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Ray Romano Actor Comedy

Ray Romano

The veteran comedian stars as "Ray Barone" on the comedy series "Everybody Loves Raymond". Ray Romano admits that he always knew he could make his friends laugh, but he never really gave standup comedy any serious thought until one fateful open-mike night at a New York comedy club in l984. He did well, the bug bit hard and Romano was smitten. After several odd jobs, including futon mattress delivery boy by day and journeyman comedian by night, he decided to pursue comedy full time, eventually winning a standup comedy competition that same year. Following that success, Romano's regular appearances at comedy clubs throughout the country led to guest spots on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," then with Jay Leno and finally on the "Late Show with David Letterman," on CBS, where host David Letterman recognized his talent and offered him a development deal with his production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. From that association, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND evolved. Romano has since performed for former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore at the White House Correspondents Dinner, headlined the Toyota Comedy Festival at New York's Carnegie Hall, guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live," competed (and won $125,000 for charity) on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and appeared on the Grammy Awards. For his role in EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, Romano won the 2002 Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, for which he was also nominated in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy Series in 2000 and 2001, and for the 2002 AFI Actor of the Year Award for a Male in a Series. He won the 2002 and 2003 People's Choice Award as Favorite Male TV Performer.

The role has also earned him nominations for two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series, and he shared the 2003 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. He won a TV Guide Award as Actor of the Year in a Comedy Series, an American Comedy Award as the Funniest Male Lead in a TV Series and the 1999 Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Comedy. He is the author of the book Everything and a Kite, based on his comedy. He released a CD titled Ray Romano: Live at Carnegie Hall and donated all of its proceeds to the September 11 Fund. The CD was nominated for a Grammy Award. His feature film credits include "Eulogy" and "Welcome to Mooseport." He can also be heard as Manny the woolly mammoth in "Ice Age." Ray Romano was born on December 21, 1957, in Queens, New York.

 

Ray Romano: "Welcome to Mooseport"

Ray Romano seems to have a lot in common with his famous television alter ego. Quietly wry, he remains non-committal as to the future of Everyone Loves Raymond, the nearly 10-year old sitcom that turned the laid-back comic into a wealthy TV star. "We think that it's going to be in the next week, where we sit down and discuss it with the writers and everything," he said, when discussing a decision on the future of Raymond will be finalised.

In the meantime, Romano wants to make it down that there is life outside the TV show, beginning with the film Welcome to Mooseport, in which he plays Handy Harrison, an unwilling political candidate up against a former US president [Gene Hackman], set in a small town. On the surface, when one sees Romano at work at Mooseport, it is clear that the actor was not necessarily trying to complete escape his TV character, yet still wanted to do something that would show off his comedic skills. "I wanted to do something different but it's a weird transition you're making here. You're trying to get the audience to come with you, making sure you can do it, so you don't want to shock them and do something totally opposite. At the same time, you also want to play a different character and this was kind of a good mix between the two. I mean, he's not much different than my TV character but I think he's a different guy." Different, Romano says, in that "he's less selfish; a little more earnest maybe, than the guy on TV." Romano says that he can relate to the commitment-phobic character he plays in Mooseport, "because I know that I'm not very decisive every insecure, so in that sense I can relate to him."

It is hard to imagine that an actor of Romano's success would have anything to be insecure about, but the actor begs to differ. "I have the show because I'm insecure. It's my insecurity that makes me want to be a comic and that makes me need the audience." Romano agrees that insecurity is what drives him to succeed. "This low self-esteem thing seems to be a common denominator with a lot of comics," explains Romano. "It's not a rule but I think it applies a lot that they're missing something. There was some negligent parent maybe that didn't give them enough attention. I've always said if my father hugged me once I wouldn't be here or having this discussion," he adds laughingly. One wonders whether or not Romano has been playing his father in his TV show. "Definitely not. If I was doing that I wouldn't have pants on." Like all good New York-raised comics, Romano visits a shrink on a regular basis. But does he think if he were ever able to manage to reconcile his neuroses he would stop being funny? "My shrink tells me no, because I said that to him. I go, 'I don't want to get too well' and he says, 'that's not how it works. You'll still be you.' "

That's pure Romano, as he takes a more serious turn when comparing the processes of movie making to the frenetic grind of television. "What appeals to me about doing a film is how you can take a moment, let it play out and allow it to breathe. When you do a TV show, you're doing a play, and when you're doing a sitcom, you can only turn three quarters. You've got to face the audience and project and everything is pace and energy. I love just being able to be subtle and use that." After 8 years as the selfish Raymond on his show, despite its conclusion appearing on the television horizon, Romano is not quite tired of the show. "You don't get tired of it but there are some shows that are more fun than others and some storylines that are more fun. Every time I think that we're coming down to the end, it's time to wrap it up and then we have a table read, where it's a lot of fun because you don't have to worry about blocking this and that; it's just a script in it's purest form, and then I just say 'I'm going to miss this. It's a lot of fun.' "

So Romano says that he feels a need to try and gradually try different character. Everyone loves Raymond, but the actor wants audiences to love the different sides of Romano the actor. "If I'm really considering doing film from now on then you can either do the same character over and over again and make a different comedy like over and over again or try to do different roles. I don't know if I can but I would like to try it though. When I'm reading scripts now, I don't read thinking, 'well, this is not far enough from Ray Barone', I just read the material and if I really like it, then I consider it." Romano will turn down anything that is too similar to his TV persona, films such as Cheaper by the Dozen as an example. "I thought it's a good movie, going to make a lot of money but that's kind of the guy with the kids and put upon which was not enough of a departure from the TV character, you know? I get a lot of the Christmas movies, feel good movies, right down the middle ones that probably are smart to do because they make a lot of money and then maybe you could pick and choose what you want to do after it. Once a movie makes money you get a little more leverage."

