Ray Romano Comes To The Strip
Ray Romano accidentally made $7 for his very first paid gig ever in his career, at The Comic Strip. He was supposed to be doing a non-paid “late night” spot, when the last booked comic of the evening didn’t show up, and Ray was asked to take his place.
After his spot, one of the other comics told him he was supposed to get paid for that, but Ray didn’t have the nerve to ask for it, so the comic told the bartender to pay Ray, and before he knew it, he was seven dollars richer. Ray says he gave all of that to his wife to show her he was finally making money doing stand-up.
That story, and the story of why he spent his first six months performing under the name “Jackie Roberts” were among the many stories he told for the book I’m writing, with owner Richie Tienken, for the 35th anniversary of The Comic Strip.
Letterbox Pictures was there to film the interview for the documentary film being Exec. Produced by Chris Rock. The film’s trailer will debut next month in Montreal at the Just For Laughs Festival, the biggest comedy festival in the world.
Ray came to the interview with his longtime manager Rory Rosegarten of The Conversation Company. He and Ray met at The Strip and have been together for some 22 years, one of the longest show biz marriages I’ve heard of. Ray is extremely loyal in a business where comics have been known to leave their original managers as soon as they make it big.
I hadn’t seen Ray in a while and brought an old photo of us together from the time I brought internationally known singer Michael Bolton to meet Ray on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond.
One of Ray’s writers from Raymond was there, writer/producer Tom Catalbiano. Tom is also quite a photographer, and he told me had a great photo of me with Patricia Heaton taken at the party for the Raymond DVD a few years back.
We all went into Richie’s magnificent private office where you have to be inserted as if you were a coin in a slot, like in a washing machine (it used to be a coat room).
We went in the office to watch the trailer for the Comic Strip documentary, and also to watch one of the old Christmas videos that Ray made for many years for the annual holiday party. In the video we saw, which I think was the last one he made, he got the entire cast of Raymond to make believe they were at a show at The Strip to find a comic for someone’s birthday party. Brad Garrett, kept making fun of Angel Salazar’s signature line, saying “Sheck it out, … sheck it out!”
They called The Strip a “s#*thole”, and each of the cast members took turns making fun of different Strip comics like Scott Blakeman, and D.F. Sweedler, who they said nobody got. Seeing it for the first time, I actually thought it was a real episode of Raymond until the late Peter Boyle said, “I really liked that joke about the guy f#*king a horse.” That kind of gave it away. I didn’t think that line would get past the censors.
Ray is an unbelievably nice guy. Very often success makes people obnoxious. Ray is as nice as a guy who never made it! We got to congratulate him on the success of his new TNT show, Men of a Certain Age.
Comedy Central Auditions
Doug Herzog himself, Pres, of Comedy Central, showed up at The Strip to hold auditions for talent, in a show where Mike Britt was the MC. Among others, he got to see up and comer Jermaine Fowler, who just got back from performing in Aspen at the Rooftop Comedy Festival, Shang Wang who you’d never believe by his name was Chinese, and Kurt Metzger who explained why the USA is best. “We own the moon!”
Amy Schumer was there to audition as well. She’s so clever and what I like best about her is that every line is so strong. As a writer, I respect people who don’t waste half their stage time asking the audience where they’re from. Jimmy Brogan made that work for him, but that was 25 years ago. Maybe more! Most of the time it just looks like you ran out of material. It’s great for the MC to warm up the crowd, but not for the guys who hit the stage after.
Amy said she just went out with her high school crush, and now he expects her to go to his graduation! In Miami, it seems she got stung by a jellyfish. She said, “At least that’s what the guy who was peeing on me told me. I don’t even remember going in the water!” I like Amy Schumer.
Hannibal Buress, was also very good, and kindly told his assistant to “fax that for me, and here, fax something for yourself too!” I got to see Anthony Jeselnik for the first time, and found him to be very funny, and edgy, with good stage presence, and a very interesting delivery.
Jeff Singer and his crew came down to audition people for this summer’s Just For Laughs festival. I got to see Adrienne Iapalucci, who says kids are so annoying she can’t understand why anyone would be a pedophile. Reese Waters, who’s dating a girl with very light skin because her mother is white, and her father is white, and the great Mike Vecchione, who according to him looks like “if Nick Lachey was on the Jersey Shore.”
