Las Vegas Backstage Talk

Aug. Las Vegas Backstage Talk column

by Michele LaFong

August’s Las Vegas Backstage Talk column in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

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Steve Rossi: May 25, 1932 – June 22, 2014
Show-biz Legend Steve Rossi was a frequent favorite in-studio guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show. I first met him in ’94 at my variety show “Vegas Live” starring Michele LaFong, at The Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino. He was very supportive, and came in frequently to watch the show, hang-out and schmooze…and what a fun schmoozer he was! Even back then he brought the party with him where ever he went. He is greatly missed. On June 26, in Steve’s honor we replayed his very first LVBST interview. It was incredibly colorful and entertaining. He shared his many experiences, lessons and stories in his amazing fifty-five year career in show business which covered everything from what it was like to room with Howard Stern many years ago when he was managing the frequently fired “Shock Jock,” to the real reason he claimed that he and Marty Allen could not get back together… not even for one last TV Anniversary Special that Steve claimed was offered to them last year for over a million dollars. The show is worth listening to and is archived on Lasvegasbackstagetalk.com.
Clint Holmes returned in-studio live on June 19, to update us on the exciting news of his new CD release, and monthly resident performances at The Smith Center on the first weekend of every month.
Mostly known for being the former co-host of ABC’s The View, Joy Behar will return to Vegas to perform a weekend of stand-up on Aug.22 & 23 as part of the new “Lipshtick Series” at The Venetian. She got nabbed-up pretty quickly after her successful engagement at The Orleans this past January. Apparently much of the general public was unaware of what an accomplished Stand-up Comedian Joy was. Back in the 80’s, when I was a touring headline comedian, I had a business called LaFong Productions. Joy was one of my top go to comedians that I booked in my 21 rooms. Come to think of it many of the comedians that I booked have done incredibly well in their careers including Kevin James, and Comedian and YouTube Sensation Vic Dibitetto, who recently got cast by Kevin in Mall Cop 2, teamed-up with Actor Nick Turturro (mostly known for his role in NYPD Blue.) I recently aired the lively interview with the pair on June 12, and it too is archived on our website. An edited video clip of Nick and Vic is posted on casinocenter.com
Comedian Russell Peters, currently a judge on NBC’s Last Comic Standing with Roseanne Barr and Keenon Ivory Wayans, returned on LVBST and will return to the Pearl at The Palms on Aug. 2 exploring new material and crowd work. “Although the taping for Last Comic Standing has concluded, the competition is still playing out every week on television and even the three finalists do not know the outcome! We taped three different endings and they do not know which one will be aired.”
Jay Leno returns to The Mirage on August 11, and Nov. 21 & 22. He puts on a very strong well-paced, fluff-free show that is definitely worth catching. Last month, I aired Part 1 & 2 of a long interview with Jay covering everything from his comedy writing to why he doesn’t have a team of security escorting him around like most other celebrities.
Jay explained the security question with a great story. “Once I was at one of these hotels, and they insisted on sending two security people to walk me to the showroom…so these two huge goons come up with suits on that look like they are made out of sofa material, and we walk into the casino… and as we’re coming through they were actually pushing people…literally shoving old ladies out of the way…and people were like “screw you Leno!” “and I’m like no let me stop and take a picture, sign an autograph…it takes an extra few minutes but everybody’s happy. Having security walk me to a show was so much worse!
Superstar Al Pacino will bring his “Pacino: One Night Only” show to The Mirage Saturday, Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to step into Pacino’s world as he shares his passion for acting and directing in an up-close-and-personal setting in the Terry Fator Theatre. The evening will explore his life beginning in the 1960s when he performed Off-Broadway and will follow his career to present day. The show will include previously untold stories, never-before-seen clips, and a question and answer session. Pacino is one of the rare winners of the acting Triple Crown: the Oscar, Tony and Emmy Award.
Other Picks: Buckcherry, Otherwise, Hard Rock, Aug. 1, Caroline Rhea, Wendy Liebman, The Venetian, Aug 1 & 2, The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Plain White T’s, Red Rock Resort, Aug. 1, Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone, South Point, Aug. 1-3, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Mandalay Bay, Aug 1, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Los Lonely Boys, The Palms, Aug. 1, Lady Gaga, MGM Grand, Weezer, Cosmopolitan, Aug. 1, Aerosmith Slash, MGM Grand, Aug. 2, Jonny Lang, Boulder Station, Aug. 2, Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Uncle Cracker, Golden Nugget, Aug. 8, Dirty Heads, Pepper, Aug. 8, Lisa Lampanelli, The Venetian, Aug. 8 & 9, Rob Schneider, South Point, Aug. 8-10, Aaron Neville & Dr. John, The Cannery, Aug. 9, Aries Spears, Mandalay Bay, Aug. 9, Kathy Griffin, The Mirage, Aug. 9, Lynard Skynyrd, Golden Nugget, Aug. 9, Counting Crows, Mandalay Bay, Aug. 10, 38 Special, Eastside Cannery, Aug. 10, Cesar Millan, “Leader of the Pack” Palms, Aug. 15, Whitney Cummings, The Venetian, Aug. 15 & 16, Yes, Hard Rock, Aug. 15, The Guess Who, Eastside Cannery, Aug. 16, ZZ Top, Jeff Beck, Hard Rock, Aug. 16, Daniel Tosh, The Mirage, Aug. 22 & 23, Dave Collier, South Point, Aug. 22-24, Rock N Blues Fest with Johnny Winter Band, Edgar Winter Band, Cannery, Aug. 23, John Legend, The Cosmopolitan, Aug. 24, The Summer Nationals Tour, featuring The Offspring, with Special Guests, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Stiff Little Fingers, Hard Rock, Aug. 27, The Adam Carolla Show, Treasure Island, Aug. 29, Bill Medley with McKenna Medley, South Point, Aug. 29-31, Joe Rogan, The Mirage, Aug. 29, Bachman & Turner, Cannery, Aug. 30, Keith Urban, The Cosmopolitan, Aug. 31.

