66 Trivia Tidbits About Ray Romano on His 66th Birthday

He would rather be on the Jersey Shore than Italy
66 Trivia Tidbits About Ray Romano on His 66th Birthday

As far as comedians-turned-sitcom-stars go, Ray Romano’s career has probably been the most interesting. With Everybody Loves Raymond, he had a hit comedy, but rather than rest on his laurels after the series ended, Romano challenged himself with increasingly dramatic roles. He starred in series like VinylGet Shorty and Men of a Certain Age and got into films like The Big SickThe Irishman and Welcome to Mooseport.

Okay, maybe the less said about Welcome to Mooseport, the better, but the man has done an exceptional amount of interesting work, so to celebrate him on his 66th birthday, here are 66 trivia tidbits about Ray Romano.

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King of Queens

Romano was born in Queens, New York on December 21, 1957. 

Where’s the Third Barone Brother?

While much of Everybody Loves Raymond was autobiographical, Romano’s real parents' names were Lucie and Albert, not Marie and Frank. Like his fictional counterpart, he did have an older brother in the NYPD, but he also had a younger brother who is a New York City school teacher, whereas the fictional Barones had only two sons.

Ray’s Nanny

Romano was in the same graduating class as Fran Drescher.

This Tastes Funny

When he was young, Romano and a few other neighborhood teens put on sketches once a month in a church basement. He described this as his “first taste” of comedy.

College Didn’t Add Up

Romano briefly attended Queens College to study accounting, but dropped out to pursue comedy.

His Start in Comedy

He began doing stand-up in his 20s by going to an audition at The Improv in New York. 

Everybody Loves Jackie Roberts

His first time on stage he went by the name “Jackie Roberts,” but it wasn’t because he didn’t want to use his real name. During his audition at The Improv, he brought along a friend so that both of them could draw numbers from a hat for him, doubling his chances of appearing onstage. While Romano’s number wasn’t called, his friend’s was — under the name “Jackie Roberts.” Romano did his set as Jackie Roberts, and he did so well he was asked to return. He performed as Jackie Roberts for several months before telling The Improv he was dropping that “stage name” and going back to his real name.

He Played a Cop Once

It was in 1990, and it was in a short called Caesar’s Salad, which was written and directed by Louis C.K. Todd Barry, Dave Attell, Laura Kightlinger, Caroline Rhea, Jeff Ross and Sarah Silverman were also in the cast.

The Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search

In 1989 and 1990 he appeared in the comedy competition known as the Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search, which helped launch the careers of Steve HarveyCedric the Entertainer and Ellen Cleghorne.

Here’s Johnny!

On November 11, 1991 Romano made his first and only appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Carson retired just six months later.

Then Came Letterman

His next “big” late night appearance was on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1995, which led directly to Everybody Loves Raymond. Letterman thought Romano should star in his own show and went on to produce the CBS sitcom.

A Patient of Dr. Katz

Romano was a regular patient on the first couple of seasons of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Jonathan Katz credited Romano with being pivotal to the show’s development, saying, “Ray Romano was the first guy to really get it in the way we’d usually do the show. We got the idea to have him do his act. We didn’t really want him to interact with a therapist the whole time, we just had him do his act.”

He Could Have Been a Dr. Katz Regular

Dr. Katz co-creator Tom Snyder also offered Romano the chance to be a regular on the series. “Ray was so good that, after a few appearances, I asked him if he wanted to be a regular on the series. He said, ‘I’d love to, but I’m not sure. I’m waiting on something.’ That something was Everybody Loves Raymond,” Snyder has explained.

Meeting Phil Rosenthal

In an interview recounting the development of Everybody Loves RaymondRomano said, “They took me from New York and they had set up 10 meetings with potential showrunners. (Rosenthal was) the second one. But the first guy turned it down! So, I went with Phil.” 

Not a Show About Nothing

Rosenthal has revealed that Romano originally went with someone else because Romano “wanted to do a show about a comedian who sits at the coffee shop and talks with his friends.” Due to the popularity of Seinfeld, Rosenthal wanted to avoid that, so he convinced Romano to do a show about a family.

Rosenthal on Romano

Rosenthal was familiar with Romano because of his appearance on Letterman and he, being a family man, was drawn to Romano’s clean, relatable humor about his own family. Rosenthal has explained that Romano didn’t always have that kind of material, but that having a family changed and focused his act into the Romano we know today. 

Pitching Raymond

Rosenthal explained that “the pitch was ‘You like this guy? The show is gonna be like him.’”

Everybody Loves Raymond

The title of Everybody Loves Raymond came from Romano’s real-life cop brother. When they were developing the series early on, Romano recounted a story to Rosenthal where his envious older brother saw Romano’s CableACE award that he won for Dr. Katz. Romano’s brother picked up the award and said, “It never ends for Raymond. Everybody loves Raymond.” 

A Mirror of Romano’s Life

Rosenthal has said that much of what he was trying to do with developing Everybody Loves Raymond was about making Romano comfortable, as he’d never acted before. That was how the show came to so closely resemble Romano’s real-life, with him having a wife, a daughter and two younger twin sons. Romano’s parents also lived near him and stopped over far too often and his cop brother was divorced and lived with them.

