Ryan Singer is a staple of the Los Angeles alternative comedy scene, and also maybe a powerful witch or some kind of time traveller. On his podcast Me & Paranormal You, the affable, larger-than-life character interviews people who have experiences that cannot be defined as “mainstream.” It makes for one of the more rewarding listens in the world of podcast mysteries.
Singer started in Dayton, Ohio as the kind of comic who would make the audience chant phrases that were accidentally profane, and would then jump into an extended bit about sexually abusing the devil’s corpse. He describes his early material as “dark or total absurdity with absolutely nothing in between.” Luckily, he figured out how to bring his twisted views on modern living into a clean, universal voice, and became a successful, nationally-touring comedian. Now he produces a monthly L.A. show called “Underbelly,” in which comedians are challenged to leave their comfort zones with a single rule: You cannot perform standup comedy. He also talks to people about aliens and ghosts and zombie and CIA mind control … for fun.
I caught Singer last week while he was performing in Clarksville, Tennessee, and he spoke to me from his hotel room, which he assured me was zero percent haunted.
You have a podcast called Me & Paranormal You where you talk to people who live in a different reality than mine. How did it come about?
I am always on the verge of financial ruin. Each year I think it’ll get a little better, but it is usually getting work. I honestly do not know where I am going. A few years back, things were going fine in my career. Fine. But I was 37 and asking, “Is this what I’m doing? Just driving around and doing other people’s shows forever?” And then one day I just got pissed because I was talking about how I should do the show, and I realized I’d been talking about how I should do the show for maybe four years? If I listened to a friend talk about something they never made for four years, they wouldn’t be my friend anymore, so why would I tolerate that from myself? So even though I was in debt, I went out and bought the equipment on a debit card and just dove in.
I started having awkward conversations with people. I’d be talking to someone and as soon as we were alone, I’d lean in and ask, “By the way, do you have any paranormal abilities, or is there anything weird about you that you don’t tell anyone about? You can tell me.” That’s when I realized that I was surrounded by people who had strange experiences that they’d never told anyone about because they were afraid. Documenting those human experiences seemed like a really worthwhile use of my time and talents.
I appreciate that you’ve got an “Origins” episode that people can listen to, and then they can basically jump in on any other episode. It also sets up your reasons for doing it and your perspective.
A find primers are always helpful. It’s good to let people know why I believe so many things. That sets it up to understand why I can see morphing in people or how I can talk to someone who communicates with the dream world.
Also, I just realized the air conditioning is on in this hotel room and it is snowing outside. I find that much more difficult to believe than aliens.
What was the first episode of the podcast where you thought, “Oh, wow, we have something here”?
I don’t want to answer that directly because I feel like I cannot discredit any episode where someone has opened up to me. There are a lot of interviews where I shout “What?” when I realized that I will not be the same person as I was before we started. There are episodes where even strangers can hear that at the end I am so different that you can hear an audible change in my voice; you can hear a transformation in me.
I did a DMT experience with Shane Mauss. We recorded me smoking DMT and then talking through my trip while Shane observed me, then we recorded an episode where he tried Dimethyltryptamine and I observed him. That was the first time I got flooded with emails of people saying “This is insane.” Which was great, but I’m not just going to smoke DMT every week, you know?
The big episode is probably the time I got to interview the girl I mention in the “Origins” episode. I never thought I’d see her again and it was a huge surprise. It will never happen again, due to some very dark, upsetting stuff that has happened in her life since. I feel guilty and it’s heart-wrenching to understand the experience of someone who lives in a reality that is not ours.
One guy explained to me that his body is full of souls, and that there are people in this realm that have very specific purposes related to that “over-souling,” but that it rarely works out. The idea is that there are interdimensional beings who have been sent here to help change the world for the better, but most of them die without ever understanding their purpose. Like how your dog doesn’t know he’s a dog? That’s how these aliens exist. That’s wild.
I’m currently pretty terrified of djinn. Americans know about the bastardization of that idea as genies, but true djinn are not Robin Williams. I was reading about djinn and I actually became so scared that I opened an Etsy account so I could buy a protective necklace from a girl in Thailand. That’s a bit in my standup now, about being so scared of genies that, as an adult man, I set up an Etsy account. It’s a funny joke for the audiences, but I’m also supposed to be saving for a retirement and instead I’m covered in crystals I bought off the internet. I don’t do drugs anymore, but I do spend a lot of time with crystals. You have to get your juice from the universe somehow.
Tell me about the Black Knight satellite?