Ray is financially successful that he has the luxury of turning things down, he continues. "I don't need to do them for the money but I want to do them, so I guess there is the same amount of motivation. I have this desire, this need to do it which is not a financial need." No wonder Romano found it irresistible to join a pedigree ensemble cast in the forthcoming Indie comedy Eulogy. "It was great to do such a small and dark movie with an ensemble cast." The film screened at Sundance, which Romano briefly attended for its premiere. "They almost didn't allow me in," he quips, when it's suggested that the Sundance Film Festival and Ray Romano hardly go hand in hand.

Yet audiences worldwide still love Raymond, and will be sad to see the passing of this dysfunctional family. As to how Romano would like to see its finale, "we've talked about it and it's not going to be like a life changing thing because that's not kind of what our show does. So we hope we have like a traditional funny episode that addresses some issues with a little bit of closure at the end, a little bit of poignancy maybe, but nothing super heavy or big." Raymond fans can look forward to a DVD, which includes the original pilot, and Ray and the cast dryly providing an atypical commentary.

It was fun doing that, a little nostalgic and it's funny because you remember the frame of mind that you were in when you did it." For Romano, though, life after Raymond's demise is slowly evolving into a reality.

Ray Romano: Ice Age

As the somewhat anti-social head of America's favourite dysfunctional TV family, Ray Romano has emerged as something of an institution. Now in his first feature film, everybody will also love Ray's somewhat acerbic but loveable Manfred the Mammoth in the animated Ice Age. Paul Fischer talked to Romano about cartoons, stardom and the future of his TV show.

Ray Romano is as deliberately a slow-talking New Yorker as his famous TV alter-ego. But that's where the similarities between Romano and Ray Barone end. "The TV character is definitely more anti-social than me", he laughingly concedes. One of America's highest paid television stars, the former stand up comic decided to be heard -and not seen- in his first feature film, the charming computer-animated Ice Age. "It was my way to wean the audience to myself on the big screen," he says with a wry smile. In Ice Age, Romano voices Manfred, a Mammoth who would rather be left in peace, but who grudgingly decides to escort a human baby to its parents, with some help from a pain-in-the-butt sloth (John Leguizamo} and a Sabre-toothed called Diego (Denis Leary) who has plans of his own for the little tyke. In discussing his attraction to this project, the self-effacing comic attributed several factors into his decision, but most importantly was the kid factor. "My kids played a big part in it, as it was something nice to share with them." Now that Ray's a cartoon character in a big, Hollywood animated film, his kids "are obsessed like you can't believe; it's almost scary. What have I created? I come home with this stuff, like the Burger King toys. I want to speak to a shrink about it to make sure we're doin' the right thing." His kids might think dad's cool and all, but they're also critical. "They don't like that Scrat steals the show [an acorn-loving sabre-toothed squirrel]. That was their comment as soon as they saw it: 'Scrat, is in it too much. I don't like that, dad. It should be you'. "

On the surface, there seem to be some distinct parallels between Romano's sometimes grumpy and cynical Manfred, and his TV character. Romano accepts the comparison in good humour. "I think my voice lends itself to this guy and Manny is definitely a version of the character I play on TV. but he's not passive. He's probably more cynical and has a bigger chip on his shoulder but at the same time he's a good guy too, he guy on TV just wants to be left alone and is kind of anti-social. He'd rather sit at home and scratch himself."

While in his sitcom, Romano benefits from a live audience and an ensemble of human co-stars, the actor was challenged by the isolation and process of voicing an animated character. "It was just physically difficult. You're in front of the microphone and you can't move around or emote. For instance, there's a scene where I grab Diego and throw him against the wall and you're in his face. Every time we would do it, I'd have to (physically) do that and I couldn't move too far from the mic so you get that taken away." Then there's no actor. "I was never with another actor so there's no give and take there and no feedback. Plus they made me take my pants off." He adds laughingly. So Ray had to rely on his imagination, an added challenge, so it appears. "I've got a weird and neurotic imagination, so I don't know if that's an asset," he confesses. "I guess anybody in this business has imagination to some degree."

Everybody Loves Raymond is now in its sixth year, and while it stems from Romano's success as a stand-up comedian, making the transition from stand-up to TV superstar was far from easy. "My first try on T.V. was on a show called "News Radio" which I got fired from," he recalls. "I got cast, we rehearsed for a few days for the pilot and then I got fired. It was one of those cases where I was disappointed but relieved. Originally when they cast me, the Joe Garelli character whom I was to play, was an office worker, a white collar guy, When I went to table read and didn't do well, the next day of rehearsal they changed him to an electrician with a tool belt and all that stuff."

"So we rehearsed that day and the next morning my manager called. My call time was at eight and it was six thirty and the phone rang, as soon as it rang I knew because I felt it. I felt it wasn't happening. He said 'They said they're going in another direction'. So it was back to doing stand-up". His return to stand up didn't last long, however. "Four months later I did David Letterman and his producer (Rob Burnett) called my house on a Saturday afternoon and said they were interested in signing me to a development deal to try to come up with a show based on my five minutes of stand up. There were a lot of steps along the way where we felt it was never gonna get over this hurdle or that hurdle."

