Visit any comedy club in the Twin Cities on any given night, and you’ll hear dozens upon dozens of voices laughing in unison. But of all these laughs, there is one that stands out just a little bigger, louder, and more full of joy than any others.
Lyle LaRue is a 42-year-old native of Central Iowa. He lives in Minneapolis, and enjoys music, “Peanuts,” and the St. Paul Saints. But his greatest love is stand-up comedy.
A long-time fan of classic comedians, Lyle first discovered the rich Minnesota comedy scene back in 2008.
“I won a gift certificate to go to Acme and I really enjoyed it,” Lyle recalls. “It looked like it was a lot of fun, but I didn’t have the confidence at that point to try it myself.”
Soon, Lyle became a fixture at comedy clubs all over town, including Joke Joint in St. Paul, House of Comedy at the Mall of America, and of course, Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis. His genuine love of comedy got him noticed by local performers on the scene, and Lyle used that common ground to begin forging friendships.
One of those friendships was with Mike Brody, a mainstay of the local comedy scene for many years.
“Lyle was always around and he likes to talk,” Brody says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s comedy, music, or ‘Peanuts.’ Lyle would come talk with the comics and put himself out there.”
His unmistakable laugh became somewhat of an invitation for his newfound comedy brethren to bring him into the mix, often times calling him out from the stage during their shows.
“When you hear Lyle laugh, it’s like a siren going off,” laughs Brody. “He likes being called out during shows. There’s a term in comedy called playing to the back of the room, where you do something that 99 percent of the audience isn’t going to get. Sometimes that’s how I feel about calling out Lyle, but he loves it so much that I do it anyways.”
But Brody wasn’t Lyle’s only friend in comedy. Everyone from standouts like Gabe Noah, Chris Knutson, and John Conroy would soon join Lyle’s circle, a group that he dubbed his comedy “Ring of Honor.”
“The Ring of Honor are my friends I’ve made in comedy,” he says. “I like to be reminded of what I’ve gotten from it [the local comedy scene]. When I was younger, I struggled to make friends. Finding comedians was sort of like when Forrest Gump makes friends with Jenny and Bubba—they were decent to me when some others weren’t.”
While he loved the camaraderie and enjoyment he got from being around comedy, the urge to get on stage would eventually lead Lyle to get on stage himself.
He tried out a few open mics around town, and felt himself catch the bug to perform. Not long after his first forays into stand-up, Lyle found his way to the stages of smaller venues like Campus Pizza and Chatter Box Pub, where he was able to start gaining valuable stage time.
“Lyle puts in the time,” Brody says. “That’s one of the things that has gained him so much respect among comedians in town. He enjoys comedy and studies it, and he’s just a likeable guy. When you combine those things, that is what ultimately makes people want to give Lyle spots. It’s rewarding his positive attitude.”
Other members of his “Ring,” including Acme favorites Chad Daniels and Tim Harmston, have invited Lyle to perform guest sets during their shows, and Mary Mack has gone so far as to appoint Lyle the official on-stage blogger of her performances in the past.
Though he has had the chance to grow as a performer, Lyle has managed to maintain his pure fandom of comedy, a rarity amongst some of his peers.
“The thing that makes him special is that he’s 100 percent in both worlds,” says Brody. “He works his ass of as a performer, but he still laughs like a fan. For a lot of comics, they start out as fans but after a while they start to look at it more like work. They don’t laugh as much or they don’t pay attention during other people’s sets. Lyle has never lost that joy.”
In terms of his comedy future, Lyle is quick to point out that he doesn’t have any concrete plans mapped out.
“Hopefully it doesn’t stop being fun,” he says. “I want to perform for as long as I can. Bob Newhart once said ‘performing stand-up is a narcotic that I need.’ I feel the same way and hope it stays fun for me for years to come.”
And much like Lyle is quick to profess his love of the stage, the local comedy scene has professed it’s love for him right back.
“Minneapolis has Lyle’s back,” Brody says. “Everyone in town loves him, and he’s an important part of our scene.”