I just spoke with Ray Romano by phone. He’s going to be in Atlanta next Tuesday for a show at the Fox Theatre with his former “Everybody Loves Raymond” castmate Brad Garrett. He was, as expected, down to earth and just plain nice. (Details below)
Four years removed from “Raymond,” 51-year-old Romano has pocketed his (many many) millions. But the actor has had a tough time deciding what his next act would be.
He’s voiced Manny for two “Ice Age” sequels, dabbled in a couple of small films (none of his non-”Ice Age” films have been hits) and plays in charity golf tourneys.
Plus, he does some standup gigs. And for a week each year, he and Garrett hit a few cities to do standup and reminisce about the show’s nine years.
And he has finally found his next TV gig: Atlanta-based TNT has picked up Romano’s drama “Men of a Certain Age,” which will hit the air January 2010. (I’ll talk to him more about that later in the year.)
Q: What’s the comedy show going to be like?
A: We’ll each do 30 minutes of standup, then take questions from the audience. I’m PG-13. No curse words. But I do talk about sex or my lack of having sex. A lot of people haven’t seen Brad. They still see him as Robert. He’s a little more R rated. Think of Don Rickles with a little edge to it. It’s funny. We also show outtakes from the show.
Q: When you see those outtakes, how do you feel?
A: It’s weird. I get nostalgic. I miss it. It feels like another life. It was such a bubble. I was producing, writing and acting. I didn’t feel I even had time to sit back and enjoy it.
Q: Has it been an easy transition for you, post Raymond?
A: It’s real hard. I’ve tried a couple of movies. But people see you as a character for nine years and you become ingrained into their consciousness. My buddy Kevin James [“King of Queens”], he’s doing it right.
Q: Who would have thought he’d have such a big hit with “Mall Cop!”
A: That thing was huge! We played Vegas together a couple of weeks ago. We went out on stage and I noted that his movie grossed $145 million. So with “Mall Cop” and my “Welcome to Mooseport,” we’ve grossed $148 million together!
Q: How’s your golf game?
A: I’m pretty bad. I realize you can be obsessed with something you suck at. Maybe that’s why you become even more obsessed. It’s a weird mix of hatred and love. The same feeling within the same moment. It’s something I never want to give up. But unless you devote 24/7 to it, you won’t get better.
Q: How often do you play?
A: Every week and a half or so. It’s hard to get better playing that often. I appreciate that at least I’m good at standup. I’m glad I have something I know I worked and honed.
Q: Do you feel you have improved as an actor? You were pretty green when you started “Raymond,” right?
A: My first gig was actually on “Newsradio.” I was on the original cast. I was in [Joe] Rogan’s role. After a day and a half of rehearsals, I was fired. I deserved to be fired. I was too green. I had a great audition but I wasn’t ready. When “Raymond” came along, I was writing it, producing it. It was very organic. I had an acting coach who would help me.
Q: And you didn’t have to worry about getting fired!
A: Stranger things have happened! If something didn’t feel natural, I just changed it. It made it more real for me. It’s like standup. The way I got better was to just keep doing it. You can take lessons and go to class, but the best way to learn is just do it. I feel more comfortable acting now.
If you go May 5 to the Fox Theatre:
Tickets are $35 to $70. You can buy them here at Ticketmaster.