Six years later, Romano hasn't looked back. The show has consistently increased in popularity, yet the actor remains surprised. "Every year, as it got more popular, I became pleasantly surprised. But now, since syndication started in September, it's almost retarded what's happening." He laughingly recalls being accosted by funk/R&B singer Bootsy Collins, who turns out to be he's a big Raymond fan. "He has this band Funkadelic and he's six foot six wearing some leopard skin outfit. Me and my wife are saying: 'look at that dude, man'. And he's coming closer, and coming closer. He comes right over to me with his wife and goes 'Oh, you're the man'. His wife is like 'God bless you. We watch you every night'. Tell your brother Funky P says hello'. That's the power of syndication. People couldn't see it and now you don't have to make an appointment to see it." As for Ray dealing with his new-found celebrity, Romano admits that "there's always a part of you that doesn't believe it. Part of you thinks 'these people love me' and part of you thinks 'No. You're an impostor'. I do these interviews and you're talking, trying to be interesting, intelligent while thinking: 'these people are only here because it's their job and they couldn't be less interested'. You've got all that going. I can find that insecurity in everything. Here's a bit I did on Letterman. Before I was successful, I used to think 'my cab driver hates me'. Now I think 'my limo driver hates me'." Romano sees his life as something of a paradox. "There's part of you that knows you're pretty good but there's also the other part that's insecure about it."

Yet those insecurities notwithstanding, he is clearly ready to put his TV character to bed, sooner than later. "I'd say there's definitely going to be a next year and then I would say it's fifty-fifty depending on the creativity and all that if we go on; it all depends. I don't want to leave when it's going downhill."

Ray is ready to be seen, as well as heard, on the big screen, and jokingly admits that he's currently on the lookout for projects that contain "a couple of sex scenes. When you're married you've got to find a loop hole." Still after the cheap laugh, no wonder Romano continues to return to his comedic roots doing stand-up. "I never stopped and every hiatus I tour. This year we have a tour in place doing the mid-West to get away from the family. My family is on the East Coast and it's rough. Two years ago I did an East Coast tour, including Boston, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey which is right around my home. Every show it was like 'aunt Mabel's coming'. This one's coming, that one's coming. It ends up in a fight as to who gets this or that. I said we'll do Florida but in Miami there are more people than New York. Your cousin is coming. Now we're going to Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, around in there." So it's true what they say: Everybody STILL loves Raymond.

Ray Romano: From dream to reality

A true-to-life case of childhood dreams coming true, one gets the impression that the success of humble comedian turned actor Ray Romano is more of a surprise to him than it is to those who supported him in his years as a struggling futon deliveryman moonlighting in standup. Born in Queens, NY, in 1957 and raised in nearby Forest Hills, Queens, Romano found happiness early in life by tickling the funny bones of family, friends, and of course, girls. The middle child of three sons, the aspiring funnyman refined his comic talents when he formed the bravely titled "No Talent" comedy troupe at age 16 to the delight of the congregation they regularly performed for. Romano later put his spotlight aspirations on hold when he enrolled in Queens College as an accountants major after graduating high school in 1975. Dabbling in odd jobs as he developed his stage skills on the late-night comedy circuit, Romano began an exhausting decade-long struggle to succeed as a standup while holding a more reliable day job. Married to wife Anna in the mid-'80s, Romano decided to pursue comedy full-time in 1987. It was shortly after winning a N.Y.C. radio station-sponsored comedy contest two years later that Romano acquired a manager and his dreams began to become a reality. One of those dreams, to perform in front of legendary late-night television host Johnny Carson, came true in 1991. Finally gaining national exposure and seemingly on the fast track to stardom, more television appearances soon followed, with a 1995 appearance on Late Night With David Letterman prompting Letterman to begin talks with Romano about the idea of developing a sitcom. Premiering in September 13, 1996, Everyboy Loves Raymond found the now-popular comic's offbeat domestic observations striking a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Nominated multiple times for numerous awards (including three Emmy and two Golden Globes), ELR carried on well into the new millennium, which saw the now-established comic branching out into other arenas as well. A June 1999 recording of a Carnegie Hall performance was nominated for a Grammy, and his novel Everything and a Kite turned up on the New York Times bestseller list. Television appearances on Hollywood Squares, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and a somber turn in America: A Tribute to Heroes found American households increasingly willing to welcome the good-humored everyman into their homes. It was only a matter of time before Romano tackled feature films, and with his vocal role in 2002's Ice Age, the likable comic did just that. A lighthearted animated romp which followed the adventures of a group of animals weathering the new frozen landscape in order to return a human child to its father, Ice Age gave Disney a run for their money and further proved that popular computer-animated family fare was no longer exclusive to the Mouse House.

More fun stuff about Ray Romano

His brother is an actual Sargeant for the New York Police Department. Ray and his brother were featured on a 2001 NYPD recruiting poster.

His Trademark: Nasal, whining, lumbering, sad-sack voice.

Was going to play Joe Garelli on "NewsRadio" but dropped out. That role went to another Itallian stand-up comedian, Joe Rogan.

Well-known for his crying little boy face and his wounded, lumbering idiot voice.

Belongs to a handful of actors who portrayed one character on five different shows, Raymond Barone having appeared on "Everybody Loves Raymond", "Becker", "Cosby", "The Nanny", and "The King of Queens". The other actors are Richard Belzer (Detective John Munch), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), and - maybe - Camryn Manheim (Ellenor Frutt), although the latter's appearance on "Law & Order:SVU" is in doubt.

