Day 4: Ray Romano

As I’m doing each day this month, today I’m passing on a stand up set that I like. Starting off this weekend is a classic: From May 1995, this is Ray Romano’s first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Fun fact: Letterman offered to produce a TV show with Ray right after he saw this set. (Hint: Everybody loved it.) Here’s what, as a comic, I like so much about it:

• THE HIDDEN PUNCHLINE. On two separate occasions — the cookie joke and the baby joke — Ray tells a joke where we’re given a great punchline and we think it’s over. But in each of these, the real punchline comes after. By making the crowd think the joke is finished with the first punchline, he gets their guard to go down and when he hits them with the second (and real) punchline, they erupt in laughter.

• THE VOICE. As a stand up comic, the only instrument you have on stage is your voice. So learning how to play it well really enhances the act. Ray has a unique voice already, but he leans into words (“LINGual”) so that he can boost its comedic impact. Apart from the material, the cadence itself gets us to laugh.

• FAMILY MATERIAL. This set turns 24 this year. But if Ray went up today, he could still deliver the same material and it wouldn’t feel outdated. Why? Because Ray’s able to mine a topic that will forever be relevant: family life. And instead of making blanket observations, he draws from his own experience so that he’s still able to discover new paths on otherwise treaded ground.

Hope you enjoyed, and you can also check out Ray’s comedy special on Netflix.