Radio love leads to standup career for Placone

A love of radio led Ron Placone to standup comedy.

The Pittsburgh native started working at a student-run college radio station when he was a student at Indiana University.

No one was listening – “We celebrated once because we had like nine listeners at one time,” he said – but he became hooked on talk radio.

“What I love about the medium is it’s so conversational,” Placone said. “You take the audience on a trip but you’re just armed with the spoken word. There are no fancy gimmicks. It’s a lot like standup.”

When he had an internship at a record label in Nashville, he would hang out at the office of the music industry publication Radio & Records, and he would talk to the writers there whenever one of them had some time. When he said he wanted to get a job in radio, he was told he could try to find work as a board operator somewhere or he could pursue standup comedy and get discovered that way.

“Standup comedy sounded way cooler than getting a job in the middle of nowhere playing Nickelback songs at midnight,” he said.

Placone continued his interest in radio when he decided to go back to college and attended grad school at Pittsburgh’s Dusquesne University, earning a master’s degree in rhetoric. His master’s project evolved into a one-man show called “Madness in the Message: Start Talking,” which premiered last summer in Pittsburgh.

Placone has been booking the show at colleges and is encouraged by the response, but his act Saturday when he opens for Jay Boc at the Warren Comedy Club will be less topical and more personal.

“There is some slight overlap,” he said. “There are certain jokes that I’ve done that have found their way into ‘Madness in the Message,’ but for the most part they are two different things. Any who is worried that I’m going to lecture on the media has nothing to worry about. It’s a standup show.

“I talk more about myself – my life, my cats, my girlfriend and stuff I’ve observed … The world is crazy, but I am, too. There’s a kind of self-deprecation. I’m a weird guy in a weird world and we’re all just trying to make sense of it.”

Placone has opened for the Upright Citizens Brigade and other national acts, and he’s seen a lot of growth in Pittsburgh’s comedy scene since moving back to his hometown.

“I had to make my own little niche,” Placone said. “I would go to music open mics to try to make my niche as a comedian in the artists’ community. But it’s changed in the last couple years. You can get stage time almost every night … It’s progressively gotten better.”

Placone does a podcast that is syndicated and is in talks for a possible radio show out of Nashville, but he also has no plans of abandoning standup comedy.

“I had to figure out what worked for me,” he said. “The thing I’ve kind of noticed about standup is some people make it so much about the formulas – set up, punch – and there is some truth to that. People break it down and say you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Then you’ll see someone come along who breaks that.

“The only true rule is to be funny.”