Guest article by Colin Gray
Ralph Hardesty is an up-and-coming standup comic you may have seen at Cap City Comedy Club, ColdTowne Theater and other venues, or co-hosting Greetings From Queer Mountain with comedian Michael Foulk. You may also have seen him in a caftan or witch’s cloak if you’ve attended Gurl’s Night, a gay- and women-focused standup show he co-hosts with Daniel Webb of Obama fist bump fame.
Ralph is very, very funny off stage, but it comes across naturally. You don’t get the sense that’s he’s switching on a persona. He’s comfortable with himself (remember the caftan?) and well adjusted, which is not always the case with comedians (something of an understatement).
We built our playdate around some of his favorite things to do in Austin, and I’ve been promised that with two cups of coffee in his system, I’ll be getting “the full Ralph.”
Sunstone’s Hot Hot Hot Yoga
Our civilization has advanced to the point where we can treat ourselves to yoga in a room artificially heated to 98 degrees at the very same time that it is 98 degrees outside. This is hot yoga, and it’s very popular.
Ralph’s studio of choice is Sunstone Yoga, which has a chilled out vibe even in near double-digit heat. Ralph goes at least once a week, whereas I haven’t been to hot yoga in three years. I expect that the class will be 60 minutes long and that I will die. Neither turns out to be true. The class is a fully 90 minutes long and I live.
The class is chat-free, but we talk afterwards about yoga’s benefits. “I go to yoga because it’s peaceful and I enjoy it. People go to the gym because they hate themselves,” Ralph observes.
Yoga can go beyond peaceful, though, unlocking both muscles and memories. “Some poses release memories. My shoulder will be tight, and it’ll squanch open and then…‘Oh! Middle school!” Ralph says, as if it’s all rushing back.
JuiceLand: Healthy Blasted Nature Juice
Much later, we’ll be hitting the Dart Bowl Café for enchiladas. But as Ralph says, “That’s not really what you want after yoga,” so we go to JuiceLand by Deep Eddy.
Ralph’s regular drink is the Tri Pinnacle, which contains avocado, spinach, coconut water and kale. “It’s a little…savory of a drink,” Ralph notes, and he is 100% correct. I’m happier with just juice. It’s not as jam-packed with nutrients, but who wants to live forever? (The Valley Girl with pineapple, orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime is delightful.)
As we sit by the fountain in JuiceLand’s small, pleasant and oddly baroque patio, we chat about Ralph’s career. He’s taping an interview for Austin comedy success story Brian Gaar’s upcoming show on The CW Network, and has recently completed a heavy season of touring. Having performed in Austin since 2011, Ralph is gaining traction. I ask where it’s all headed, and he says he’s not far from getting a manager or an agent.
And then off to Los Angeles or New York? “I keep telling people Austin’s my home. I’m not going to leave. I say, a little sarcastically…‘My partner would have to get a job that we’d move for, or my agent would have to recommend it.” (Regarding Ralph’s boyfriend, Chris: “My boyfriend is a dog person, so I’ll never get the cats I think I deserve.”)
Juice finished, Deep Eddy beckons.
Summer Ralph at Deep Eddy Pool
Ralph is a vision in his tank top, sunglasses and thick coating of sunscreen, with a pink pool noodle in tow. This is Summer Ralph, and Summer Ralph is ready to lounge in the spring-fed waters of Deep Eddy.
We enjoy the people-watching opportunities Deep Eddy affords, which are sparser than Barton Springs. Barton Springs is more popular, more of a place to see-and-be-seen (and maybe to be seen topless). Deep Eddy is more like a gigantic neighborhood pool, with more kids and fewer amphibians.
On a weekday pool outing, a pair of adult males can expect to have the water to themselves for 30 feet in every direction (call it a Discomfort Zone). But today is Saturday, and a four year old cheerfully borrows Ralph’s pool noodle.
Dart Bowl’s Enchiladas
We cap off our playdate with a visit to the Dart Bowl Café. Housed within the bowling alley, the café boasts some of Ralph’s favorite enchiladas in Austin, which are apparently legendary. Dart Bowl Café is also home to a hugely entertaining collection of bric-a-brac and vintage diner booths. Above our heads is a massive wooden carving of the state of Texas studded with barbed wire. This is not a fake retro joint cultivated for hipster tastes. This is the kind of place that has a massive carving of the state of Texas studded with barbed wire.
“It feels like you’re on the set of Roseanne,” Ralph remarks, comparing the joint to another Austin institution, the bar La La’s, which features wood paneling and year-round Christmas decorations.
The signature Dart Bowl enchiladas arrive, smothered in chili and jalapenos and topped with a fried egg. All our healthful morning efforts have been in preparation for this, to offset an ocean of carbs and cheese.
“It’s beautiful. I don’t know what to eat first. I want it all,” Ralph says. The toast, which has already been griddled in butter, comes with more butter on the side. (Yes, the enchiladas come with toast.)
As we indulge, we talk more shop. I ask Ralph who his favorite comics are. Tig Notaro, Chelsea Peretti, Maria Bamford, “who is like the saint of cool kid comedy.”
We’re winding down our playdate, the groovy depletion of hot yoga meeting the metabolism-wrecking effects of heavy food. Julia is snapping photos and Ralph says: “If you get some shots where I look comatose, that’s okay.”
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you see Ralph Hardesty perform live?