Everybody Loves Phil

Rosenthal has also said that whatever he didn’t know about the Romanos was filled in with elements of his own family. For example, he said Marie Barone was more like his own mother than Romano’s. Rosenthal also said Debra Barone was a bit more like his wife than Romano’s.

Low Low Low Concept

Rosenthal said the meeting where he and Romano went to CBS and pitched the show didn’t impress anyone. “It’s not high-concept, it’s low low low concept and it turns out that low concept is the way to go because that’s where you have the most mileage — you’re not a slave to this ridiculous premise. If you take a simple life and make it interesting enough, you can run for a long time because our lives are running a long time too.”

Nobody Loved Raymond

Everybody Loves Raymond did very poorly in its first season, ranking 84th in the ratings. However, CBS head Les Moonves believed in the show thanks to its great actors and consistent writing, so he stuck with it.

Raymond’s Uphill Climb

After its rocky first season, Everybody Loves Raymond moved up to 33rd place in Season Two, then 10th place in Season Three. After a fourth season dip to 12th place, the show never again left the Top 10.

Madylin, Sullivan and Sawyer Sweeten

The children who played Ray’s kids on the show were actually siblings.

Robert Was Originally a ‘Danny DeVito Type’

Per Brad Garrett, “They wanted kind of like a Danny DeVito type to play Ray’s brother. They wanted someone kind of scrappy, kind of like a bulldog nipping at Ray’s heels all the time. I read it, and I was like, ‘I’d love to be able to play it the other way, to play it as this big, beaten-down guy who’s so used to coming in last he’s just succumbed to the fact that he’s a loser.”

Marie in the Middle

Moonves once told Doris Roberts, who played Ray’s mother, Marie Barone, “You’re the center of it, my dear, there’s no show without you.”

Peter Boyle on Frank

When asked how he was similar to his character of Ray’s father, Frank Barone, Boyle said, “I like to sit and watch basketball on television in my shorts.” He also said he liked it when his wife served him food.

Ray Romano vs. Ray Barone

When asked to compare the real Ray Romano to the fictional Ray Barone, Boyle responded, “Ray Romano is more obsessed than Ray Barone. He’s a perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive a little bit. Ray Barone is a guy who struggles to raise a family and deal with his crazy parents. He’s always the guy in the middle between a lot of warring factions. He’s always the peacemaker.” When asked how the two Rays were similar, Boyle said, “They both have a whiny voice.”

Debra ‘Wasn’t That Interesting’ at First

When Patricia Heaton first read the pilot for Everybody Loves Raymond, she thought the part of Debra “wasn’t that interesting,” but that the pilot was “beautifully written” and that the writers would figure out her character later. They did, as Heaton was nominated for seven Emmys, winning two of them.

Raymond’s Emmys

Romano won a total of three Emmys during his run on Everybody Loves Raymond. One was for acting, and the other two were for producing the series.

All the Gold the Show Took Home

Overall, the series was nominated for 69 Emmys (nice!) and won 15 of them. Three of the wins were for Doris Roberts, three were for Brad Garrett and two were for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Raymond Goes to Italy

In Season Five, the Barones went to Italy. The two-part episode was inspired by a real-life interaction between Romano and Rosenthal where Rosenthal asked Romano why he’s never been to Europe. Romano replied, “I’m not interested in other places,” which inspired Rosenthal to write a story where Ray travels to Italy with that attitude, but eventually changes his mind. Rosenthal called the Italy story “one of my favorite things I’ve ever done on the show.”

Phil Goes Everywhere

The Italy arc also inspired Rosenthal’s travel show Somebody Feed Phil.

Everybody Loves Crossovers

Ray Barone crossed over into other CBS shows, including BeckerThe NannyThe King of Queens and Cosby.

The End of Raymond

When asked about why the show ended with the ninth season, Romano said, “The rest of the cast wanted it to go on, but myself and Phil Rosenthal, we thought it was time.”

The Finale

For it, Rosenthal wanted to provide closure, but he didn’t like how many sitcoms “tear down the foundation of the show” in their finale. “We came into their lives in the middle, what if we left in the middle?” Rosenthal has said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your friends, your family, are still there? We go away, but they’re there.” 

To balance that with a sense of closure, he wanted an episode which “distill(ed) what the series is about.” The finale ended up being an episode where Ray goes in to have surgery for his adenoids, but encounters a brief health scare while under anesthesia, causing everyone to worry and have an outpouring of love for each other.

The Finale Didn’t Overstay Its Welcome Either

It was only a half hour long. Rosenthal refused to have a “bloated” finale like so many other shows.

A Shortened Final Season

The first eight seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond each had the standard network order of 22 episodes or more, but the final season was only 16 episodes. Rosenthal actually wanted just 12 episodes, whereas CBS wanted 18. Sixteen is the number they settled on.

