Comedian Ray Romano is the type of guy you can count on. When his manager, Rory Rosegarten, told him he was producing a comedy benefit, "Garden of Laughs," for Madison Square Garden's Garden of Dreams Foundation, the TV star simply said, "When and where?"
Saturday, with five other comedians, Romano will put on a night of "good old-fashioned stand-up comedy," according to Rosegarten, in order to help make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles. We recently spoke with Romano by telephone.
You played a Newsday sportswriter on "Everybody Loves Raymond." How did that decision come about and could you be a reporter in reality?
I'm a sports fan, and we wanted it to be a career that was creative and took him out of the house on occasion. We thought being a sportswriter was a perfect fit. I'm not sure if I would be good at it, but it's something that I would entertain the thought of.
What makes you continue with stand-up even after all your success?
Did you ever sit in the house with four kids and want a reason to get out? I'm kidding. ... I love to do stand-up. It's what I feel I do the best. At my core, I'm a professional comedian. I still get a kick out of it.
Is it more of a challenge because of your fame?
You actually get a little bit of a free ride with fans. The one thing I miss is winning over a room of paying strangers. I miss that reward, but I'm not complaining.
You've always kept it clean. Was that a decision from day one?
I kind of evolved on stage with what works best for me and what the audience accepts from me. Every guy has their own style and technique. There are some bits that I write that I can't pull off because I'm not edgy.
What role does the use of your unique voice play in your comedy?
Execution and delivery is just as important as material. The material has to be funny, but you have to deliver it well. Everybody has their own rhythm. It's all part of the whole package.
At the Kennedy Center Honors you teased President Obama about raising taxes for the wealthy and losing the first debate. How did you get away with that?
It was done so good-heartedly and with goofiness. It was a perfect storm of things that had happened. He did lose the first debate in the public's eye, but he won the election. The joke poked a little fun but celebrated him at the same time. I kind of got lucky all those things were there.
How has your act changed post-"Everybody Loves Raymond" and now that your kids are older?
I talk about what's going on in my world at this time, which is colonoscopies and knee braces.
How much of "Everybody Loves Raymond" came from real-life situations?
I would say almost 100 percent was drawn from something that really happened, and because of the genre you ramp it up a bit. In my stand-up I'd say it's the same thing except I don't ramp it up but rather make it conversational and expand on it.
How close is Ray Barone to Ray Romano?
Everything is heightened and exaggerated for TV, but there are core qualities that are the same. He likes to keep the peace and be left alone. He'd rather watch TV than do a lot of stuff. When it comes down to it, he's a good dad and I try my best to be a good dad, too.
Did you find it hard to get away from that character?
People who knew me from "Raymond," half of them stuck around for "Men of a Certain Age" and half didn't because they pictured me as Ray Barone. That's what they wanted and accepted. "Men" was more raw. But it all comes from somewhere real for me. I'm a little of both.
"Men of a Certain Age" showed your dramatic side mixed with comedy. What did you take from that experience?
It was another way to be creative. I loved the process. You can emote in a different way. You don't have to be big and broad like on a sitcom. It's what I still want to do.
Is there another vehicle you can use for your brand of comedy?
I'm trying to write a screenplay. I'm drawn to stuff that's real and relatable, then I bring humor into it. I've gotten into this "dramedy" thing with "Parenthood" and "Men of a Certain Age." That's where I want to go.
How does it feel to be an actor on "Parenthood" without being behind the scenes?
It's fun. I've never been on this side of it where with each script I never know what my character is going to do. Thankfully the writing is great. But I get crazy because I want to see every take I did. I have to let that go.
"Garden of Laughs"
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Theater at Madison Square Garden
INFO $40-$125, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com