As Cruz’s act ends and May hits the stage, I am whisked away to the green room to interview Cruz and discuss his latest triumph- rocking the San Jose IMPROV stage. As he slips into the couch with his boyish grin and easy going demeanor I instantly feel at ease. So what’s it like to be a comedian? What does it feel like to have a crowd at your finger tips laughing at your every word? Or even worse, what does it feel like when your act bombs?
First and foremost I want to know, how does one become a comedian? According to Cruz, “being a comedian is something I’ve always wanted to do”, he explains, attempting to work as an actor before getting into comedy eleven years ago. Cruz joined the tour when May, a friend for ten years and old roommate in Los Angeles, offered him the gig six months ago. “Ralphie believed in me when other people didn’t” Cruz shares as he goes on for his esteem for the nationally known comedian, “he really is a great guy”.
And with that, I quietly slide back into my seat to catch the remainder of May’s performance. Although I haven’t been gone long, May is going full steam ahead, jumping from politics to bedroom tips without missing a beat. Never apologizing for his “call it like I see it ways” May censors nothing as he breaks the political correct barriers often tap danced around by other celebrities and public figures. Explaining how he is able to deliver his act, May notes “I get away with saying what I say because it’s even handed. I say it without malice or hate”, positioning himself as the everyday American we can all relate to. As his show ends and meet and greet begins to wind down- signing every autograph and taking every picture requested by fans I might add, May and I meet in the green room, so I can get to know the man of the hour one on one.
“with Art there is no out of bounds, no limits…"
Having watched clips of May’s previous performances and sitting through most of his set tonight, the first question I have to ask is if there are any topics that are considered “out of bounds”, subjects May will not discuss on stage. To this, May laughs and responds “did you see the show?”Question answered. Taking a moment to pause, he then elaborates “with art there is no out of bounds, no limits… comedians are the least though of art. They are only alive while they are on stage but when they leave, their words evaporate”, his words hanging in the air for a moment.
Switching gears, I ask May if the economy has affected him as a comedian. Is there is more pressure to make people laugh as they are spending their hard earned and often hard to come by disposable income to come out and watch his show? “Of course I feel more pressure now because of the state of the economy.
There are so many other forms of entertainment people could choose to spend their money on - bars, restaurants, movies…I feel more responsible to give them more for their money”. May insists that regardless of his fame he wants to be like and appeal to regular people, keeping his ticket prices down so his fans can attend even during tough times.
“I don’t want to be the source of anyone’s misery” May continues, citing Garth Brooks as his inspiration to keep prices down, Brooks often plays at large venues so he can accommodate more fans and therefore keep ticket prices low. Packing the club for his performance tonight, it is clear May’s philosophy is paying off. Keeping people laughing while making them think? It’s a two for one deal even the most recession conscious can indulge in.
The lights dim and I can’t help but wonder who’s more nervous as I sit and wait for the show at the San Jose IMPROV Comedy Club to begin. Is it me or Florida comedian Ricky Cruz, the opening act for comedy headliner Ralpie May? After all, as Cruz explains to me later, as the opener it is his job to “get the crowd from zero to laughing” before the headliner (May), hits the stage. Being new to comedy and reporting for San Jose Fashion Week, I can’t help but to take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy the show.
When I ask what his definition of a successful set is, Cruz explains, “ the most rewarding thing is making people laugh…before I go out on stage, I tell myself to relax and have fun and that’s what I want my audience to do”, Cruz’s ultimate goal to provide the audience the comic relief they are looking for. On the contrary, I want to know how Cruz feels after a less than successful night and I can’t help but notice his enthusiasm fade a little, “bombing is the worst, especially if you see the people outside of the club later on, it’s like they don’t like you as a person.
When comedy pays for health insurance- that’s when I’ve made it
But bombing also provides the most growth, you think about what you could have done better”. For the record, Cruz did anything but bomb Friday night, getting the crowd not only to sing along with him in the middle of his set- hello chorus line but also uncovering the cougar dates son’s high school friend scenario in the front row- genius! When I ask Cruz if he thinks he’s made it, he chuckles and replies “I’ve made it when I’m the headliner, not the opener. When comedy pays for health insurance- that’s when I’ve made it”.
Knowing he wanted to be a comedian at the age of nine, May first hit the stage at 13. At 17, May became a professional comedian, performing at his first paid show and hasn’t looked back since. When asking him about his definition of a success, he gives the answer of every funny man “to make people laugh” before going further to say “to make people think, to go to that uncomfortable place…I want to be the voice of the people, and you wouldn’t be laughing at what I was saying if it wasn’t true” his point well taken.
“If you want to get rid of the word, you have to use it”
With the crowd holding their sides the entire night, while discussing typically touchy subjects- racism, homosexuality, politics, and weight- mostly his own, May is a strong advocate that racial sensitivity and political correctness are dumb. “Negative words reflect poorly about the people that say them, not on you” May insists, urging people not to take offense to words used by others and instead take themselves a little less seriously, one of his motives in using such politically charged words. May insists “If you want to get rid of the word, you have to use it”, and use it he does.
As we hear Cruz hit the stage again- there’s another show at 10pm, I thank May for his time, take a few pictures, and give him a few moments of peace before he leaves to capture the attention of his new audience. The Art of Comedy- informative, inspirational, and as long as May is running the show- affordable.