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June-Las Vegas Backstage Talk syndicated column

by Michele LaFong

June-Las Vegas Backstage Talk syndicated column in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

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June 2014 marks Las Vegas Backstage Talk’s one year anniversary in Casino Player Magazine.  Along with the debut of my column, I was also asked to write the Cover/feature for that issue.  Because I remembered how excited I was to have Bill Cosby guest on my radio show, I really wanted to use his interview for my first Cover/feature for June 2013 edition… And it’s a good thing I did because now he’s really hard to catch up with!  Last November Cosby performed his first TV concert special in 30 years, appropriately titled Far From Finished, which debuted on Comedy Central and is now sold on DVD.  He continues to make regular appearances on the Late Night Talk Show circuit, and his touring schedule is quite hectic. Bill Cosby will return to the TI on July 18.

Many of our past guests are also experiencing an exciting year since they were last on LVBST.

Jon Taffer, the guru, who helps revive bars that are on the verge of bankruptcy, has been a favorite recurring guest on my radio show since his very first season on reality TV.  Not only has “Bar Rescue” been renewed for its fourth season, which will begin airing in the fall but in addition, Jon landed another reality series on Spike TV produced by “Bar Rescue” producers Eyeworks USA called Hungry Investors, featuring celebrity chef John Besh and “Top Chef All-Star” vet Tiffany Derry.The trio seek out and help ‘diamond in the rough’ failing restaurants meet their potential.  Each week, the ‘Hungry Investors’ team puts two struggling restaurants to the test to prove they deserve a second chance at success. The enterprise that shows the most promise of turning things around earns significant cash investment. Both establishments seek to prove to the expert team that the only thing keeping them from financial fortune and success is finding an investor who believes in them.

In my last interview with Comedian Adam Carolla, Adam casually mentioned that he had a new reality series debuting on Spike TV called To Catch a Contractor. Prior to Adam’s success in comedy, he earned his living as a master carpenter. “I take it personally when contractors pass off their subpar work on average citizens and leave homeowners holding the bag.”

Each episode follows Carolla, along with no-nonsense contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, investigator Allison Bedell, as they seek retribution for wronged homeowners, whose construction nightmares range from the laughably incompetent to frighteningly hazardous homes that have been left completely torn apart. Carolla and the Bedells hunt down and confront unscrupulous builders, drag them back to their construction disasters, and make them finish the job right. Carolla and his expert team share their knowledge and ingenuity with the builders – not only in an effort to deliver homeowners the job they paid for, but also to give these suspect contractors the opportunity to redeem themselves.  Personally, I find this new series to be as entertaining as “Catch a Predator” on Dateline.  The only thing missing from it is the under-aged girl or guy using the old but reliable iced tea lure to get the unsuspecting predator comfortably seated in the house prior to the big confrontation!  Obviously, this series is catching on quick because Catch a Contractor has already been renewed for a second season. Adam Carolla will be returning to The TI August 29 to tape another podcast.

