Ray Romano

Ray Romano

Romano was born in Queens, NY, and raised in middle class Forest Hills, where his was one of the few Italian families in a mostly Jewish neighborhood. That distinction and other childhood New York memories would prove to be an endless source of material when Romano began doing stand-up comedy. While still a teenager, Romano made his stage debut at a local playhouse along with a comedy troupe he had formed with some friends. After appearing in school and church plays, Romano began toying seriously with the idea of becoming an actor. After graduating high school in 1975, he worked odd jobs before deciding to pursue a career in accounting at Queens College. He graduated and went on to land a job as a bank teller -where he met and married his co-worker wife, Anna - but by 1987, he decided to make a full-time effort out of his nighttime appearances at comedy clubs. He already had a few years of working on his observational material and honing his "regular New Yorker" stage persona under his belt, so the comic jumped in with both feet. Within two years, Romano won a stand-up comedy competition held by a local New York radio station, earning $10,000 and invaluable exposure which helped him land his first agent.National touring led to Romano's dream realized - an invitation to perform on "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954-) for host Johnny Carson in 1991. He went on to be featured on HBO's "The 15th Annual Young Comedians Festival-Hosted by Dana Carvey" (HBO, 1992) and many other comedy showcases before he was hired as a writer and performer on Comedy Central's "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist" (1995-99), an animated series where comedians showcased their material under the guise of venting to a psychologist. Following a well-received appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993-2015) in 1995, Letterman approached Romano about developing a sitcom for his own production company, Worldwide Pants. Romano brought his writer friend Phil Rosenthal onboard and together the two built the show's premise from their own personal experiences, including characters based on Romano's divorced policeman brother who lived with his parents across the street from Romano on Long Island.Real life sports fan Romano starred as a sportswriter married to a level headed wife (Patricia Heaton), long-suffering from her intrusive in-law neighbors - a meddling mother (Doris Roberts), garrulous father (Peter Boyle) and jealous older brother (Brad Garrett). Romano proved a highly likable calm at the center of a domestic storm, with the show's success also owing greatly to a strong supporting cast that gave the show more of an ensemble feel, with everyone given opportunities to shine. When "Everybody Loves Raymond" debuted in the fall of 1996, critics praised its performers, its tight writing, and its focus on the realistic minutiae of family life. However, its Friday night time slot was hardly a ratings grabber. A switch to Monday nights during the 1997-98 season proved just what the series needed, and the show built up an impressive audience, despite competition from major contenders "Monday Night Football" (ABC) and "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002). Romano's "in-character" guest appearances as Ray Barone on other sitcoms, including "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007) and "The Nanny" (CBS, 1993-99), also helped generate interest in his wry New Yorker and wacky onscreen family.The flourishing sitcom earned its first Emmy Award recognition in 1999, with an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination and Outstanding Actor nominations for Romano, Heaton, Roberts and Boyle. With this success, Romano relished the opportunity to return to his stand-up roots the same year, recording a live concert that was released as Ray Romano, Live at Carnegie Hall, which would later be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Romano's market saturation continued with the release of his memoir, Everything and a Kite, which hit No. 12 on The New York Times Bestseller list. With "Everyone Loves Raymond" hovering consistently in the Nielsen Top Ten, the show earned Emmy nods for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing in 2000 and 2001, as well as actor nods for most of the cast, but it was not until 2002 that Romano took home a statue for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy. To make that year even sweeter, he also made his feature film debut, voicing lead character Manny the wooly mammoth in the computer-animated family blockbuster, "Ice Age."In 2003, "Raymond" took home its first Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, and the cast was also honored with recognition from the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. With all the awards recognition, Romano decided to ramp up his screen career with his first onscreen starring role as a small town hardware store owner who runs for mayor against a former U.S. President (Gene Hackman) in the failed comedy, "Welcome to Mooseport" (2004). He also in appeared in a supporting role as the dimwitted uncle of an unhappy college student (Zo y Deschanel) who returns home to her hated family after the death of her grandfather (Rip Torn) in the low-budget black comedy, "Eulogy" (2004). For the final 2004-05 season of "Raymond," Romano shared a second Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy with the show producers and left primetime on a high note, still in Nielsen's Top 10. In the wake of the series' finale - which was watched by millions - he remained rather low-profile than he had been in the past. He did reprise his role of Manny in the sequel "Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006), which reunited Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Scrat the prehistoric squirrel (Chris Wedge) in a quest to find Manny a mate. Returning to stand-up comedy, Romano was seen in "95 Miles to Go" (2006), a road trip documentary that followed the comedian and his opening act, Tom Caltabiano, on an eight-day, thousand-mile tour through the American South. Romano and old friend Kevin James paired up in the buddy comedy "Grilled" (2006), a notably tasteless departure for the actor that thankfully went direct-to-video, and appeared alongside Winona Ryder and Wes Bentley in the dark indie comedy, "The Last Word" (2008). As part of the ensemble cast of "Grand" (2008), Romano showcased his improvisation and poker skills with an all-star lineup of comic actors including Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines and David Cross. From that off-beat offering, Romano made a surprising primetime guest appearance as himself on an episode of the tween television staple "Hannah Montana" (Disney, 2006-11), as well as scored again at theaters with the third and 3-D sequel, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (2009). Meanwhile, Romano had been hard at work developing a new television series, "Men of a Certain Age" (TNT, 2009-11). The hour-long comic drama starred Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula as forty-something buddies dealing with varying middle-aged crises, though this time, the still-happily married Romano took on the role of a divorced dad of two.