Comedian Ralphie May will say pretty much anything. As he puts it: "I'm an equal opportunity offender. I'm politically incorrect, I'm racially insensitive and I'm culturally controversial. Pretty much, I'm the finger in their ass. Uncomfortable at first, but then they grow to enjoy it."
See what I mean?
The 392-pound May, whose TV appearances on NBC's first Last Comic Standing in 2003-'04 and Celebrity Fit Club in 2005 brought him national attention, doesn't stop there. Whether talking about his hometown of Clarksville, Ark. ("a shit town"), coming in second on Last Comic Standing, his fractured relationship with Bob and Tom or what President Obama means for black people, he's going to tell you what he thinks.
May turns 37 on Feb. 1. If he's mellowed at all after 19 years on the road, it's only because he and his wife, comic Lahna Turner, had their first child 16 months ago. And they have another due in June.
But as you'll see from this conversation, he hasn't mellowed much.
NUVO: How are you doing, weight-wise?
Ralphie May: It's still coming off. It's not coming off as fast as I want it to. I got hamstrung a little bit - almost literally. I got this thing called plantar fasciitis, and it's one of the most excruciatingly painful things I've ever dealt with. It's where the plantar fascia tendon is ripping away from the heel bone, and it hurts. I've had surgeries and I'm trying to work around it to get more weight off it. As my wife said, "It's because you're fat," and my response is, "Hey, I'm equally fat on both feet. Only one of them hurts."
NUVO: You didn't really peak at 800 pounds, did you?
RM: Yeah, I kinda did. I'm not real happy about that, I'm not proud of it. But I had no idea I was that big. I simply didn't. I wasn't one of these guys who sits around and says, "Boo hoo, it's all glandular" and cleans himself with a sponge on a stick. I was telling jokes, I was dating girls, I was hanging out, goofing off. I didn't have a problem with it.
When finally we had enough money to pay for [bariatric] surgery, I went to the doctor and the first scale wouldn't work. They put me on another scale and it flashes 760 - and that's as high as it goes. I had no idea.
NUVO: So you never felt bad or sick?
RM: No. And I'm an odd fat guy. The reason I'm working so hard [to lose weight] is, I don't have a lot of fat maladies now. I don't have high blood pressure yet. I don't have high cholesterol yet. I don't have diabetes yet. So I want to curb all those while I have a chance. This week, I had to put my wedding ring on a chain I wear around my neck because it kept falling off my hand. I guess that's a good sign. I'm 392. I lost a whole fat man - and I'm still fat as hell.
NUVO: What's worse: being 800 pounds or losing to Dat Phan on Last Comic Standing?
RM: Definitely being 800 pounds. Dat didn't even mean to win. He didn't know how he did it. He was manufactured. NBC manufactured him. But after a year of going all around the country and then realizing that nobody wanted to work with him again, he found out there's no shortcut to the top of the mountain. He had to go back to the beginning.
Now he's working around the country with a guy named Jake Johannsen, who's brilliant. So he's learning comedy from one of the best. He's learning how to be a headliner. There's no shortcut for anybody. I actually expect great things from him because he's got a lot of heart.
NUVO: Did Last Comic Standing help you?
RM: Oh man, without a doubt. I got the opportunity to perform in front of new audiences and new people. I really wanted to make the guy laugh who was coming home from repairing transmissions or tarring roofs or something and just wanted to drink a cold beer and watch something that made him laugh. I have Jay Mohr to thank and NBC to thank.
I'm a very fortunate man to be in the right place at the right time. But the truth is, nobody would have known if my then-girlfriend hadn't given me the money to get the flight for the audition.
NUVO: Where were you?
RM: We were working in Hawaii and Jay called me two days before the audition and said, "Hey, I need you to come to L.A. and audition for the show Last Comic Standing." I'm like, "Audition? Just put me on it." He goes, "I can't. NBC's being a little weird about this. Everything has to be above board."