Comedians Wanda Sykes and Russell Peters also have a new reality series since last guesting on LVBST.  Wanda is one of the executive producers of NBC’s new Last Comic Standing, and Russell Peters is a judge alongside with comedy icons Roseanne Barr, and Keenen Ivory Wayans.

HBO recently renewed Real Time with Bill Maher for a 13th season since his last appearance on LVBST and continues his residency at The Palms H & C. I could not be happier for him!

I too have recently been cast on a new docu-series pilot that is being produced by NBC’s Univision. Hopefully, this new off-beat reality series will make air! I will keep you posted…

“Plastic Surgeon to the Stars,” Dr. Julio Garcia, recently returned on LVBST to update us on the latest treatments to shave off years of aging.  Usually when I ask him “what new cutting-edge treatments are available that you would recommend?” he replies “not much.” However, on this visit, his answer was quite different.  “I now offer a new, exciting, FDA Approved skin tightening procedure called ThermiTight which reduces wrinkles and tightens loose skin in the lower face and neck.  It’s also is good for double chins.  The results are natural looking, and continue to improve over time. It also has been proven to work on frown lines and reduce cellulite.

Normally, Dr. Garcia does not offer free consultations however, if you mention Casino Player Magazine when making an appointment, not only will he give a free evaluation but will also apply a 10% discount towards the treatment needed.

Thursday, June 5, is the Scleroderma Research Foundation’s flagship fundraiser at the Las Vegas House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Bob Saget hosts an evening of delicious food, wine and comedy with Jay Leno and special musical guest Ben Folds. This is the SRF’s inaugural Las Vegas event.

It’s a night of gourmet food featuring the “hot cuisine” of Top Chef Masters Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken and Rick Moonen.

The evening includes a small number of exclusive live auction packages. Attendees include stars from the worlds of television, film, music and business—and many others who have been directly or indirectly affected by scleroderma.

Call 800-441-2873. A limited number of reserved tables and General Admission seats are available. This event typically sells out in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Wilson Phillips returns to the Eastside Cannery on June 7, and always delivers a very entertaining, crowd-pleasing show.  If you love Southern White Rock, treat yourself to see Gregg Allman at The Palms H & C on June 21.  Bobby Vinton returns to Eastside Cannery on June 28.   I was his opening act over ten years ago, and remember Bobby stopping at nothing to entertain… that included standing on tables while singing from the audience!

Other Picks for June: Jay Leno, June 6, Mirage, Lionel Richie, June 6, Mandalay Bay, Kid Rock, June 6, Cosmopolitan, Billy Joel, June 7, MGM, Kevin James, June 7, Mirage, Stained, June 7, Palms, James Darren, June 7 & 8, South Point, Steve Winwood, June 13 & 14, The Linq, Kathleen Madigan, June 14, Mirage, Chelsea Handler, June 13 &  14, Cosmopolitan, Junefest with Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Loverboy, June 14, Sunset Station, Rick Springfield, June 14, Primm Valley Resorts,  William Shatner, June 19-21, MGM, Jay Mohr,  June 21& 22, South Point, Jeff Bridges and The Abiders, June 21 & 22, Red Rock Resorts, Tamar Braxton, June 20, Mandalay Bay, Natalie Cole, June 28, Primm Valley Resorts.

 

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Ralphie May, Richie Minervini-Las Vegas Backstage Talk

May 22, 2014 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & Web

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Comedian Ralphie May guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong on 1230AM in Las Vegas and streaming live in a backstage interview at The South Point Hotel and Casino.  Ralphie  addresses some of the obstacles and behind the scenes’ “going-ons” that are realities in”the business” of show business.  He also speaks about his very first gig.  Opening for Sam Kinison.