Ray Barone, Romano's character on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (1996), was ranked #10 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [20 June 2004 issue].

Made one of his first stand-up appearances in 1984, at New York City's, The Comic Strip.

In 1985 he took a job as a bank teller and met his wife.

Won a local comedy contest sponsored by a NYC radio station in 1989. He got a manager for winning.

When it comes to money, Ray Romano passes the bucks

Ray Romano has one of the best-loved sitcoms on television in "Everybody Loves Raymond." Pretty good for a guy who just 10 years ago, at age 29, was still living with his parents.

Romano hails from the Forest Hills section of Queens, and began his comic career at age 16, forming a troupe called "No Talent" with neighborhood friends. He went to college to major in accounting, but dropped out after two years to pursue comedy. He toiled for years developing his persona, while suffering through jobs including bank teller and futon delivery man. Romano finally got his big break in 1992 with an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." His work later impressed CBS late-night host David Letterman so much that he signed Romano (in a joint effort with CBS) to a development deal. Out of this, "Everybody Loves Raymond," a series not-so-loosely based on Romano's family, was born.

Many awards and a New York Times best-seller, Everything and a Kite, followed.

Bankrate.com spoke with Romano about the perks and pressures of stardom, including the slow rise to the top, and the bizarre circumstance of being an apolitical comedian performing at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Bankrate.com: You struggled on the circuit for years. Did you ever reach a point when you felt like ditching it out of frustration?
RAY ROMANO: It takes time to develop, to find your voice and hone your act, so it was hard in the beginning. But you stick at it, you devote your time to it, and if you have any talent at all for it, you'll find it. Then, once you find it, once you're making a living doing stand-up, then you get in a rut because things slow down. You reach a certain level and you can't get any further than that. That point for me came right before the show, actually. I was 11, 12 years in. And don't get me wrong, I was making a living doing stand-up, which for me was like a dream. I was married, I had one kid at the time, I was making a living. It was a modest living, but we were doing OK. But I had reached a level where it seemed that this was where I was going to stay. At one point, I thought, everyone around me is getting all this attention, and these chances, and no one was really knocking on my door. I had done everything, the Tonight Show, the HBO special, and no one expressed any interest in signing me to a development deal. The first time I did Letterman, they signed me to the deal, and that's how the show came.

B: What was it like performing for Clinton and the press at the Correspondents Dinner?

RR: That was as nervous as I get. It was in the second year of the show, and I wasn't even sure anyone knew who I was. I don't think Clinton did. When he came in to say hello, he said "I have family members who are very excited you are doing this," so he was basically saying "I've never heard of you, but my cousin has." It was very nerve racking because I wasn't going to do political humor. This dinner is traditionally all political humor. This was right in the middle of the Lewinsky thing, and Hillary was going to be there, everyone was going to be there, so they wanted to make a point of not having a political comedian, so they got me. When I first heard this, I said I can't do it, I don't do anything political, and they said, "We'll pay you double." It's the worst audience in the world because it's one-half Washington, one-half Hollywood. It's the worst audience you could perform for. There's no real people out there. But it went over well. I did my act, I did my family stuff. It was so surreal. Henry Kissinger came over to me afterward -- "veddy funny stuff." Wow. What is going on? I tried to picture an audience where I would be more nervous than that. How could I be more nervous than the most powerful people in the world, and Hollywood actors? I couldn't think of it. The only thing I could think of is when the first aliens come down and they have their press correspondents dinner. Otherwise, there's no other scenario.

B: You come from a middle-class family in Queens. Once success really kicked in with the show, was it difficult figuring out the best ways to manage the sudden wealth?

RR: Yeah, it still is. First of all, we moved out here, and we had to figure out where to live, and how big a house to buy, and is the show going to stick around, and now you have different problems. They're good problems, but you have problems. I want to help out this person and that person, but if I help this person out we have to help this person out, so you have the kind of problems that go along with that. You can sit around and complain about it, but then you sound like a jerk because you're complaining about having too much money.

B: Did you go stock market crazy like everyone else?

I don't know anything about it. My wife does all the finances. If she ever left me, I swear, I'd be selling futons again. I don't even know if I get paid on this job. I think it's all barter.

Romano's Risky Leap to the Big Screen

Ray Romano seems to have a lot in common with his famous television alter ego. Quietly wry, he remains non-committal as to the future of Everyone Loves Raymond, the nearly10-year old sitcom that turned the laid-back comic into a wealthy TV star. "We think that it's going to be in the next week, where we sit down and discuss it with the writers and everything," he said, when discussing a decision on the future of Raymond will be finalised. In the meantime, Romano wants to make it down that there is life outside the TV show, beginning with the film Welcome to Mooseport, in which he plays Handy Harrison, an unwilling political candidate up against a former US president [Gene Hackman], set in a small town. On the surface, when one sees Romano at work at Mooseport, it is clear that the actor was not necessarily trying to complete escape his TV character, yet still wanted to do something that would show off his comedic skills. "I wanted to do something different but it's a weird transition you're making here. You're trying to get the audience to come with you, making sure you can do it, so you don't want to shock them and do something totally opposite. At the same time, you also want to play a different character and this was kind of a good mix between the two. I mean, he's not much different than my TV character but I think he's a different guy." Different, Romano says, in that "he's less selfish; a little more earnest maybe, than the guy on TV." Romano says that he can relate to the commitment-phobic character he plays in Mooseport, "because I know that I'm not very decisive every insecure, so in that sense I can relate to him."

