Colin Ryan’s shtick is about something teenagers may have a hard time finding funny: money.
Ryan, 36, calls himself a comedic financial speaker. He travels the country using humor to teach high school kids important lessons about finances — the biggest of which is his belief that your ability to manage your money directly affects your ability to have the life you want.
Ryan’s hourlong show, “Laugh and Learn: A Comedic Guide to Money Management,” is coming to Long Island for one night — Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts’ “Library in the Lobby.” Newsday spoke to Ryan from his home in Burlington, Vermont, about what kids can expect.
Q. Why do high school kids need to hear your routine?
A. There’s only 20 states where you’re required to take any kind of finance course to graduate high school. So you have all these students who are graduating into this world of money decisions without any strong, clear guidance, or at least not enough. It’s kind of a big problem across the country. People are searching for creative, effective ways to engage young people and to prepare them for the way we all wanted to be prepared for life after high school.
Q. So how do you make money funny?
A. We create a lot of humor and fun in the event itself. I’m not a one-liner comedian. I think one of the biggest ways that money becomes funny is when you ask people to share the mistakes they’ve made. You get this beautiful kind of laughter because everybody relates. One of the first things you learn in stand-up is: Failure is funny. That’s the absolute core soil in which a joke is born. It’s kind of like showing people that it’s OK to share those mistakes and to choose to see it in a way of, “Yeah, but I learned such great things from that mistake.”
Q. So there’s lots of audience participation?
A. Yes, definitely.
Q. Can you give me an example of what you might ask the audience?
A. “If I gave you $5,000 on a credit card, what would you buy?” Everybody skipped past the reality of what that means — to borrow money on a credit card — and went right to the thing.
Q. You mean they neglect to factor in the interest?
A. Yes. So, for me, it’s like, “Let’s find your absurd, funny thing you would like to spend money on, and let me show you some healthy ways to make that happen.” A credit card is really seductive in the sense that you’re paying later. If there’s something you want right now, you can just have it. Unfortunately, when you do that, you ignore some of the basic nature of how a credit card works. So, for me, it’s really important to clarify that and explain it to people so they know what they’re getting into and know that there are better, healthier ways to get to that goal.
Q. What else do you talk about?
A. I talk about skills around saving money and building better financial habits with the money that you have. I do also talk about student debt and how to think carefully through that process.
Q. Do parents attend, too, or is this just for kids?
A. Parents come, and I think parents really enjoy the fact that it kind of creates conversations. It’s a big thing I talk about — the power of asking a dumb question. When parents bring their students, they end up getting to go home and have all these openings to have conversations. Sometimes what I help educators and parents do is visualize a different way of approaching this material . . . to bring some positivity and excitement to this.
WHAT “Laugh and Learn: A Comedic Guide to Money Management”
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts’ “Library in the Lobby,” 71 E. Main St., Patchogue
INFO Free, but reservations required by calling 631-207-1313 or emailing email@example.com; colinryanspeaks.com
‘Thinking Money,’ an exhibit for tweens and teens
A free, traveling exhibit called “Thinking Money: A Financial Expedition” is scheduled to open Oct. 19 at the Half Hollow Hills Community Library. Half Hollow Hills is the only library on Long Island scheduled to host the exhibit, which is open to all Long Islanders, says Helen Crosson, the library’s executive director.
The exhibit uses displays and iPads to test kids’ financial savvy on saving and on the difference between needs and wants, Crosson says, and takes less than a half-hour to complete. “The exhibit focuses on the tween ages,” she says, “but anybody is welcome. We think the library has a pivotal role to play in financial literacy.”
The library has planned a series of other programming around the exhibit, which is scheduled to remain at the library until Nov. 28. Programs include such choices as a Shark Tank Young Entrepreneurs Workshop and Money Bingo. Programs are open first to library card holders, then to anyone, Crosson says. For more information, visit nwsdy.li/2dnv5wA or call 631-421-4530. The library is at 55 Vanderbilt Pkwy., Dix Hills.
— BETH WHITEHOUSE