Veteran comedian Ralphie May’s popularity exploded after the success of the first season of NBC’s hit reality series, “Last Comic Standing”. Long-time fans of Ralphie’s stand-up were joined by countless new fans when America thought he was robbed of the winner’s title. Despite the show’s outcome, Ralphie’s special brand of comedy combines the familiar elements of hip-hop and topical comedy with a dash of southern down-home flavor and quick wit making Ralphie May one of the most popular comedians in the country. His first DVD, appropriately titled “Just Correct,” went PLATINUM!

His special brand of humor and incredible timing has allowed him to cross social, cultural, and ethnic barriers and has earned him roles in such films as FOR DA LOVE OF MONEY and GAS, to name a few of several independent productions. Ralphie has worked as an actor, writer and producer on ESPN’s Mohr Sports starring Jay Mohr and had four appearances on CBS’s The Late Late Show w/ Craig Kilborn as well as eleven appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He has been seen on Tough Crowd, The Man Show and MTV’s Bash as well as in guest-starring roles on numerous television shows including NBC’s Whoopie. In an appearance on The Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno he received a standing ovation, the first comedian in 10 years to receive this honor. The New York Times raves, “Ralphie is phenomenal…”The Washington Post describes his comedy style as a “Tour de Force.” At the age of seventeen, Ralphie entered a talent show, to which the winner would get to open for Sam Kinison. A dream came true… Ralphie won the contest and after the show, Sam turned to Ralphie and said, “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Will soon be featured in Michele LaFong’s Syndicated “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” Column in Casino Player Magazine, and Gaming Today.

Ralphie is performing at South Point Showroom May 23-25  For more go to ralphiemay.com


Comedian Richie Minervini

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Comedian Richie Minervini guests on LVBST in a backstage interview from The Wynn Theatre, the set of Mall Cop 2.  Richie is Kevin James stand-in, and has been Kevin’s opening act for over 15 years at The Mirage.

Richie Minervini is a seasoned entertainer and actor. A veteran of standup comedy, Richie is the former owner of Long Island’s premier comedy club, The East Side Comedy Club. His stage is where celebrities, Rosie O’Donnell, Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, Kevin James, Ray Romano and Michele LaFong started their standup careers.

Comic / Actor Richie Minervini, from the movie “Zookeeper” with Kevin James, Richie is opening for Kevin James at The Mirage on June 7.   He is the voice of Elmo the Ostrich in “Zookeeper.”

Click here to watch the trailer for “Zookeeper.”

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Lainie Kazan, Bill Bellamy-LVBST w-Comedian Michele LaFong

Feb. 27, 2014- 6-7pm PST 1230am KLAV in Las Vegas & streaming live

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan and Comedian Actor Bill Bellamy guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong.

Kazan made her Broadway debut in The Happiest Girl in the World in 1961 followed by Bravo Giovanni (1962). She served as understudy to Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, finally getting to go on 18 months into the run when the star was ill with a serious throat problem. Both had attended the same high school, Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn,New York. Kazan’s mother alerted the press and, encouraged by rave reviews for her performance, she quit the show and set out to establish herself in a singing career.

Kazan appeared in numerous supper clubs across the country, and she guested on Dean Martin’s variety series 26 times. Other television work includes a recurring role as Aunt Frieda on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny and as Kirstie Alley’s mother on Veronica’s Closet, and guest shots on St. Elsewhere (resulting in an Emmy nomination), The Paper Chase, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace. She was also featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the Nia Vardalos hit film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in which she had also starred alongside Vardalos. She appeared in a scene as the mother of Adam Sandler’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, but it was deleted in the feature film. It is, however, included in the special features on disc. Prior to this film, she had appeared with its co-star Kevin James in two episodes of his The King of Queens TV series as the once-renowned singer Ava St. Clair.  For more about Lainie Kazan: www.lainiekazan.com

Lainie is appearing at The Smith Center on Feb. 28, & March 1.

Bill Bellamy

Bill Bellamy Headshot

Comedian/Actor Bill Bellamy will be at the Suncoast Showroom, March 1 and 2.

After winning numerous comedy competitions, Bellamy made his television debut on “Showtime at the Apollo.” He caught the attention of comedy producers Bernie Brillstein and Russell Simmons, who signed him as a guest star of HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” in 1992. Bellamy went on to star in his own Showtime comedy special, “Booty Call,” in 1996.