It is hard to imagine that an actor of Romano's success would have anything to be insecure about, but the actor begs to differ. "I have the show because I'm insecure. It's my insecurity that makes me want to be a comic and that makes me need the audience." Romano agrees that insecurity is what drives him to succeed. "This low self-esteem thing seems to be a common denominator with a lot of comics," explains Romano. "It's not a rule but I think it applies a lot that they're missing something. There was some negligent parent maybe that didn't give them enough attention. I've always said if my father hugged me once I wouldn't be here or having this discussion," he adds laughingly. One wonders whether or not Romano has been playing his father in his TV show. "Definitely not. If I was doing that I wouldn't have pants on." Like all good New York-raised comics, Romano visits a shrink on a regular basis. But does he think if he were ever able to manage to reconcile his neuroses he would stop being funny? "My shrink tells me no, because I said that to him. I go, 'I don't want to get too well' and he says, 'that's not how it works. You'll still be you.' "

That's pure Romano, as he takes a more serious turn when comparing the processes of movie making to the frenetic grind of television. "What appeals to me about doing a film is how you can take a moment, let it play out and allow it to breathe. When you do a TV show, you're doing a play, and when you're doing a sitcom, you can only turn three quarters. You've got to face the audience and project and everything is pace and energy. I love just being able to be subtle and use that."

After 8 years as the selfish Raymond on his show, despite its conclusion appearing on the television horizon, Romano is not quite tired of the show. "You don't get tired of it but there are some shows that are more fun than others and some storylines that are more fun. Every time I think that we're coming down to the end, it's time to wrap it up and then we have a table read, where it's a lot of fun because you don't have to worry about blocking this and that; it's just a script in it's purest form, and then I just say 'I'm going to miss this. It's a lot of fun.' "

So Romano says that he feels a need to try and gradually try different character. Everyone loves Raymond, but the actor wants audiences to love the different sides of Romano the actor. "If I'm really considering doing film from now on then you can either do the same character over and over again and make a different comedy like over and over again or try to do different roles. I don't know if I can but I would like to try it though. When I'm reading scripts now, I don't read thinking, 'well, this is not far enough from Ray Barone', I just read the material and if I really like it, then I consider it." Romano will turn down anything that is too similar to his TV persona, films such as Cheaper by the Dozen as an example. "I thought it's a good movie, going to make a lot of money but that's kind of the guy with the kids and put upon which was not enough of a departure from the TV character, you know? I get a lot of the Christmas movies, feel good movies, right down the middle ones that probably are smart to do because they make a lot of money and then maybe you could pick and choose what you want to do after it. Once a movie makes money you get a little more leverage."

Ray is financially successful that he has the luxury of turning things down, he continues. "I don't need to do them for the money but I want to do them, so I guess there is the same amount of motivation. I have this desire, this need to do it which is not a financial need." No wonder Romano found it irresistible to join a pedigree ensemble cast in the forthcoming Indie comedy Eulogy. "It was great to do such a small and dark movie with an ensemble cast." The film screened at Sundance, which Romano briefly attended for its premiere. "They almost didn't allow me in," he quips, when it's suggested that the Sundance Film Festival and Ray Romano hardly go hand in hand.

Yet audiences worldwide still love Raymond, and will be sad to see the passing of this dysfunctional family. As to how Romano would like to see its finale, "we've talked about it and it's not going to be like a life changing thing because that's not kind of what our show does. So we hope we have like a traditional funny episode that addresses some issues with a little bit of closure at the end, a little bit of poignancy maybe, but nothing super heavy or big." Raymond fans can look forward to a DVD, which includes the original pilot, and Ray and the cast dryly providing an atypical commentary.

It was fun doing that, a little nostalgic and it's funny because you remember the frame of mind that you were in when you did it." For Romano, though, life after Raymond's demise is slowly evolving into a reality.

Ray Romano and Kevin James in "Grilled"

The Associated Press reports that "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Ray Romano and "King of Queens" star Kevin James are playing meat salesmen in a film due out next summer. The storyline will have them trying to meet their quote on the hottest day of the year.

"There's a great guy named Sonny who is the best salesman in California," Romano said. "We had a meat-ology class with him, and I kind of took things from him for my character."

Ray Romano: `P.S. 144 was...where it all happened.'

Don't even ask Forest Hills native Ray Romano if he used to live close to his parents like his ``Everybody Loves Raymond'' TV character does.

``I lived in my parents' house till I was 29!'' the comedian mock-shouts into his car phone while driving down the San Diego Freeway from his suburban Los Angeles home. ``Yeah, that's right,'' Romano drones, just as his tube alter ego once did in the show's opening credits. ``Go ahead, say it. `Loser!' Say it!

``Yeah, I lived in my parents' house. So they were pretty close by. They were in the kitchen. And then when I got married, I only moved a mile away, to Middle Village.''

Now, of course, Romano's living on the other coast, starring in a sitcom upon which CBS is banking much of its hopes in the coming seasons.(On the show he plays a Long Island family man and Newsday sportswriter.) ``Raymond's'' charm springs from its keen portrayal of family life - something that is based squarely on Romano's real-life relations, whose oddities have long fueled his stand-up comedy. Mom Lucy and dad Al still live in the Forest Hills house where 40-year-old Romano grew up. And his divorced older brother Richard (the city cop upon whom the show's brother Robert is based) resides with them.

