Q&A WITH RAY ROMANO & TOM CALTABIANO

How long have you known and worked with each other?

RAY: When? Doing stand-up in New York....how many years ago?

TOM: Twenty-three.

RAY: You know that for a fact?

TOM: 1989. That's when I started doing stand-up. I actually first saw you at the Improv in New York in '88, the year before I started. That was also the year I read about a guy who won a comedy contest in Atlantic City with over 100 comedians. That guy turned out to be you. I vowed to win that contest someday.

RAY: And did you?

TOM: No. But I did make it to the finals, top fifteen out of a hundred.

RAY: Well, you didn't set a time limit for winning...

TOM: They stopped doing the contest.

RAY: So you're off the hook.

What is it about your relationship that has allowed you two to remain friends and work together for so many years?

RAY: Well, at first we were doing...well, we weren't doing stand-up together. We were in the stand-up scene together. I was--

TOM: When I started, you were a headliner. I was...not.

RAY: You would drive the headliner to the gig. [They laugh.]

TOM: You also needed a good outfielder for your brother's softball team. So we talked in the outfield sometimes. And we won two championships.

RAY: But then, when we starting talking, whatever, we kinda had a couple things in common. And you were in LA when I was doing Carson.

TOM: Yeah. By coincidence.

RAY: By coincidence, when I was doing Carson in '91, Tom was out here, and he came. And we became better friends then, I remember, bonding over such an experience as doing my first Carson and the nervousness that goes along with it.

TOM: I remember the night before Carson, there were a couple other comedians who wanted to take you to a strip club, but you didn't want to go.

RAY: I wanted to hear Johnny say, "Tomorrow night on the show, Ray Romano!" Which is just as exciting as a lap dance and twenty dollars cheaper. [They laugh.]

TOM: I also remember we all said goodnight and left your room, and when I went to my car the parking garage was locked for the night. We weren't that good of friends yet, but I ran back to your hotel and ended up crashing on your floor. I got up at 5 a.m. and got my car because I was thinking, "This guy's doing Carson today. I don't want to be in his way."

RAY: That should've tipped me off right there. That I couldn't get id of you so easily. And then stand-up together. Then when the show came along and I was moving out here, I knew we worked well together comedy-wise and I knew I'd need somebody. I didn't know any of the writers and I wanted to bring my guy, you know, someone I could have as my sounding board, someone to work off of, so I brought Tom. We stayed in an apartment together. I left my family at home for the first year, so we shared an apartment and a car. And a bed? Did we have two different beds?

TOM: Depended on what happened that evening. [They laugh.]

RAY: Then Tom became a regular writer on the show.

TOM: And I ended up co-writing the episode that you won the Best Actor Emmy for. [The Breakup Tape with Aaron Shure.] So it was worth my airfare.

RAY: See, that's a case of the acting elevating the writing 100 percent.

TOM: What does that mean? The writing was zero percent before you did the acting?

RAY: You do the math.

TOM: You just can't give it to me, can you?

RAY: I can give it to you. You were living in your car before Raymond.

TOM: Well, despite the verbal abuse, we always worked well together in stand-up because I'm single and he's married so our material didn't step on each other. It was a good combination. Also, Ray was funny and I wasn't so it...

RAY: It's all balance. I wanted to look at women, he...

TOM: ...got rejected by women. [They laugh.]

At what point did you decide you wanted to make a movie about your touring together?

RAY: I haven't reached that point yet.

TOM: Ray's been against the movie since the beginning, so...

RAY: I almost made this film against my will.

TOM: Ray's the only guy that starred in a movie against his wishes. He still doesn't want to be in this movie.

RAY: It's just hard to be gung-ho about a movie about yourself. So I was very reluctant. We'd done stand-up comedy tours before during hiatuses of Raymond. When Raymond would wrap at the end of the season I was stressed and so looking forward to just getting on the road and relaxing and playing golf and kicking back, and Tom was like, "Not so fast. I've got a film student, two cameras, and some velcro." So I was not very happy to hear that idea and I remained that way. That doesn't mean I didn't work on it and try to make it good. But I was like, "Uh, I just want to relax, c'mon." And every time I would say that Tom would be, "Are you getting this? Are you getting this?" There was always a camera on me

TOM: But Ray's gotten used to that with me. I took something like twenty thousand photos of Ray on Everybody Loves Raymond, which we ended up turning into a book [Everybody Loves Raymond: Our Family Album]. And along the same lines, when we'd gone on road tours long before Raymond, I would always videotape stuff and I finally said, "Let's do it one time for real" and so Ray wanted to relax and was kinda like, "I don't really want to do it." But I basically brow-beat him into doing it, I convinced him. And one of the things that we didn't have was a big crew, so we got really on the inside, so you're really seeing a fly-on-the-wall experience and in the movie you see a lot more a Ray than you would if it was an "official" documentary tour.

RAY: Yeah, 'cuz it was basically just us, and one of us had a camera.

Ray, were you concerned of people seeing you "warts and all?"

RAY: Not really, because, you know, part of my persona is who I am--I mean, when I go on Letterman and whatnot, that side comes out anyway. The neurotic side, the insecure side. So they were just going to see that, I just didn't have pants on, that's all. You know, there weren't many things that I said ,"Well, I can't show that."

TOM: Basically, we shot 130 hours and the good thing is that Ray is very funny off camera. There was no danger of "Oh no, we're going to find out that Ray Romano isn't funny." So, you shoot a lot of stuff and then from the 130 hours, narrow it down to--

RAY: Ten minutes.

TOM: Yeah, ten minutes of good stuff and the rest is Ray with no pants. [They laugh.]

Tom, what made you want to direct this film?

TOM: The reason I did it? I felt like we'd been doing tours for however many years and funny stuff always happened on them so I thought, "Well, let's film one from start to finish and maybe something funny will happen, maybe nothing will happen."

RAY: But there was not a motive like, "Let's show the world the behind-the-scenes angst of a comic." There was no message to get out.

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