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He’s perhaps the biggest man in show business. Literally. But he’s also one of the funniest comedians to stand behind a mic these days—and he’s coming to the Tivoli June 29. His name: Ralphie May.
Voted one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch,” Ralphie recently released his record-setting fifth special for Comedy Central (and DVD), “God I’m Perfectly Yours,” proving that his relatable comedic genius is in higher demand than ever. Later this year, he’ll be releasing a vintage recording on vinyl, taped in Houston in 1998. And he also just came out with his own line of barbecue sauce called “Fat Baby Jesus.”
Since his debut as the runner-up on season one of “Last Comic Standing,” audiences can’t get enough of the larger-than-life comic. Ralphie has a track record of selling out venues as large as the Tivoli night after night. He has a no-nonsense point of view and the ability to connect with a diverse audience by pointing out society’s hypocrisies. Ralphie doesn’t shy away from touchy topics or ethnic jokes, nor does he bite his tongue when society suggests, because he sincerely believes that as long as what he’s saying is true, people need to hear it.
Born in Chattanooga, Ralphie cites Bea’s Restaurant on Dodds Avenue as one of his favorite childhood memories, and favorite haunts when visiting the Noog. But as a child his father’s job took him to Clarksville, Arkansas where, at the age of 17, he won a contest to open for his idol, Sam Kinison.
“Sam asked me if I was nervous and I said, ‘A little,’” recalled Ralphie in a recent phone interview. “He said, ‘Well, you ought to be…there’s 3,500 people out there and none of them paid to see YOU,’ which scared me to death—but he gave me some advice. He said that if I froze up in the middle of my set, just start screaming obscenities at the audience and they’ll love me for it. So I did. And they booed me off the stage. Just then, Sam comes out and says, ‘Can you believe that kid did that to you nice people right in his own hometown?’ He totally tricked me. But we had a good laugh about it after the show and he took me under his wing and became my mentor.”
At Kinison’s suggestion, Ralphie moved to Houston to develop his comedy routine and now splits his time between Los Angeles and Nashville, where he performs regularly.
“All the comics I’ve ever admired, whether it be Kinison, Lenny Bruce, Buddy Hackett or Richard Pryor, share a commonality,” says Ralphie. “They’re a tour-de-force. When they speak, there’s no room for rebuttal. They’ve thought it all out. Even the pros and cons of their argument, they raise openly, and debate in the midst of their conversation, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
On the small screen, Ralphie has worked as a writer and producer on ESPN's “Mohr Sports” starring Jay Mohr, and performed stand-up on numerous late-night talk shows, including four appearances on CBS's “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” as well as 11 appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” He‘s appeared on “The Wayne Brady Show,” “The Man Show” and MTV’s “Bash” as well as guest-starring on NBC’s “Whoopie.” And if that’s not enough, he’s also one of a handful of comedians to have received a standing ovation on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
In 2005, Ralphie released his comedy album “Just Correct.” Since then, he has recorded four Comedy Central specials: “Girth of a Nation” (2006), “Prime Cut” (2007), “Austin-tatious” (2008), “Too Big To Ignore” (2012). He’s also appeared in films such as “For Da Love of Money,” and performed at the "Gathering of the Juggalos 2012."
But on Saturday, June 29, Ralphie May will be performing at the Tivoli Theater in his true hometown, right here in the Noog, and you can’t miss him. Literally.