Bellamy became a staple of the MTV generation as host of “MTV Jams” in the late ‘90s. He continued his television career as the voice of the title character in “Cousin Skeeter” from 1998-2001, as a recurring character in “Men, Women & Dogs” in 2001 and 2002, and “Fastlane” in 2002 and 2003.

Bellamy made his feature film debut in 1997 in “Love Jones” and has gone on to star in numerous films, including “Any Given Sunday,” “The Brothers” and “Lottery Ticket.”

 

In June 2012, Bellamy’s “Crazy Sexy Dirty” comedy special debuted on Showtime and is available on DVD. Recently, he starred in the syndicated comedy “Mr. Box Office,” and launched his groundbreaking new comedy tour “Ladies Night Out.”

His numerous television appearances include “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Live! With Regis & Kelly,”  “Today,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Chelsea Lately,” “Las Call with Carson Daly,” “Lopez Tonight,” and “The Wendy Williams Show.”

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Ray Romano, Al Jardine-LV Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong

Oct. 17, 2013- 6-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

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Ray Romano guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong, and gives a candid interview that was also used for LaFong’s “Getting Personal with the Stars” October Cover/Feature in Casino Player Magazine, and Gaming Today column in Gaming Today.

Ray talked about his current relationship with Brad Garrett, the cancellation of “Men of a Certain Age,” how he landed his current role on “Parenthood,” why he is not on Twitter, placing in the World Series of Poker at The Rio, what’s new projects he is working on and more…

Mirage Casino, Las Vegas

OCTOBER  with Kevin James – Fri. 10/18/13 at 10 PM Sat. 10/19/13 at 7:30 PM Sat. 10/19/13 at 10 PM

NOVEMBER Fri. 11/22/13 at 10 PM Sat. 11/23/13 at 7:30 PM

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Al Jardine- The original Beach Boys

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Al Jardine, (“Help help Me Rhonda”,) returns on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote his up-coming gig with Legendary music icons and Grammy Award winners, Brian Wilson (co-founder The Beach Boys) and Jeff Beck (Yardbirds) in Las Vegas as part of a co-headlining North American Tour. Wilson’s other former band mate, David Marks will join Wilson and Beck.   The show will make a stop at The Pearl inside The Palms H & C on Oct. 18.

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Cover/Feature Ray Romano in Casino Player Magazine-Oct. by Michele LaFong

“Getting Personal with the Stars” -Ray Romano

by Michele LaFong

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 Page 1 & 2 of Ray Romano Cover/Feature:  http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?i=176433&p=52

Page 3 & 4 of Ray Romano Cover/Feature http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?i=176433&p=54

M-I saw on the news recently that you were in town, with Actor-Impressionist Kevin Pollak and you were both like the only celebrities left in the poker tournament at The Rio

R-“Yeah, I played at The Main Event, the last one on World Series of Poker (WSP) the big poker tournament. I played it the last six years in a row. With 6000 people in it, it goes seven days and they narrow it down till they have 9 people left, and I made it to day 3, my record was day 2… so this year I actually broke my record.”

M-How did you place compared to Kevin Pollak?  (He was on LVBST last year during WSP…)

R-This year I lasted about two hours longer than him.

We both busted out on day three.

R-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.

M- Who is the best poker player out of the group?

R- “Not Brad!  I’ll tell you who is not

Actually, Cheryl Hines 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 crazy/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.”

M-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…

R- No… you know why?  Can I say a bad word? No, I better not…

M- Sure, say it…

R-Cause I’m a “bleep” (the word was short 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.

M-These days, you don’t have to be a political comic to get into trouble, and you’ve done a good job so far…

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

M- Are you on Twitter?

R- I am not on twitter!

M- Why…are you afraid?

R- I’m afraid on 2 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!

M-It really affects you?

R-Yes, it does.  It shouldn’t but it does.  I never learn my lesson…

M-But you don’t get attacked a lot…I even looked for it online searching for the negative on you… just because…

R-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.

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

R-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 fifty –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 Jason 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.

M- Any new creations in the works?

R- 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 2 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 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.

M- 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?

R-It was a big help but to be honest, when I got “Everybody 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!”

M-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.

R-Well, I did too but the one thing that was great about Everybody 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.

M- When I was researching you, I noticed you were on the Celebrity Atheist List.

R-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!

My full interview with Ray will air Oct.17, 6pm-7pm PST on “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong, 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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