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Ralphie May to perform April 20 at Frederick's Weinberg Center for the Arts

April 14, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Ralphie May will perform Saturday, April 20, at Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md.
Submitted photo

FREDERICK, Md. — Comedian Ralphie May believes in stirring the pot when it comes to his comedy.

So don't expect him to talk about his cat or what he did that day. That also means don't expect jokes that are PC. May said he wants his audience to get a little riled.

"It's intended to make the audience, well, turn them on a little bit, to be honest with you," he said during a telephone interview from a show in Columbia, Mo. "I want you to go home and have a great time. I can't do fat jokes anymore because all the fat jokes have been taken by other comedians. I can't do I'm-a-great-daddy jokes because Mr. (Bill) Cosby's got all of those."

Instead, when May stops Saturday, April 20, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, he'll be armed with brand-new, never-before-recorded comedy laced with his usual topical humor. A trait that started early, thanks to his grandmother.

May said when he was 9, his grandmother would let him watch the local news on Friday nights and then watch "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

"She would let me watch Johnny Carson's monologue," May said. "And because it all dealt with topical stuff and she would let me watch the news, I got pretty good seeing where his jokes were going. And my grandmother would laugh a lot of the times at my stuff harder than she did at Johnny Carson's, and that's when I kinda knew I was funny."

The first time May did standup comedy he was 13. The first time he did it professionally he was 17.

At 17, May was attending University of Arkansas and high school at the same time as part of a scholarship program. Because he was enrolled in college, he was eligible to enter - and win - a contest to open for comedy legend Sam Kinison, May's idol.

May said Kinison picked him up in a limousine to take him to the venue. During the drive, Kinison asked him if he was nervous.

When May said no, Kinison replied, "Kid, it's going to be 3,500 people there and nobody paid to see you."

May said that made him nervous, so Kinison offered him a piece of advice. If he got in trouble onstage, to use Kinison's trademark closing — yell and insult the audience. "And the more you degrade them, the more they're going to love you," Kinison told May.

"So I was in five minutes and I'm killing. I'm doing great," May said. "And I get excited so I switch a punchline and a set up. The joke bombs. I do another one and that joke bombs. I was only supposed to do seven minutes."

Freaking out, May took Kinison's advice and started insulting the audience.

"And then 3,500 people in unison booed," May said with a laugh. "It was bad. It was horrible. They hated me."

Kinison came up on stage as May made his exit. Off stage, May could hear Kinison talking to the audience, "Do you believe that kid? Coming and talking to you good people like that? He'll never be show business again. Ohhh! Ohhh! Ohhh! (May imitates Kinison's scream)."

May said he was crushed, "Here's the biggest guy in comedy saying I'll never be in show business again. I was so upset."

As May was getting ready to call his mom collect from a payphone to pick him up, Kinison's brother, Bill, invited him to Kinison's after party.

"So we're at the Sam Kinison after party, which is no place for a 17-year-old boy, much less this 40-year-old man you're talking to now," he said.

Kinison was known for his drug use. In 1992, a reportedly sober Kinison died in a car accident.

"There's mounds of blow. There's a bowl of joints. There was booze. It was crazy. Tons of girls," he said.

May said Kinison came out of his bedroom, did a line of cocaine and asked May to order pizza. When the pizza arrived, May said, Kinison tipped the guys with three bags of coke.

 "Thirty minutes later we get a phone call, 'Hey, you guys need any more pizza?'" May said.

Although it was a little much for the then-teen, May said Kinison wrote him a glowing recommendation letter for him to go the Comedy Workshop in Houston, which was where other comedians got their start, including Kinison.

May said he had to graduate school first and by the time he got down to Houston, the Workshop had closed. But he ended up working at the Comedy Showcase Comedy Club in Houston at age 18. There Danny Martinez, who is known as the Godfather of Texas Comedy, took May under his wing and encouraged him to follow his dreams.

Today, married with two young kids, May is still living his dream. He's constantly on the road. But he won't complain. He said he loves what he does.

"I've been having a great time," he said.

He also has a few projects in the works such as releasing a vinyl LP of his sets from 1998 at the Comedy Showcase.

"You get to hear the old stuff that was never recorded before," he said.

And he's also working on the release of his own brand of barbecue sauce, Fat Baby Jesus. He hopes to have it out for Memorial Day.

As for May, he's looking forward to his trip to Maryland. He used to live between Baltimore and Towson, Md.

"I love Maryland," he said. "It's such a beautiful state. Then there's Baltimore."


If you go ...


What:
Comedian Ralphie May
When: Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; show at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20
Where: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick Street, downtown Frederick, Md.
Cost: $33 to $38
Contact: www.weinbergcenter.org


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