Mike also just came back from performing in Aspen, where I’m sure he told the story about the time he was “fist-fighting a vegetarian” in the street. You don’t even need to hear the end of it to know it was funny.
Other stand-outs were Dina Blizzard, Josh Rabinowitz, Sean Patton and another favorite of mine, Joe DeVito, whose family believes in the motto, “If you can’t say something nice, scream it across the dinner table!” All these guys keep me from performing cause I always think, “How can I compete with that?” If you’ve never seen my stand-up it’s online on my website at jeffreygurian.com with me performing at Stand Up New York.
Everybody, it seems, is writing a book. I got to see Jay Mohr at Gotham and then a few days later went to see him at his book signing, for his new book, No Wonder My Parents Drank, at the Barnes and Noble down on Warren Street in Tribeca. Jay entertained his book signing audience with fantastically accurate impressions of Al Pacino, Chris Walken, and Eddie Murphy, among others. He said his best experience while on SNL was seeing Chris Farley every time he walked into the building. He kind of choked up when he said, “It’s not often you get a chance to stare into the sun for two years.” That’s the kind of guy Jay Mohr is, plus he’s crazy about babies, and wants more!
The fabulous Pablo Francisco from Mad TV and Comedy Central headlined one weekend and I made sure not to miss him. Pablo is definitely a comedic experience you want to have. Once you’ve seen him do his thing, you will definitely return to see him again. He’s a dynamo who doesn’t stop for a minute.
Jon Fisch hosted the show, and Jon was so good, that I asked him to perform in a show I was producing out on Long Island at the Old Westbury Country Club, which you’ll be reading about in the next column.
Jon’s advice to the audience was, “When you realize you’re going bald, turn to whoever you’re with and propose.” Lines like that, that people get hysterical over are funny, but they also come from truth. Pain + Time = Comedy. It’s an equation that’s sad but true. Jon also said he stayed in a hotel that had free wireless in the lobby, but cost $9.99 a day in the room. He said, “Apparently they want me to masturbate in the lobby.” Jon Fisch will soon be a headliner himself.
So I shot an e-mail out to Pablo to give him a heads-up that I was coming, and wanted to see him after the show to get a photo. After the show he disappeared and I couldn’t find him, which is why I’m using a photo of us from last winter.
Comedians and lots of other creative people are not too good with the concept of time, but the day after the show, I got an e-mail back from Pablo saying, “Thank you bungbung, lots of love, Pablo.” As if I didn’t have enough to do today, now I have to find out what “bungbung” means!
Mitch Fatel was another old pal I hadn’t seen in too long, so when I found out he was headlining Gotham I made sure to be there. He has such a likable stage persona that no matter what he says, you have to like him.
Mitch is honest and says he’s “very famous” and gets to have sex with lots of girls. He was out on a date, and he suddenly felt like he was gonna have sex with the girl, because she went to the bathroom, and left her drink with him! One girl wanted him to call her a “bad girl” but he embellished upon it and told her she was so bad, she should have been incarcerated years ago.
Also on that bill were two other great comics Vic Henley, who was the MC, and Marina Franklin, who is a crowd pleaser wherever she works.
At Anthony Anderson’s monthly mixtape show it was great to see Royale Watkins take the stage again to do some stand-up, because as one of the producers of the show, sometimes he’s too busy to do that. He talked a lot about “Ho’s” and how they now have their own show. It’s called “Basketball Wives.”
Brian Scott McFadden had a great line. “This next guy is a favorite on the B,D, and E lines and has appeared on security cameras all over the city! Marshall Brandon claims that racism still exists. People follow him every time he goes into a store to steal something.
Speaking of books, Paul Provenza, of The Aristocrats fame, and host of the new show The Green Room with Paul Provenza on Showtime, came out with a book called iSatiristas!, written with Dan Dion the photographer known for his portraits of famous comedians. Dan’s work graces the walls of Gotham Comedy Club, because owner Chris Mazzilli is a classy guy and spared no expense to make the club look fantastic.
Everyone loves Paul, which is why he was able to get so many comics to do The Aristocrats and why he got so many comics to be in this new book, which attempts to examine the state of comedy today by interviewing everyone from George Carlin to Lewis Black and Stephen Colbert.
Paul and Dan had a book signing at Gotham, followed by a show in which Colin Quinn performed some of the material he will be doing in his new show Long Story Short which just opened at 45 Bleecker.
