Comedy in D.C.: Brad Ryan and Ralph Cooper’s Awesome Thursdays

awesomethursday - bradandralph

I was in the part of town that has Chinese letters beside English ones hanging with Brad Ryan and Ralph Cooper who are the founders of Awesome Thursdays at the R.F.D. in Chinatown. We had a good chat on a Saturday afternoon in the Chinatown Coffee Company and were lucky to be at a table. It took me about twenty minutes to snag one. While I stalked the area I noticed one girl sitting alone with her purse placed on the chair beside her. At first I thought she didn’t want to get her bag dirty, but then in walks this guy who heads right to her. She looks up. “It’s nice to meet you in person!” He tells her. It was a successful online date. Beautiful. I sat alone for a couple minutes and then in walks two dudes who come to my table. Another successful online date. Um… anyway, let’s learn about Ralph and Brad.

Ralph Cooper

Ralph is from a military family that has lived all over the country, but they settled in Springfield, VA, which is where he went to high school. He attended university in Atlanta and majored in speech.  Brad was born and raised in Montgomery County and left to Ohio for one semester in college, “but I came the fuck back because Ohio is just Ohio.” He made it back to Maryland and continued his studies in College Park.

Brad and Ralph met each other because they both got the same Christmas present in 2009, which was the Five Minutes to Funny Course at the DC Improv. The idea of doing standup appealed to Brad from people telling him that he was was funny, but he never got the urge to go perform until his parents bought him the course. “It forced me to go on stage and start performing. I fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since.”

Ralph started going to open mics in 2005 after he stopped working for a company where he developed an infamous reputation with his colleagues. “The running joke was if you looked up angry black man on Wikipedia you would find Ralph. I didn’t like that and I decided that I wanted to do a job where I used my degree. I told my parents that I think I’m going to do stand up. My mother told me that she thinks I’m funny. My mother don’t give out a lot of compliments, so that was all I needed.” Ralph  fell out of the scene for a while until his wife Sonya bought him the comedy class spot. “One of the major reasons I’m doing comedy is because my wife supports me period…she kept telling me, ‘You make everyone laugh. Why aren’t you doing stand up anymore?'” Ralph explained to her that he didn’t really go out anymore, because he didn’t have the time. “She bought me the improv ticket and it brought me to tears.”

Brad Ryan

Awesome Thursdays has been going on since June of 2010 and happens every week. Ralph’s cousin Jason Demory introduced them to the management at the R.F.D. who were looking to have a comedy show in the back room.  Ralph shared his impression of it,”They have this really pretty room with all sorts of state of the art lights and sounds and stuff and nobody was using it. We really wanted a place where people got a place to practice and that’s how it started.”

They created a Facebook page for the comedy show once the room was theirs and then things  got off to a rocky start. Brad said that for the first few weeks they were forcing friends and family to go to the show and said “I had to buy my friends shots to come out.” Things have changed a lot since then, though. Back in January Ralph was running late to the show and when he got there he couldn’t get in, because there were so many people. “I was like damn what’s going on? When I got to the back I couldn’t get in the door.” Another thing they have noticed is nobody leaves by the end of the night. “It’s really a testament to the comics. Not so much anything Brad and I do.”

They consider themselves the hosts of the show, but would not function without Sonya and Jason.” Jason is the head of operations and then Sonya is head of adminstration and P.R.  That’s pretty much the team.” Jason is responsible for the technical side of things. He handles the lighting and brought sound to left side of the room. Ralph said that for the first six months of the show they could only provide sound for the right side of the room, but Jason fixed that. Brad and Ralph refer to Sonya as the “engine” that runs Awesome Thursdays. Ralph said, “She brought organization to it and would clearly whoop my ass if I didn’t mention her.”

They are planning to have some showcases in the Spring and will announce the dates soon. However, if you are in Chinatown on Thursdays you should go into the R.F.D. on 810 7th St. NW around 8 o’clock. You need to go all the way to the back room to get to the room. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they have a rule there, which is “Shut the fuck up” when comics are on stage.

Patrick comes from the West Texas town of El Paso, and decided to make D.C. his new home in the Spring of ’09. He didn’t think that he would love D.C., but things changed after it started seeing other people. That’s when he knew that he was in love. He is on a mission to find the funny in a town where serious decisions are made and hoping to shine the light on the places that force you to enjoy the fun and ridiculous in life. You can reach him at for any comments or requests.

3 thoughts on “Comedy in D.C.: Brad Ryan and Ralph Cooper’s Awesome Thursdays

  1. The RFD show is really “awesome”. They always have at least twenty comics and if you go regularly you can watch these up and coming comics develop.

    Great night out and there s no cover charge or admission fee. The bar and food is always good and in large portions.

    Fun evening……and easy to get to at Gallery Place Metro stop……

  2. What a fun evening!! Brad and Ralph are talented, funny and great guys. The talent they bring on stage is amazing.
    A great way to spend a Thursday evening with a group of friends. Great location, great talent.

    One of DC’s best kept secrets that won’t be a secret much longer!!

  3. Love “Awesome Thursdays”!!! The hosts are hilarious and the comedians that come through each week are, well, awesome! We have been a few times now, and love that some of them comedians are “regulars” and for others, its their first time. Great concept… keep up the good work Brad and Ralph!