Ray Romano Says This Is the Worst Place to Do Stand-Up

No, Bill Maher, it’s not on a college campus
Ray Romano Says This Is the Worst Place to Do Stand-Up

Ray Romano was chatting it up with Bill Maher on his Club Random podcast, and the discussion turned to “worst places to do stand-up.” While Maher would undoubtedly have chosen “college campuses,” that wasn’t Romano’s pick for comedy hell. He knew a place much less forgiving than any woke university arts center. “Did you ever do cruise ships?” Romano asked.

You can practically hear Maher shudder. “I paid my dues. I can prove it,” he said defensively. “I’ve had beer cans thrown at me opening for rock stars. But I will not do a cruise.”

Romano has delivered punchlines on the high seas and lived to tell the tale. The problem with floating comedy? If the audience hates you, you’re spending the next five days with them on the Aloha Deck. 

“I only did it twice,” Romano said. “And the first time went okay. The second time, me and the other comedian, we did a regular show. And then they said, ‘Now it’s late-night comedy the next night.’ And it was still us. So of course it didn’t go well.” 

Romano remembered walking the narrow cruise ship halls back to his room after the “late-night” set. “And I hear a couple go, ‘Where do they get these guys from?’ And they turn the corner as I’m walking toward them,” he says. “It’s not wide enough to just walk by. We have to shimmy this way, like our faces (nearly meet). And he just insulted me.”

Was the vacationer aware of who he was shimmying around?

“Oh yeah,” says Romano. 

“Then you're living on the boat with them for the next couple days,” Romano groaned. “It’s like you do a show at a club or somewhere. And the club is with you for the next two days. That’s how ridiculous it is.”

Maher wondered if at least Romano was approached at the buffet with compliments for a good set. It never happened, at least not that Romano remembered. “I probably stayed in the room and laid low for a while.”

Both comics remembered other painful stand-up moments that happened on dry land. “I once did horribly on a gig I was not ready to do yet,” Maher recalled with a wince. “In 1980, in Cleveland, in a restaurant. I did terribly almost to the point of ‘asked to leave,’ almost ‘asked to leave’-level bad. It just did not work. It was a tough room. I was a real rookie. And then the next day, wouldn’t you know, I get snowed in. I’m at the airport for 12 hours watching them plow the runway, just wanting to get this city off me. Not that it’s the city’s fault, but I wanted to get Cleveland off me, get home and take a shower. And I have to live with it for 12 hours.”

Romano knew the feeling of wanting to escape a bad performance, too. In year two of Everybody Loves Raymond, he was asked to play a huge gig for about 30,000 people. “And I remember, after about three or four minutes, hearing a girl from about 10,000 people over. And I heard her voice go, ‘You better start being funny.’ It was rough,” he said. “I remember we were supposed to spend the night there, and I told my manager, ‘Let's just go to the airport.’ And the airport was like 40 minutes away. I didn’t even want to sleep in the town. We slept at the airport.”  


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