The show's Nemo's pizzeria? It's named after the Romano family dog (deceased), and it's based on his old Lillian's Pizzeria hangout on Forest Hills' 69th Avenue, where Romano and pals once got three slices and a soda for a dollar.

But the real hangout Romano remembers was ``not a Nemo's but a schoolyard. P.S. 144 was the schoolyard, and that's where it all happened. That's where I played softball starting when I was 16, maybe up until the last couple of years. That's where I experimented with alcohol for the first time. Coincidentally, that's where I threw up for the first time.''

He went to school at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, ``where David Caruso was one year ahead of me.'' That's also where Romano started performing. ``Every Sunday night the church basement was open to teenagers to play Ping-Pong and just hang out and not get in trouble. Five of us were in a sketch group, and we put on what we called no-talent shows. Our group's name was No Talent Inc.''

When Romano wasn't staying out of trouble, that's precisely what he was getting into. He isn't shy about explaining how he and friends made a buck when tennis' U.S. Open was at its old Forest Hills site: ``We'd sneak in with like a plastic garbage can full of beer with ice. We'd go up into the stands and sell canned beer. We'd sell the whole thing and go back and get more, till we got caught by the cops.'' He also tried to sneak into rock concerts there. ``My brother got in to see The Who. They got in and I didn't, but I told them I did. Then they questioned me. `What did he do with his guitar at the end?'''

After the Open moved to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Romano went straight. He worked on the grounds crew getting it ready every summer, and actually had a job on court during matches as a court attendant.

Ah, a brush with fame and fortune. After working in a bank and delivering futons, Romano started doing stand-up comedy. He spent much of his 30s on the road, away from wife Anna, daughter Alexandra and twin boys Matthew and Gregory. (Son Joe was born in L.A. last winter.) Now they're finally together again - but Anna is house-shopping in Southern California, not the Long Island suburbs they once intended to move to. Romano's work keeps him out there. Yet his heart belongs to Queens.

``What I miss, what I think my kids are gonna miss, is growing up in a neighborhood,'' he says. ``Not only a neighborhood, but on a block, and your neighbor is right next door, and the kids from your block, that was your gang. `I'm going to Jimmy's. I'm going to Joey's. I'm gonna play stickball in front, and tag outside.' They're not gonna have any of that, and that gets me sad, I think. I don't see 'em getting on bikes and riding somewhere, going to the candy store. They're still gonna be happy, but they're gonna miss what I had.''

'Everybody Loves Raymond' Headed for TV History

After nine years of marital squabbles, meddling in-laws and sibling rivalry, television's No. 1 comedy, "Everybody Loves Raymond," headed for its final taping on Friday amid strict secrecy but relatively little fanfare.

The CBS hit show starring comedian Ray Romano -- and loosely based on his off-screen home life -- is slated to bow off the airwaves on May 16 with one last, regular-sized, 30-minute episode -- as opposed to the often-bloated, hourlong finales that have become customary for departing sitcoms.

"We didn't want to milk a half hour into an hour just for the sake of having an hour," Romano, joined by his cast mates, told a gathering of television critics this week.

Nevertheless, the final episode will be preceded by a fairly traditional one-hour retrospective featuring highlights from the show, outtakes and interviews with the cast.

Executive producer, co-creator Phil Rosenthal, who with Romano was pressed by CBS to keep the show going for another season, said he felt the series had simply run its course.

"The reason we're stopping is because we have done everything we could think of. We are bone dry," he said.

Rosenthal and Romano were tight-lipped over details of the show's conclusion, saying they wanted to avoid spoiling the fun for its fans.

Co-star Brad Garrett joked that in the finale, "I become a medium -- I start to see all the arguments we haven't had yet." The crack was a reference to NBC's new hit drama "The Medium," about a clairvoyant who helps police solve crimes.

Taking another page from NBC, executives at CBS have said they are exploring the possibility of a "Raymond" spinoff starring Garrett, the tall, deep-voiced actor who plays Romano's jealous younger brother, Robert.

Garrett himself insisted he has not been approached about a spinoff, but added, "Supposedly, there is a group of people that are out there talking about it who aren't talking to me. They're looking for a Brad Garrett type."

"Raymond" has ranked as the highest-rated comedy on prime-time television since the departure last May of NBC's smash hit "Friends," averaging more than 17 million viewers a week this season.

But so far the hype surrounding the end of "Raymond" pales in comparison to the frenzy sparked by the "Friends" finale -- a situation "Raymond" cast seems to take in stride.

"We're doing 'Oprah' next week. What else are we doing? We're gonna cut a ribbon at a Bed, Bath & Beyond (housewares store)," Romano joked.

The show, which debuted in 1996, was adapted from Romano's own experiences as a husband and father of three young children. He plays harried family man and sports writer Ray Barone, who continually finds himself caught in the cross-fire between his tart-tongued wife (Patricia Heaton) and his overbearing mother (Doris Roberts).

At the same time, Ray takes considerable flak from his hard-headed father (Peter Boyle) and his kid brother, Robert, who is forever lamenting that Ray receives more favorable treatment, hence the show's title, "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Cast of 'Raymond' will get last laugh

After 9 years, comedy to film its final episode. Melancholia has set in for the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond. On Tuesday, the actors in television's top-rated comedy had their last pre-shoot read. On Friday, the show's final episode will be filmed. Next week, everybody does Oprah.
"We've done every single thing we could think of," said Phil Rosenthal, the show's co-creator and executive producer, who joined the cast for one last press conference with the Television Critics Association. "We are bone-dry. God forbid we have ideas beyond this — we'll have to save them for the 20-year reunion."