Colin made fun of Paul’s shirt which he said he enjoyed seeing on the cover of the first Cat Stevens album. Colin is a master at deconstructing every thought any human being ever had, and showing you the folly of how we think and act. There’s no one quite like Colin. He’s a master wordsmith, who actually paints a picture with his words, yet he’s very open to telling the audience how hard it is to exist within the confines of the comedy world.
Paul and I go way back. We first met while doing a radio show with Jackie Mason. Then Paul went on to star in an off-Broadway show called Only Kidding which was rated the #1 off-Broadway show by Tim Zagat. They moved the show to a larger theatre and I invested, and lost every cent. Everyone did, and no one knew why. That loss kept me from investing in Blue Man Group, which was looking to raise money at the time. But I was gun shy after my loss in what seemed to be “a sure thing.”
Needless to say, Blue Man is still running and I would have made a fortune! But the loss had nothing to do with Paul. He was the main reason I wanted to invest because he was so good.
Paul also wrote the forward to my book, based on my writing for the Friars Roasts for so many years, called “Filthy Funny, and Totally Offensive.” It was filled with the favorite nasty jokes of over 250 celebs. Go buy his book on Amazon! (and mine too, while you’re at it!)
Mark Anthony Ramirez produces a show called “Tickle Me Tuesday” at Iguana on Manhattan’s West side, and I went there with a TV producer who’s been filming me for a potential TV pilot based on this very column. The show would sort of bring this column to life and take the audience backstage to meet the comics they enjoy on a personal basis.
This night I ran into the hysterically funny John Fugelsang who took over hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos from Bob Saget. John is so quick that when my producer interviewed him, he came up with such hysterical stuff, I thought he had it prepared, but he had no idea we were coming. Mark is a funny man and puts on a great show. He puts a huge amount of effort into everything he does.
Adam and Todd Stone, twin comedians, and Friars, from NBC’s Last Comic Standing opened a show at the Kraine Theatre called “Set in Stone.” I like what they do and went on opening night to support them, but I wound up actually loving the show.
They do this thing where they talk at the same time, and instead of it being annoying, it’s actually quite funny. Their humor is also very “out there” which I enjoy, like a bit where one says, “My great-grandfather had rabies, and my grandfather had rabies, and lately my father has been acting a little strange. So he went to the doctor who told him that rabies is not genetic, and my father said, “But how about the tendency to want to touch raccoons?”
I slipped into The Slipper Room, on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, to catch a very bizarre, and different kind of alternative comedy show produced by James Habacker who owns the room. James is a fascinating guy who comes out dressed as different characters. The night I was there he was dressed as Pan, the Greek god of shepherds, and companion to nymphs. (Unfortunately there were no nymphs there that night, except the one I brought!)
He’s closing later this month for massive renovations where he’s putting in another floor, but this is a place I want to hang out, and maybe perform in.
How would you mix comedy and belly dancing? I’m not sure but I want to try and figure it out since I met Lale Sayoko and saw her do her amazing thing in a spectacular show called Bella Gaia. She’s like a human vibrator, but gorgeous and Japanese, and if I bring back Uncle Nat’s Traveling Peep Show I think she’d be a big hit! Or she could star in a new film I’m working on “Women Who Massage Fruit.”
All Rhodes Lead To Tom
In 1995, I attended the first Aspen Comedy Festival, and met Tom Rhodes who was just about to get his NBC sit-com Mr Rhodes, which ran from 1996 to 1997. We became friends and hung out several times, and after his show went off the air, I heard he became a big TV star in Amsterdam. Sounds like a dream come true considering all I’ve heard about Amsterdam.
It had to be at least 10 years since I saw him, so when I heard he was headlining at Gotham, I decided to go and surprise him. And boy, was he surprised. We had a great time reminiscing, and I may wind up going to Amsterdam next October to see him perform.
After New York he was heading to Okinawa to perform for the Marines. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that World War II ended 60 years ago! (How come we still have Marines stationed there???)
Tom has performed all over the world, in Beijing, Paris, London, and many other places I will probably never go. His show is really funny, like when he wonders about comics who are called “the bad boy of comedy.” You never hear that in other professions. Like you never hear anyone say, “He’s the bad boy of gynecology.”
Anyway, remember, until next time, … (in case anyone should ask), … COMEDY MATTERS!!!