Mark Anthony Ramirez
Past, Present, and Ice cream
Published on August 3rd, 2015 | by Free Standup NYC
Q&A with: Mark Anthony Ramirez and Andrew Bayroff
I’ve known you for a few years now, and if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you have a serious family background. Give us a break down of your background and family.
According to Donald Trump I’m a very rapey Latino from the projects. According to actual research, family stories, photos, orgy logs, photos and oil paintings. I am in the simplest of terms, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Fillipino, Irish, Scottish, Spanish Jew (before the inquisition) Egyptian and African. Thing is there is a lot more to this. I am also Native American.
I come from a long line of horny pirates, is basically it. My grandfather and his brothers were world travelers and are also spread out all over the world. Personally, I consider myself American, members of my family have been here since before the American revolution, and fought in the American revolution. Many settled throughout the world. Mostly, I am human and a member of the human race. Only mostly human, there are some parts deity… (joke)
That being said, how has your, let’s say, “rich history”, molded and crafted, influenced, your comedy?
M.A.R.: I think it has given me the ability to discuss race openly and honestly. Plus it doesn’t hurt that I grew up in a predominately White (Irish, German, Jewish) projects in NYC, the most ethnically diverse city in the world. I have dealt with my fair share of racism in my life but, at an early age, I learned that it was taught and not something people are born being. So I believe it allows me to connect with any audience because I have an understanding of how racial relationships work. I just don’t care about race or ethnicity in the end because I connect on a human level. Connecting with audiences is far easier than comics realize. To answer your question simply, being very ethnically diverse allows me to have a universal appeal, understanding, and the ability to connect with all people. Being multiracial I believe humanizes me for all audiences.
Where did you get your start in stand up? Who were some of your contemporaries at the time?
The first time I performed was at Stand Up New York on a show produced by the very funny and multi talented Sean Lynch, he gave me my start as did the original owner of Stand up NY, Cary Hoffman. Then I started hitting the few mics we had in town then, like the New York Comedy Club Mic on Mondays where I met a lot of comics, like Mark DeMayo, and others. There was also the mic at Hamburger Harry’s run by Gladys, that you would get to meet folks like Jim Gaffigan, who was just starting to gain recognition at the time.
I have been friendly to everyone I have ever met during my time as a comic. I am not a clique guy, never have been, never will be. I have been blessed to spend time with, and be friendly with, many amazing stand up comedians and talented people throughout the years. Some who started way before me, and some who started after. My favorites to run into and talk shop with are and have been (just to name a few), Colin Quinn, Gregg Rogell, Godfrey, Greer Barnes, Ardie Fuqua, Patrice O’Neal, Geno Besconte, Gina Brillon, Big Jay Oakerson, Russ Meneve, Leah Bonnema, Julia Kottakis, Ted Alexandro, Dante Nero, Mark Demayo, Sean Lynch, Dustin Chaffin, Marina Franklin, Paul Mercurio, Nick Ruggia, Mike Vecchione, Mike Cannon, Samantha Bednarz, Drew Dowdey, Dave Lester, Ryan Hoffman, Harris Stanton, Selena Coppock, DC Benny, Tony Woods, and this list could go on and on and on. I get warm and fuzzy when I see folks I enjoy chatting with or that I have seen over the years.
Personally I think people have not realized that socializing doesn’t come naturally for me, I had to learn to be more social (I still struggle with it). I am also a big guy and kind of scary looking so it has been difficult at times to create and maintain friendships because for many years I have not been comfortable in my own skin. It takes time to get that, especially when you’re naturally shy, and an introvert. I am also not big on asking others for help, which was a detrimental to my career at times. I was raised to take care of myself, my family and that a dollar in my pocket is my best friend.
What is your take on political correctness and does it have any room in stand up?
I have always believed you can talk about anything you want on stage as long as it is funny. Comedy isn’t about, “please like me”, it is about connection. You do not always have to be liked, to be funny. You have to be honest with yourself and the audience. After 18 years, I have seen a change in audiences, they’re more sensitive in some ways, millennials are far more sensitive than their parents generation, in some good ways and in some terrible ways.
This generation has been plugged in all their lives and they are over informed and most times poorly informed because all media is agenda based. It is all about numbers: numbers of hits, number of clicks, number of comments, likes, shares, etc. People are making millions based off of things being sensationalized. So you have some folks creating, fabricating an agenda or many agendas knowing there will be a huge reaction thus creating outrage and clicks and revenue.
The masses are much more easily and quickly manipulated. You add that to a porous educational system and you have more emotionally sensitive people running around with no clue how to deal with those emotions or use their intellect to think things through or realize that sometimes, it’s just a joke.
