Funny how the most innocent things lead to the most important events. Take, for instance, national headling comedian Ray Romano. His first outing as a comedian came at an open mic night in an attempt to "impress his date". As one of the brightest, rising comedy minds in the business today, its strange to think that Ray Romano found the job hes obviously cut out to do on a whim.
"It was the girls birthday," recall Romano with a chuckle, "and I wanted to give her a unique birthday present." That gift has turned into a gift millions have shared as the Forest Hills, Queens-bred Romano has had a meteoric rise to the upper echelon of American comedy. Though he admits knowing that he could always makes his friends laugh, Romano never really gave stand-up comedy any serious thought until that fateful night.
Romanos first passion was to be an actor, and, by age16, he was already involved in church plays and doing humorous skits for friends at small functions. In 1984, he switched directions and decided to give comedy his full attention, quickly getting regular work in New York and Long Island at clubs as an MC. Within a couple of years, Romano had moved up to steady work as a featured act, working his way into headling slots locally and then branching into other areas of the country. The deliberately lengthy process proved the best way to move up the ladder. "Im glad that my career moved at the pace it did," offers Romano, who feels no timetable pressures, "if youre an overnight success, where do you go?"
1989 proved to be key turning point for what was an already stable career. He won the 1989 K-Rock Miller Lite Comedy Riot first prize, which not only made him a household name in the native New York area, but also put $10,092 in his pocket. He had been a finalist the previous year and that made the success all the sweeter. It was a major step that has since led to extensive television appearances, ranging from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno to Fox Televisions Comic Strip Live and the prestigious "Just For Laughs Festival" in Canada. HBO (15th Annual Young Comedians Special) and Showtime (Comedy Club Network) are among numerous cable networks that have repeatedly sought after Romanos services.
Probably, his most important appearance to date was on The Late Show with David Letterman. The shot was so strong, it led Letterman to offer Ray a development deal for 1996 with his production company, World Wide Pants, right on the spot.
So what exactly is it the Romano does? Life made funny. That simple. Blending keen observation humor with a natural touch for finding the absurdities in daily living, Romano deals in the universals that are part of everyones lives. "What I live is what I write," says Romano of his act. Its always changing because my life is always changing. Im a married man, with a seven-year-old daughter, twin boys and our youngest child. I sleep little and have sex even less. I thank god for stand-up. I can talk all about the joys of marriage, the beauty of parenthood, and, lets be honest, it gets me out of the house."
"I love performing and being on stage and doing comedy. I love the idea of taking my act and transplanting it into my television show."
Whether its his kids, his wife, his parents, or any other aspect of his or everyone elses life, somehow, of theres a joke, a routine, or a story in it, Rays proven he has the talent to find it.