Everybody Loves Russia

Everybody Loves Raymond has been adapted in several other countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, India, Egypt, Israel and Russia. The Russian version, which was explored in the documentary Exporting Raymond, ran for 24 seasons, giving it a total of 552 episodes, or 342 more than the American original.

Departed Cast Members

Since the 2005 finale, three cast members have passed away. Peter Boyle died in 2006, Doris Roberts died in 2016 and Sawyer Sweeten, who played Raymond’s son Geoffrey, died in 2015.

Ray’s Post-Raymond Identity Crisis

After Everybody Loves Raymond ended, Romano said he suffered something of an identity crisis. “It took about three months (after Everybody Loves Raymond ended) until the void just smacked me in the head,” said Romano. “Just this sense of purpose and ‘What now? Where’s my passion now? What’s my direction?’ I had this creative energy going nonstop for nine years, and now it was just this empty kind of identity crisis.”

Traded His Nose for a Trunk

In 2002, Romano first took on the role of Manny the wooly mammoth in the movie Ice Age. He most recently played the character in 2016 for Ice Age: Collision Course.

Still About the Family

When describing the Ice Age films, Romano said they were about “the core factor of family and sticking together and all the problems and joys of having a family. They’re all the same, and that’s what we kind of show in these movies.”

Everybody Hates Mooseport

In 2004, Romano starred in Welcome to Mooseport with Gene Hackman. It bombed at the box office, pulling in just $14 million on a $30 million budget. It being Hackman’s last film,Welcome to Mooseport is often blamed for ending his career.

An Exotic Vacation

Romano loves the Jersey Shore, and he makes sure to go every year.

A Serious Mini-Golfer

In addition to loving golf, Romano loves miniature golf, too. He described himself to Jimmy Kimmel as “a serious mini-golfer.”

Everybody Loves Miley

Romano guest starred as himself on an episode of Hannah Montana.

Men of a Certain Age

In 2009, Romano co-created and starred in the TNT series Men of a Certain Age, which lasted two seasons. Although its run was brief, it did win a Peabody Award.

Write What You Know

When describing Men of a Certain Age, Romano said, “It’s ‘write what you know.’ That’s what’s worked for me in my career, and this is what I know now, the little aches and pains of midlife, physically and spiritually.”

Guest Starring Ray Romano

From 2012 to 2015, he had a recurring role on Parenthood as Hank Rizzoli, the love interest of Lauren Graham’s character.

Romano on ‘Just’ Being an Actor

After writing and starring in both Everybody Loves Raymond and Men of a Certain AgeRomano said Parenthood was refreshing because he didn’t know what was coming with each episode: “You get a script, and it’s like Christmas morning. Sometimes you get coal, but sometimes you’re very pleasantly surprised.”

Ray and Marty, Part One

In 2016, Romano played record executive Zak Yankovich in the short-lived HBO series Vinyl, which was co-created by Martin Scorsese. Romano said he identified with his character’s “inner angst,” which is what drew him to the part.

Ray Who?

Prior to Vinyl, Scorsese had never heard of Romano. Romano, however, believed that this was an asset, as Scorsese had no preconceived notions about who Romano was coming into Vinyl.

His First Time

Romano had his first sex scene on Vinyl. He described the experience as “very weird” and “very stressful.”

A Slow Dramatic Turn

In 2017, Romano appeared in the Judd Apatow-produced comedy/drama The Big Sick. As Romano explained at the time, “I’m trying to dip my toe in the drama pool, little by little.”

Get Shorty

Romano starred in the Epix series Get Shorty for three seasons. While his character had a different name, Romano took on the washed-up producer role that his Welcome to Mooseport co-star Hackman had played in the original 1995 film.

Get Spiky

Romano’s elaborate hairdo in Get Shorty was based on producer Brian Grazer’s hair.

Ray and Marty, Part Two

Romano also appeared in the 2019 Scorsese film The Irishman as Bill Bufalino, the real-life lawyer for the Teamsters from 1947 to 1971. Because of their experience on Vinyl, Scorsese wanted Romano for the part. Regardless, Romano said he was “terrified.”

Romano on De Niro

After his first day shooting with Robert De Niro, Romano called his wife worried that he didn’t do a good job, as neither Scorsese nor De Niro offered any feedback, positive or negative, on his performance. Later that night, at the hotel, De Niro came up to Romano, kissed him on the cheek and left without saying a word. Romano then called his wife and said, “I think I’m okay.”

Back Behind the Mic

In 2019, Romano did a stand-up special for Netflix called Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner. It was his first comedy special in 23 years.

Somewhere in Queens

In 2022, Romano made his directorial debut with the film Somewhere in Queens, which he also co-wrote and starred in. It chronicled a man who was living vicariously through his son’s time playing college basketball.

The Script Took Time

Somewhere in Queens took Romano six years to write.

He May Direct Again

While Romano said directing was stressful, he said he’s open to it again, most likely for another project he writes himself.

More Raymond?

In a recent interview, Romano was asked about a potential reboot of Everybody Loves Raymond, but he said he wasn’t interested. “They’re never as good,” he explained. “And we want to leave with our legacy as what it is.”

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