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Everybody Loves Him

Actor/comedian Ray Romano bemoans poker, Twitter and everything else in between

By Michele LaFong

When I got “Everyone Loves Raymond,” they gave me an acting coach. They said “we want to try to hook you up with an acting coach to maybe meet once a week, and go over the script.  This is different than stand-up… people are going to talk back to you now!”

 

Ray-Romano-01---Photo-Credit-Art-StreiberMichele LaFong: I saw on the news recently that you were in town, with Actor-Impressionist Kevin Pollak and you were both the only celebrities left in the poker tournament at The Rio.

Ray Romano: Yeah, I played at The Main Event, the last one on World Series of Poker (WSOP) the big poker tournament. I played it the last six years in a row. With 6,000 people in it, it goes seven days and they narrow it down till they have nine people left, and I made it to Day 3. My record was Day 2… so this year I actually broke my record!

 

ML: How did you place compared to Kevin Pollak?  (He was on LVBST last year during WSOP.)

RR: This year I lasted about two hours longer than him. We both busted out on Day 3.

RR: We play a home game like once a month at home. Brad Garrett plays, Jason Alexander… I started when I was 17, playing with the boys in the neighborhood in Queens.

 

ML: Who is the best poker player out of the group?

RR: “Not Brad!  I’ll tell you who is not…  Actually, Cheryl Heinz believe it or not, plays a mean game.  Jason Alexander, well… we are all the same, but Brad is so wild, he can get lucky and win because he’s so wild.  But also he can bust-out pretty soon. I will say this, because I’m being honest. He’s the funniest… and the most politically incorrect!”

 

ML: Speaking of which, you’ve managed to stay out of trouble in terms of “political correctness;” you’re never in the news getting in trouble, saying something you shouldn’t have said…

RR: No—you know why?  Can I say a bad word? No, I better not…

 

ML: Sure, say it…

RR: ‘Cause I’m a “bleep” (the word is slang for kitty cat!) Seriously, that’s just not my style.  I actually do this in “my act.” I did one politically incorrect joke on television once.  I did a joke about obsessive-compulsive people, and it wasn’t that bad, but you don’t want to insult them… because once they start writing letters they don’t quit. Every day you get a letter!

But really, my act’s about my life, my family, my kids, my wife, how much sex I’m not having. It just never comes into play for me to get into trouble. I’m just not a political comedian.

 

ML: These days, you don’t have to be a political comic to get into trouble and you’ve done a good job so far.

RR: Nowadays, with twitter, blogs, every hour there’s always somebody putting their foot in their mouth

 

ML:  Are you on Twitter?

RR: I am not on twitter!

 

ML: Why? Are you afraid?

RR: I’m afraid on two counts.  I’m afraid about saying the wrong thing—trying to be funny and it comes across the wrong way. And also I don’t want people to be able to attack me.  I don’t want to give them another venue.  The Internet is enough. Believe me, I get it on The Internet, and I don’t learn my lesson. I go on it too much.  I read the reviews, and I read the comments and then I’m in therapy!

 

ML: It really affects you?

RR: Yes, it does.  It shouldn’t but it does.  I never learn my lesson.

 

ML: But you don’t get attacked a lot. I even looked for it online searching for the negative on you.

RR: Well I could show you where to go… you got to know where to find it!  Like last year, I was on the TV show “Parenthood,” and I was competing against Jason Ritter, for Lauren Graham’s affection.  Now, Jason Ritter is thirty years old, and he’s a young stud. And I’m fifty- plus whatever…and believe me, if you want to get online then…I mean there were some people in my camp, but there were a lot of people who were happy to tell me how I should get lost!”

Critically, “Men of a Certain Age” was a hit, and again, I don’t want to sound obnoxious, because I don’t seek out the bad reviews. But I’ll find them, and when “Men of a Certain Age” came out, it was hard to find a bad review when we first came out—in fact it won The Peabody Award. But we still got cancelled, so that just tells you the business is all about money. It all comes down to the buck.

