and after spending one too many nights suffering through racist or sexist jokes at open-mic events — Holy Schleg was born. "We always thought it was the funniest to make fun of the culture we’re in — to make fun of open-mic comedy. Our first set was basically to try and point out that you don’t have to do stereotype humor. You can be funnier than that," says Schlegel.
This is not to say they are squeaky clean (they describe their comedy as satirizing the disposable media, such as infomercials that kids were raised on in the ‘80s and ‘90s.)
"So much of doing comedy is trying to get your friends out. Our friends are people who don’t want to hear racist or sexist jokes, but they still like a good goof," Holyoak says.
"You’re not making fun of anything but you’re making fun of life itself," Schlegel adds.
For Schlegel and Holyoak, who admit that doing stand-up comedy is very hard and refer to it as "an amazing art form," the best solution to getting their friends involved in comedy was to offer something they would enjoy sitting through. They combined their individual niches — filmmaking for Schlegel, stand-up for Holyoak — and began working on making a name for themselves as Holy Schleg.
"Like Aerosmith said, we’re ‘living on the edge,’ " says Holyoak, explaining that over the years, the team has had to work through many awkward performances by trial and error — figuring out how to make a show work for the audience and the various comedians involved.
Fast-forward to present day, and Holy Schleg is preparing to host a night of free comedy at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City. The duo has hosted events such as this in the past at the Tower Theatre and a warehouse where a friend was living. According to their event Facebook page, the Gallivan event is "legit."
The Conspicuous and Above-the-Belt Soiree is hosted and presented by Holy Schleg and Tyler Ford, who helps the duo with writing, filming and providing microphones for the show.
"We can fly higher than the eagles, but he is the wind beneath our respective wings," says Holyoak.
Attendees of the Above-the-Belt Soiree can expect to get their stand-up comedy fix through local talents Natashia Mower and Lamar Kellywood.
The evening will also include screenings of short Holy Schleg films made throughout the past year and a little bit of sketch comedy.
"We want to show the different aspects of what’s going on in Salt Lake," says Schlegel.
"And none of it will be hating on women or hating one race or another," adds Holyoak.
The ultimate goal of Holy Schleg’s Above-the-Belt Soiree is to generate enough buzz in Utah’s comedy scene to keep the event going at Gallivan on a monthly basis. Schlegel hopes the event will draw in other local comedians who would like to become involved.
"We want to grow the show to have everyone be a part of it. This is a city event about Salt Lake showing off what we have and if this one goes well, if people get the clue of what we’re trying to do, we want to include as many [comedians] as we can."