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Q&A with comedian Ronnie Ray

May 17, 2019

After performing almost 100 open mics, the nerves of stand-up comedy don’t seem to bother comedian Ronnie Ray.

“Once I hear the crowd react to the sound of my voice from the speakers, I’m OK,” said Ray.

You can see Ray perform along with Ashley Lusk and K.B. Marion at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Spot on Broadway (1010 W. Broadway St., Bradley), as part of the latest comedy show from Exit Stage Left Comedy.

“Being onstage is the freest place in the world to me,” said the 44-year-old Ray, of Chicago.

The Daily Journal recently caught up with Ray to discuss his comedy influences, growing up in Chicago and coming back home after performing for years in Los Angeles.

Kiera Allen: How’d you get your start in stand-comedy?

Ronnie Ray: I always wanted to do comedy, but I started in improv at Second City. Someone told me there weren’t enough ‘brothers’ in improv, and that we needed more than just Wayne Brady. After performing improv in Chicago, I moved to Los Angeles and started hosting shows at The Comedy Store.

KA: When did you first realize you were funny?

RR: When I was a kid, I loved “Family Ties,” “The Cosby Show” and “The Honeymooners,” and I was also a big movie guy. I loved Eddie Murphy, and I remember wanting to be like him. I also had an ear for comedy, and I loved how timing worked.

KA: What makes you laugh?

RR: ‘Seinfeld’ still makes me laugh. I don’t laugh too often at clubs, because when I watch someone perform I’m studying them. I can see a joke coming from a mile away. You have to be really unique.

KA: Do you find it difficult to be a comedian in today’s political climate?

RR: No, because when I do a show, I try to take you out of what’s happening in the world. I don’t do current events.

KA: Have you ever bombed onstage? How do you handle it?

RR: Yes. Someone once told me, ‘You’re not real unless you have.’ You just have to keep going.

KA: What made you want to become a comedian?

RR: Watching people like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. I always felt like I had a connection with those guys.

KA: Where does your material stem from?

RR: Being single and having these crazy dating stories and growing up in Chicago. I got shot when I tried to join a gang. I got tickets to see Bobby Brown, and he was drunk and high performing onstage.

KA: What has surprised you the most about being a comedian?

RR: This is the hardest thing in the world, other than kickboxing. Mentally, you’re challenged so much. It’s difficult to get “put on,” and you could easily give up and no one would care. When I moved back home after being in L.A., friends that I grew up with wondered why I hadn’t made it big. They thought I was bullsing.