June 19th, 2024

Everybody may love Raymond, but Ray Romano loves Peter Boyle

By John Carucci, The Associated Press on May 20, 2024.

NEW YORK (AP) – “Baffling” is how Ray Romano calls the continued success of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” nearly 20 years after the CBS sitcom ended its nine-season run. “It goes so fast.”

That success comes as a surprise to the New York City-born comedian, who admits he’s always filled with doubt. So, when he started working on the series based on his comedy, he wasn’t confident in his acting chops, especially during the first season.

He didn’t think the show would have survived if not for an unlikely mentor: The late Peter Boyle, who played Raymond’s curmudgeonly father, Frank.

“He’s one of the main reasons it worked for me, because he made me feel accepted and comfortable. He was that kind of guy,” Romano says.

During a recent interview with The Associated Press, Romano shared insights about the sitcom, his relationship with Boyle and his career.

AP: You took a big chance casting Peter Boyle in a sitcom, didn’t you?

ROMANO: He wasn’t supposed to read. We were just supposed to have a meeting with him. But he offered to read. And in his defense, it was a rough day for him. We really couldn’t gauge whether he was getting the comedy of it, and we still said, “It’s Peter Boyle, let’s just go with the best actor in the room.”

AP: Outside of “Young Frankenstein,” his work was more serious, why the leap of faith?

ROMANO: He was hands down the best actor. And we rolled the dice, and it paid off because he was hysterical. When you’re creating a sitcom, you’ve got to get lucky. And we got lucky that we found Peter.

AP: You recently honored Peter at the International Myeloma Foundation gala?

ROMANO: Peter Boyle unfortunately passed away from myeloma, and his wife, Lorraine, started this charity to raise money for the International Myeloma Foundation. I love Peter and he meant a lot to me and I agreed to be part of it and I’ve been hosting it almost every year. It’s a night of comedy and it’s a little bit of music and raises money for a good cause.

AP: You mentioned that Peter led an interesting life?

ROMANO: He was a monk sworn to silence for two years. I don’t know if you knew that he lived in a monastery. That was his pre-Hollywood days, and I don’t know, I guess that didn’t work out for him. (laughs)

AP: Who would think that the man that played Frank Barrone had such an interesting life?

ROMANO: His wife was a reporter for Rolling Stone. And she interviewed him, and that’s how they met. She was friends with Yoko Ono. They all started hanging out. And when they got married, John Lennon was the best man at Peter’s wedding. So, he’s just a fascinating guy and totally different from the character that he played on my show.

AP: How big a find was Brad Garrett?

ROMANO: Listen, when you’re creating a sitcom, you’ve got to get lucky. And we got lucky that we found Peter, we found Doris Roberts and even Brad Garrett. You know, we didn’t write that role. Brad brought this persona that was nowhere in our minds when we were creating the show. So, we got lucky there. All those things had to fall in place for it to be successful.

AP: But that wasn’t the case for the first season?

ROMANO: If I’m being brutally honest, I was filled with doubt all the time. I don’t know if I’m acting well, and I know I’m not in the first season. I can look back and see I’m stiff. We’re trying to kind of nail down the tone. And so it’s a little bumpy in the beginning.

AP: When did the show find its way?

ROMANO: We were in 110th place in the Nielsens, and then decided to put us on after “Cosby,” for the last four episodes, and “Cosby” was their No. 1 show. And if we held the audience, we were going to make it. If we didn’t, they were going to cancel us. That’s what we knew. And we not only held his audience, I think we went up a tick for those last four episodes. That’s when it starts to sink in.

AP: How much do get out to the clubs these days?

ROMANO: I still do it. I don’t get to do it as much. When I go to New York, I always go to my club, the Comedy Cellar, downtown. It’s ironic that I’m in LA for 27 years now, and I have all these comedy clubs here, and yet I don’t go.

AP: Do you try your comedy on the family?

ROMANO: To be honest, it usually comes from the family. A lot of stuff comes from what my wife says without trying to be funny. I have this bit now in my act and it’s an exact quote from my wife. She said, to me, “You don’t talk a lot, but when you do, it’s too much.” After she said that I wrote it down: “That’s going in the act.”

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