I panicked and went online. The only flight I could get was a redeye and it cost $800. Our rent was $1,100, so this was a huge, huge thing. I didn't have a credit card; I'd been turned down for a grocery store card. I had bad credit and I had no way of making it happen. My girlfriend put it on her credit card. She believed in me, she told me to go get it. I went and got it.
When I did the audition, they gave me three minutes and they stopped me in a minute, minute and a half. I was pissed. They said, "You don't understand. You're moving on to the next round." I was still bitching.
That was on a Friday. I flew back to Hawaii to finish out the week. On Tuesday, we did the next round of auditions. Wednesday I was in Vegas. By Friday of the next week, I was in the house shooting the TV show. It literally happened that fast.
NUVO: Have you watched subsequent seasons?
NUVO: How's fatherhood?
RM: I love it. I love being a daddy. She's sleeping right now. We have another baby on the way. It's so much more than I ever thought it would be. It's harder on my wife than it is on me because she's the primary caregiver. This is the first time in 20 years that comedy's actually felt like work. Leaving my wife and child really is difficult. It actually hurts to where I have no enthusiasm to even pack. I just want to stay at home and be with my baby and my wife.
This next baby, they think it's a boy. I might have put a stem on this one. And everybody's saying, "I bet you're excited. I bet you want to have a boy." If I had another girl that's half as good as the one I've got, I'd be a blessed man.
NUVO: Is this the first time you've played Indianapolis?
RM: It's the first time because I couldn't do Bob and Tom. Bob and Tom hate my guts, and the feeling is mutual. I did an interview with them in 2003. The day before, they had me submit my material. I submitted it, and they wanted me there at 6:30 in the morning. I got there at 6:30 and I didn't go on until 9:15. I had to blow off two other radio interviews to do that one. I get in there, I do my stuff and they go, "It's not that funny." I go, "Y'all are wrong. That's the set that got me a standing-O on Last Comic Standing."
My pride might have gotten in the way, and I might have been kind of a dick. But they were really assholes. It's a mutual hate-hate. I don't care for them, they don't care for me.
But I've gotta be honest with you: They do a lot of great things for a lot of comedians. I'm really proud of what they do for a lot of good guys. Guys who need a break, guys who need help. My buddy Greg Warren, he's phenomenal. Drew Hastings was always great in Los Angeles but couldn't buy a cup of coffee in that fucking town. He leaves L.A. in disgust and boom! Bob and Tom put him on and they blow him up. Now he's got all his bills paid, he's got a big farm in Ohio, he's doing great. Another great comic is Bob Zany. They've helped him out a ton.
So they do a lot of great work for a lot of great comedians. But we just did not gel at all. I'd be wiling to bury the hatchet and be on - and we could talk about it if they wanted to. But I don't think they're man enough to put their egos in their back pocket. Let's find out, shall we?
NUVO: Do you have a new joke you'd like to share?
RM: I was talking about Barack Obama. First of all, I didn't know he was black until mid-March of last year. I really didn't. I thought he was Puerto Rican. I thought, "Boy, this Puerto Rican is bad to the bone, Jack. He speaks eloquent, you know?" Obama sounds Spanish, like "Como se llama, Obama?" I thought we were about to get us an el presidente.
But now that he's the 44th president, some things changed. Like black people have to show up on time. I'm sorry, black people. They can't bitch about the man keeping them down when they're the man. And last but not least, they have to start tipping. Black people, you had a good run. You went 40 years saving the 15 percent gratuity. That's gotta save your race billions of dollars. I get it. But now, you've gotta tip 15 to 20 percent.
The way I look at it, Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could march, so Barack could run, so those cheap motherfuckers could pay 20 percent.
NUVO: How can you get away with saying that?
RM: It's true, first of all. Black, white and brown - everybody knows black people don't tip. That's number one. Number two, I say it with no malice and no trepidation. There's no shaking in my confidence. If it's true, it's true. Even black people will give it up to you if it's true. When you're right, you're right. As long as it's true, you can pretty much get away with saying anything racial that you want. You can't have it both ways. You can't boast about the stereotype of having a big dick and not take the negative stereotypes as well.