Raymond's departure marks the end of one of the longest-running shows on television — nine years. "There's so much I'm going to miss," said the show's namesake, Ray Romano. "I'm going to miss the writers. I've been lucky enough to be in the writing room, and I've never laughed as much my whole life."

Added Patricia Heaton, who played Romano's television wife, "It's time." But she wasn't without regrets. "The show takes on a whole other thing and becomes this part of your life. The cast. The rehearsals. The little jokes. And to have all that suddenly stop, it's like, as Ray said, being a functioning alcoholic who gets cut off."

Doris Roberts claimed that the show had an international impact. "This summer I went to Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Estonia, Berlin, Oslo and London," she said, "and everywhere I went, they knew Raymond. They knew my name. They knew my character's name. They smiled and thanked me for bringing such humor into their lives. That's a wonderful thing to be able to do, and I've had a great time doing it."

Added Peter Boyle: "I found a little book of visualization prayers one day years ago. It said, 'I do a wonderful job in a wonderful way with wonderful people for wonderful pay.' Except for the last part, that's been so true. I'm going to miss the life and having a place to go and act. Believe me, steady work makes actors less neurotic."

"Well, most actors," joked Brad Garrett, who said he'll miss the process of putting on a show each week. "It's difficult, but it's wonderful when you hit it. The funny is always something you can see a family go through, and that's special."

Mum's the word on the details of the show's finale, which will air May 16. It will be preceded by an hourlong retrospective.

And though everyone's sad that the show is ending, there's comfort in knowing it will live forever in syndication and on DVD.

"It's very gratifying that people would buy them and want to keep them and watch them over," Rosenthal said. "I love to hear that people enjoy it again. It's made to be (rewatched)."

Ray's Top Ten List of Things He Will Do After ELR

My Top Ten List of things I will do after ELR:

Number 10:
Meet my 6-year old. I hear he's cute.

Number 9:
Yo-yo camp.

Number 8:
Not shave.

Number 7:
Try out for Slam Ball.

Number 6:
"Mooseport On Ice"

Number 5:
One word: perm.

Number 4:
Call up the Mirage and pitch "Seigfried and Ray."

Number 3:
Buy a monkey.

Number 2:
Write down the first 22 things my wife yells at me about, then call CBS and tell them we've got another season.

And the number 1 thing I will do when the show ends:
Cry.

Ray Romano discusses Eulogy, X3, Ice Age 2, and more

Ray Romano and Famke Janssen could not have come from more different entertainment backgrounds: Romano has become a television staple over the last decade, and has only recently begun a journey towards big screen roles, while Janssen started as a Bond girl and has gone on to steal roles away from big name actresses on the merits of her talent and irresistible charisma. In the new film Eulogy, the pair come together for the first time, as loosely-knit members of a family who converge on their family home to mourn the death of their father, played by Rip Torn. Romano and Janssen recently spoke to IGN FilmForce about working together on the black ensemble comedy.
Q: Ray, was this a different type of comedy for you after playing the lead on a sitcom?

ROMANO: Yeah, well it was the first film I did and it was very much more edgy and dark than my TV fans are going to be used to, but that's what appealed to me. The script was good and the character was nutty.

Q: Was that character the one you originally wanted to play?

ROMANO: That's the one I wanted to play. The script came to me for the other, uh, what the hell is his name? Daniel! It's been a year and a half. Yeah, that was when the script came to me and then I just said, you know, I could do this character, but I'm more interested in the other one and they said, 'OK.'

Q: Why were you more interested in the other role?

ROMANO: Well, just for that reason. He had a little twisted side to him. A little sad, a little funny and I get to wear a little moustache glued to my face, which was annoying.
Q: Would you be open to doing more character roles rather than leads?

ROMANO: Uh. You know, yeah, if the character was interesting and I thought I could pull it off and do it I would love to, yeah. I mean, I don't have a good experience with having a lead in a movie. I'm 0-1 I think as far as that goes. I like the whole process of getting into a different skin for the most part and I would do it again. I just don't want to play the same guy again over and over.

Q: Would you like to be buried or cremated when you die?
ROMANO: Yeah, I don't know, I think I would go cremation.
Q: Ray, do you have as lackadaisical an approach to parenting as your character in the movie?

ROMANO: I'm bad. Bad meaning I am like him a little bit. I'm a softy. My wife's the hard ass in the family, and she gets on my case. I give 'em stuff. I bet stuff. I got my kids a trampoline (he says with his head in his hands).

Q: What did you have to do to create the character, since the disciplinary approach was not a stretch?

ROMANO: No. What I did with this guy... it wasn't a crazy character stretch, but he reminded me of this guy in my neighborhood. I won't say who of course, so I tried to channel that guy and that guy...I remember driving to the set in the morning and that guy has this certain thing he says. He has like a signature line that he always says so I would say it in the car on the way to the line to try to kind of click in to this guy. So I used him. I was lucky to have this guy to kind of imitate almost. I tried to just know who the guy was and where he came from and the whole father issue and being the forgotten son and all that. That helped.

Q: What was the energy level on the set?

