PRIME CUT: Up Close & Personal with Comedian RALPHIE MAY

An Exclusive Interview with 400 Pounds of Fun On the Eve of His Appearance at Saginaw's Temple Theatre

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature,   From Issue 776   By: Robert E Martin

12th September, 2013     0

For those that missed his earlier Saginaw appearances two years ago, 'larger than life' comedian Ralphie May is slated to make a return appearance at Saginaw's Temple Theatre on Wednesday, September 25th at 7:30 PM with a fresh show containing all new material. Voted one of Variety's '10 Comics to Watch', since his debut on season one of Last Comic Standing, May filmed his record-setting fourth 1-hour special for Comedy Central, entitled Too Big To Ignore, and he continues to engage on the 'Never Ending Tour' standard shared by artists such as Bob Dylan, performing hundreds of shows each year.
 
“I really like Saginaw,” exclaimed May during a recent phone interview. “I loved the Schuch Hotel and the charm of Hamilton Street and the Temple Theatre is really incredible - what a gem!” And with his no-nonsense point of view and ability to connect with a diverse audience by pointing out society's hypocrisy, the audiences keep growing.
 
“I'm what you would call a 'politically incorrect' comic,” he explains when asked how he would describe his brand of humor. “I don't shy away from touchy topics or ethnic jokes because I believe as long as what I'm saying is true, people will want to hear it.  I like to have fun and I'm not trying to push politics down peoples' throats with my shows, because people are fed up with politics. There's no one to root for anymore because politicians today have no interest at heart except for their own. Politics has lost its way.”
 
Born in 1972 in Chattanooga, TN and raised in Clarksville, Arkansas with 3 siblings and a single Mom, May explains that he first got interested in comedy growing up and watching comedian Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. “Johnny would pack all these jokes in his monologues and it blew me away,” reflects May. “I did my first bit of stand-up when I was 13-years old and it's been a crazy ride ever since.”  Indeed, at age 17 May won a contest to open for his idol, Sam Kinison, and later moved to Houston to develop his comedy routine.
 
“Sam wrote me a letter of introduction, but by the time I got to Houston, that comedy club has closed,” laughs May. “I saw another comedy club called the Comedy Showcase that said it was a college for comedians, so I walked in and told them I was a comedian. They were like, 'Okay, whatever. We've never heard of you. I told them I did standup about 13 times and they said, 'Well, that makes you a comedian. Get up here and bomb for a couple years and then you'll be funny. So that's exactly what I did. And then I got really funny and things took off.”
 
Another distinguishing feature about May, apart from his sizable presence and the fact there is so much of him to enjoy, is his prolific gift for creativity. “I'm not trying to inspire art so much as entertain audiences, which is why I do a different routine at every show that I perform. I do not repeat material or attempt to live off old jokes forever,” he explains. Quoting late stand-up comedian George Carlin, May says most comedians write about 10 new minutes of material a year. “The great ones write 30 minutes and I probably write two hours a year. There are too many great things going on in the world to write about. But I also believe in living fast and at times will even write on stage. That's why I've already put out six albums and am working on the next one. Once you find your voice and who you are it's easy.”
 
And as for his physical presence, May once joked that he weighs “400 pounds but also wears 40 pounds of underwear. “Actually, I've lost a whole fat guy since Last Comic Standing, and I'm still fat as hell, which sucks. But I'm working on it. I'm not one of those comedians who thinks if I lose weight I'll lose my funny.”
 
Amidst his world-wide journeys and travels around the globe, May has run into the occasional road-bump, having been arrested at an airport in Guam when he pulled a Paul McCartney and caught the attention of a drug dog at the airport and forgot that he was carrying a small amount of marijuana. “They realized it was a mistake and I had to pay a $100 fine,” explains May, “but that's the last time I ever take pot into Guam.  Next time I'll just buy it there.”
 
True to form, each of May's life experiences often translates into fresh fodder for fun with his audiences. Typical of his Non-PC approach to comedy, he quips: “People forget that Jesus was a pothead: long hair, beard, sandals, carpenter - do the math and it all adds up. Living with 12 guys with no visible means of support.”
 
When asked if he's ever experienced stage fright, May explains that he never has, even when he first took the stage at 13. “I like stand-up and making people laugh, so what's to be frightened about? It's all how you handle it.”
 
“My father passed on one important piece of relationship advice before he died. He said son, in a relationship you can either be right or you can be happy. You'll soon find out that you don't care that much about being right.”
 
“I will stay as long as an audience wants me to after the show,” he relates. “I'll meet every single one of my fans, sign autographs, and take pictures. And I do a long show. Most people don't make more than $20 an hour and it's not that cheap to come out to a show. I want to make sure they get their money's worth.”
 
“I see the absurdity in things and I think it's my job to point it out,” concludes May when asked about his philosophy of comedy.  “My biggest concern is that we're losing our sense of humor and have become an apologetic society. Nobody and take a joke. Everybody is so sensitive.”
 
“Comedians are like shepherds. We lead people to where the funny is. I want my audience to come back year after year and know that they're going to get new jokes. And I make them laugh -- hard, until they start to cry. That's my goal.”
 
Comedian Ralphie May appears September 25th at The Temple Theatre at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $29, $39, and $49 and his show does include adult content. To purchase tickets phone the Temple Box Office at 989-754-SHOW or visit www.templetheatre.com

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