 

ML: Do you have any idea what you could have done differently, or should have done to keep that show alive?

RR: I don’t really know…I’m not going to criticize TNT because they were the only ones who would put us on. It’s hard to sell a show about three 50-year-old men, who are going through a mid-life crisis in today’s television, but they put us on. I think it was a tough fit though. What does well on their network are The Light Crime Dramas, and they’re good shows but our show was so different than that, so I don’t know that the TNT audience was taking to our show. Maybe it would have worked on a different network where you don’t need as many ratings, like some of these critically acclaimed shows like “Madmen,” “Louie,” and all these great shows that survived with a small cult, loyal audience.

“Men of a Certain Age” was my show that I created with Mike Royce.  I created it from the ground up. At the time that “Men of a Certain Age” got cancelled, the closest thing on television to that would be “Parenthood,” as far as the tone of the show goes. I was a fan of Parenthood, and I was a friend of the show-runner Jasen Katims. And when “Parenthood” got cancelled, we were talking and it came up about possibly doing an arc on his show, and I said “if you find me something on your show, whatever my agent quotes you for my price, I’ll do better than.”  About three weeks later, my agent called me and said “Uh…did you promise Jason Katims that you would do the show for less money?  I said yeah…yeah I did, because the work was important to me, and that’s how it started. And I didn’t even know I was going to be on again this year but we found another storyline, so I’m back again this season.

 

ML: Any new creations in the works?

RR: We got a couple of things we were just toying around with.  I just acted in a small independent movie, called “Rob the Mob.”  It’s a real life-story about these two young lovers who rob from The Mafia in the 90s.  I play a reporter, and hopefully that will come out in the next couple of months, and I’m trying to write a screen-play about an Italian family from Queens, which of course, I come from. We’re actually looking to do Jim Valvano’s story, who was the coach for North Carolina State, “Jimmy V’ (there’s a Jimmy V foundation that raises money for cancer, cause he died of cancer) and we’re trying to do his life-story. I’m trying to get the role of Jimmy V.  It’s a great inspirational story about his life.  He won the championship in 1983, and sadly he died ten years later. But it’s a cool story that we’re trying to do now.

 

ML: I remember bumping into you in the hallways, at Joanna Beckson’s Acting Studio in Manhattan when we were coming-up in our comedy careers. Your class was letting out, as mine was coming in, and I remember that your manager Rory Rosegarten had insisted that all his acts take these acting classes so that we’d be prepared for our own sitcoms.  Were you really happy that you had taken those classes when you ended up landing your own series on television? And did it make a big difference for you?

RR: It was a big help, but to be honest, when I got “Everyone Loves Raymond,” they gave me an acting coach then as well. When we first started they said “we want to try to hook you up with an acting coach to maybe meet once a week, and go over the script.”  They said “you know this is different than stand-up… people are going to talk back to you now!”

 

ML: You seemed very at ease with your acting right from the get go, as opposed to Jerry Seinfeld for example who when early in the series, was not at all an actor but really grew as the show went along and became much more natural.

RR: Well, I did too but the one thing that was great about “Everyone Loves Raymond” was that I was involved, and in the writer’s room and everything felt organic; and if it didn’t, we would work on it until it did and I would either have to find it through acting, or through writing.  Of course if you watch me on season one verses season seven, and eight—like anything, you evolve with time.

 

ML: When I was researching you, I noticed you were on the Celebrity Atheist List.

RR: I saw that!  No, it is not true.  I was an Altar Boy when I was growing up in Queens.  The Internet also claimed I had a severe peanut allergy, which I don’t… I’m eating almond butter right now as we speak!

 

Michele LaFong’s full interview with Ray will air Oct.17, 6pm-7pm PST on “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” radio show on 1230AM in LV, and streams live on lasvegasbackstagetalk.com. Ray Romano is appearing at The Mirage with Kevin James Oct.18 & 19 also Nov.22 & 23.

 

 

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