That’s one of my favorite things I’d never heard about. I get emails from people asking if I’ve just heard about various things, and it usually sends me down an internet wormhole. It’s kinda dumb that I’d never heard of it before, but this is how I found out about Wendigo. So a fan emailed me about Black Knight, and it’s essentially this idea that there’s a satellite orbiting the planet and observing us, which is either from a pre-human civilization (this is a Graham Hancock rabbit hole about the pyramids being 15,000 years old), or that it belongs to the alien U.N. and they’re watching to make sure we’re all being chill to each other. I do like a lot of the theories about alien U.N. making sure we’re safe, because people think if we tried to start a nuclear war, they’d come down here and stop it. But there is something dangerous about that line of thought, because it’s like knife-fighting your brother in the basement and depending on the babysitter to come down and stop it.
I have to be honest: that’s a very relatable metaphor, but just for Midwest kids like us.
I try to be very even-handed. At this point, with all the weird satellites up there, I do think the chances of Black Knight existing unnoticed is pretty slim. But that doesn’t make it impossible.
It’s more fun to believe. That’s how I live my life. I will believe anything until someone can prove it is false and then I move on.
Which Ryan Singer do you think is easier for people to talk to about this kind of thing: the Ryan who makes jokes for a living or the Ryan that believes in everything 100 percent?
Sarcasm and snide remarks don’t work for this. You’ve got to show some love for people willing to open up about being afraid. That said, you need to maintain a sense of humor about this still or it will destroy your life. If you get invested in the lies that we live inside, you just get angry and then you’re yelling at everyone and depressed and driving people away. I accidentally just explained Alex Jones.
I was part of developing a TV show a few years back called Kooks, which was like a Daily Show but for weird news. We were going to reclaim the word. This kind of intellectual pursuit doesn’t need to be made intentionally frightening to attract an audience. You don’t need to put scary noises under your YouTube videos. There’s a newsletter I’m subscribed to —
It strikes me that you are probably subscribed to many newsletters, Ryan. From many interesting people who live off-the-grid.
Yes. Yes, that is accurate. But this one in particular publication is always shouting about remote viewing and how the government has plans to kill you, personally. It’s basically a scam to sell bunkers, but it’s emblematic of a bigger problem: If you honestly believe you have information that could save lives, and you are trying to charge money for that information, you are a fucking asshole. The end.
I went to a psychic once, who was great. She told me in a past life I’d been an evil prince who murdered his twin brother and tricked his wife into having sex with him and took over a country. It was basically like being told I was Joffrey from Game of Thrones. And because of all the people I wronged, there were all of these spirits following me throughout time and making sure I never found any true happiness.
Shit. That’s a bummer.
Yeah. I was fully invested in this idea. And then she said, “I can get rid of them for only $1,500.” Can you imagine? I just lost it. “Sorry, you’re telling me that you can see evil spirits chasing me through time, guaranteeing that I will be miserable for all of eternity, and you won’t just help me out? You have all this power but you need $1,500 from me to light some candles? You know what? Tell me your name again. Because I am going to haunt you for eternity for being this shitty to another person. At least a minimum of 15 lives are now dedicated to dicking you over.”
This is all to say: I think skepticism is healthy.
You just hit Episode 100 of the show, and to celebrate you interviewed your mother. Her experiences clearly helped form your impressions about the unknown world.
We never hung out because we had a strange relationship, but she did reiki and can see auras around people and has a lot of experience with animal ghosts. I never thought about animal ghosts because they’re … animals? But we’re animals too. I don’t have an explanation for the patterns of souls. But my mom has some clear thoughts.
As a de facto expert in the capital-W Weird, what pop culture do you think best represents this side of the world?
Carl Sagan on Cosmos was perfect, because of how it opens your mind to the possibility of the universe. I think Neil deGrasse Tyson is good in this role, but he’s become so hellbent on being a personality I wonder how long it will be before him and his dogma start the Church of NDGT. I loved Mothman Prophecies and I’ve been through Point Pleasant on tour; they have a huge Mothman statue in the middle of town, which I see as such a great embrace of that whole regional mystery. Ghostbusters opens your mind to stuff, especially kids, and it includes the ideas that some ghosts don’t want to eat your soul; they’re sometimes passive or just entirely neutral to the world of the living. The idea of souls that are helpful or ambivalent is such an important change in the public portrayal of the spirit world. I don’t particularly like being scared, which I know sounds weird considering what I’m doing with my life, but most ghost and demon stuff does not appeal to me on nearly the same level as extraterrestrial life. Stuff like the film Stigmata makes me cry. I came up on a lot of Coast to Coast AM, but I worry that if you listen to it too much, it’ll mess you up. If they’re talking about building bunkers or how global warming is a myth, I bail, because there’s this little thing called acid rain. …
If we could use the reach of this interview for one thing, what kind of experiences have you never found good people to interview?
If anyone out there has a real good grasp on past lives — like detailed stuff — or if anyone is real good at predicting the future, please find me.