ROMANO: The energy was good. A lot of different personalities. Everybody was fun.
Q: Did you have a lot of freedom to elevate the irreverent tone?
ROMANO: Yeah we adlibbed, but the tone was there. When we adlibbed it was just to try to get a laugh.

Q: What scenes did you adlib?

ROMANO: On the porch when Hank throws the lemon at me. That was all kind of winged. Even little things like when you say "triple-tonguing your g-spot" and I make that noise...all those little things and in the basement Hank did a lot of..
Q: Where do you stand on gay marriage?
ROMANO: Hey I'm married, if somebody wants to ruin their life that's fine by me.

Q: How nasty was the non-narcotic joint?
ROMANO: I don't smoke or drink. I was really high in that scene because that was the first time smoke was going in my lungs.
Q: Once the show is done are you going to return to stand-up like Seinfeld did?

ROMANO: I'm not going to do like him. He went and threw out all his material. No, I want to do stand-up but I would love to write new material. I like performing now, but I just hate that I just have the same material because I don't have time to write new material. You have to go on stage and you have to grind it out. You gotta go on stage 20 to 30 times to know if this bit...OK this is a new bit in my act and I just don't do that I just don't have the time. I'd like to write new material because I get real excited doing that also.

Q: What kind of watch is that?

ROMANO: It's a Casio baby, $12. That's when I did stand-up, this was the stand-up watch because you could immediately time your set when you go on and believe me my wife gets on my case for having this, but I love it. I have three watches, but this is my one connection. I'm keeping it real.

Q: Ray, has there been any progress on Ice Age 2?

ROMANO: Yeah, there's a script and negotiating and I think it's going to happen. That's what they tell me. I believe now. Let's see, I read the script a couple months ago. What happens now is I think they're worried about everything melting. Yeah I think it starts out where they have to flee because they're about to get flooded. And I know Manny gets a girlfriend in it. My character, yeah, and this is how sad I am, I'm excited about it. You know how you get when you're playing a film and you're going to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. You know there's a little bit of excitement. I'm excited that my animated character has a girlfriend. Maybe I'll get a crush on her.

Q: Are you trying to do a film a summer?

ROMANO: The show is over this year so there will be no time frame, but that's what we tried the last two years. We did one over the summer with Kevin [James]. It's temporarily called Grilled, and it's a dark comedy also. We play meat salesmen who are down on our luck and we have this very bad day where things go wrong we just need to make a sale. They said January, but I know it's pushed to April.

Q: Did you model the character after another neighbor?

ROMANO: No, we met the guy. The meat guy and I actually sat and wrote a backstory. I don't know, I mean, I hate getting all actorly because I'm the last person to, you know. The director was great and he worked a lot with me and Kevin. When you hear me and Kevin you think it will be a broad comedy and it's really not. It's kind of twisted and dark and I'm just worried people are going to expect it to be zany and it isn't. This character I play is a little more selfish and lecherous than this guy (laughs) and he has a full beard and a moustache.

Ray Romano To Publish Children's Book

Picture Book, Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean: Why I Love and Hate My Brothers, to be Published Fall 2004. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, announced today plans to publish the first book for children written by Ray Romano, comedian and Emmy Award-winning star of the top-rated CBS television program, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’ Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean: Why I Love and Hate My Brothers, scheduled for publication in Fall 2004, is the funny and true story of why brothers can be gross, disgusting, and downright mean¾but still love each other. Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean is based on Romano’s experiences growing up with his two brothers, Richard, a retired New York police sergeant, and Robert, a New York City school teacher, who are writing the book with him. The book will be illustrated by children’s book artist Glin Dibly.

The agreement was negotiated by Rick Richter, President & Publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Byron Preiss of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, which is producing the book; Romano’s personal manager Rory Rosegarten, his agent Mel Berger of the William Morris Agency, and his attorney Jon Moonves, who represented Mr. Romano.

‘Everybody does love Ray Romano,’ said Rick Richter, ‘especially here at Simon & Schuster. The Romanos’s book is a funny, loving, and real look at what it’s like to be a big brother (and a little brother). Anyone with a sibling will love this book.’

‘When my brothers and I weren’t fighting with each other, we had a lot of fun growing up,’ explained Ray Romano. ‘Now it’s great as adults to collaborate with them on this book and fight with each other once again.’

Ray Romano admits that he always knew he could make his friends laugh, but he never really gave standup comedy any serious thought until an open-mike night at a New York comedy club in l984. He did well, the bug bit hard, and Romano was smitten. After several odd jobs, including futon mattress delivery boy, he decided to pursue comedy full time.

Romano’s regular appearances at comedy clubs throughout the country led to guest spots on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,’ then with Jay Leno, and finally on CBS’s ‘Late Show with David Letterman,’ where host David Letterman recognized his talent and offered him a development deal with his production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. From that association, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ was born.

For his role in ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, Romano was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1999, 2000, 2001, and won an Emmy in 2002 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Romano also was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy at the 1999 Golden Globe Awards. In 2003, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ for which Romano is an Executive Producer, was awarded the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Romano stars in the upcoming feature film ‘Welcome to Mooseport’ with Gene Hackman. The film is set for a February 6, 2004 release from Twentieth Century Fox. He also stars in the ensemble film ‘Eulogy’ with Famke Janssen, Kelly Preston and Zooey Deschannel which is due this Spring. He is the author of the book Everything and a Kite (Bantam, 1999), based on his standup comedy. Romano, who is originally from Forest Hills, New York, now lives with his wife and four children in Los Angeles.



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