Me, I will say whatever I want, when I want, how I want. No one ever apologized in the midst of conquering; they send a gift basket and a note once they’re done.
What is your take on Last Comic Standing?
I was blessed to meet Jerry Seinfeld once in 1999. He saw my set and liked it. What he said to me is important. Jerry said, “there is no competition in comedy, it is you against yourself. You’re either your own best friend or your own worst enemy. I do not like or believe in comedy competitions of any kind. There is usually an agenda, or several favorites all pre picked based on connections and politics. If I wanted to deal with politics I would have run for office. My job is to be funny, not compete. I can only compete against myself which is what I do.”
Seriously, how does Rich Vos not win Last Comic standing? I’ve met Dat Fan, sweet guy, great guy, funny guy, but, no way was he at the time a better or funnier comic than Rich Vos.
I took part in one comedy competition and it and it was rife with politics and agendas. Though I was very happy for the two finalists and that I made it into the top three, I knew it was BS and that made me sad not for me but, for the industry.
Do you see yourself as an ethnic comic, or a comic that happens to be ethnic?
M.A.R. I am a comic, I do not use ethnicity, nor have I done many ethnic shows. I won’t even audition for any diversity shows because I know I am not what they’re looking for, and nor do they have the courage to put me out there because I will not play up a stereotype to get laughs. I will discuss ethnicity based on my experiences and personal beliefs but, I am not into buffoonery or, doing a dance.
I am just Mark Anthony Ramirez, also I think it is time for all shows to just be diverse. When I got started there were only a few shows out there that had ethnically diverse lineups every night. Oh you would get one or two black comics and almost no comics with Latino last names on regular nightly shows.
I was out there every night pushing to get up on regular shows, which I started to achieve. I ate a lot of checks, I didn’t care. I was humble and respectful of paying my dues and working hard. I also dealt with racism and was punished for getting funnier and getting up on regular show line ups. I do not fit a mold, nor was I trying to. I just love the art form, the craft, writing, performing and I love all the people I have been blessed to have met and still meet.
I still pay attention to the line ups and they’re getting more diverse but, only for a certain type of looking comics. (I said it and here comes the shit) Let’s just call the look “safe” and leave it at that. If you want more, we can sit down and discuss that. (that is a whole other interview) Also anyone that thinks I am bitter in anyway, stop projecting (lol), I have no bitterness, I love and respect comedy, and comics so much, it is insane, I keep hoping for a group cuddle.
Do you have regrets where comedy is concerned? Or is the past the past, and it’s made you the comic you are today?’
No regrets, I just wish I would have accepted the help offered to me at different times. I do not believe in regrets, I just believe you live and you learn. Also when you ask about regrets, I wonder what kind of regrets? There are many different kinds to which I have none.
How do you see the state of stand up comedy? Not enough talent being recognized?
I think it has changed a lot since I first got started. Who am I to say there are too many people “trying to be comics” Trying being the operative word but, how many are successfully being comics is what I am concerned with, especially for myself.
If someone wants to try being a comic, great go for it but, but realize that it takes a lot of work to be a working comic and years!! I mean unless your family or friends are connected and you do not have to worry about things like paying your own bills. There are many variables and it has gotten interesting for me to observe. There was an article recently in a British paper about how many of the older actors are finding the acting, comedy, and arts in general, becoming the playground for the children of the wealthy or connected. This is also very true here in the U.S. as well and is becoming truer by the day. Thing is, not to worry about such things, just focus on being the best you can be.
Sadly, in a sense, it has become a thing of, “Hey I killed at my cousins birthday party, at the wedding, or I lost my job, I am such a card maybe I should try stand up. I will take a comedy class and end up on some comedy competition and win it all and be the next Seinfeld or, Carlin.” Most just end up doing backroom bar shows or produced shows or mics. Let’s just say I have seen more mental break downs, people coming out of the closet, more free therapy sessions in the last ten years than at any other time in my career. No jokes, just therapy sessions and admissions.
Lastly the Alt scene changed the game a lot and Bill Burr had a great rant on his podcast about it. Look it up and enjoy.
I’m a Mint Chip ice cream man myself, what’s your favorite dessert?
I like vanilla and chocolate ice cream. I also love cheese cake. Thing is I am getting into healthier eating habits and working out so I tend not to enjoy those things as often as I would like. My 5 year old loves Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and tries to force feed me some every time we spend time together.
How were these questions? Could I have done a better job?
The questions were great, we can always do a better job or we always think of things we could have done or asked later on. I think this has been a great interview and that you’re a very talented person. I am just honored you chose to ask me and include me. I really appreciate it! Wishing you the best always!
"Comedy isn’t about, “please
like me”, it is about connection. You do not always have to be liked, to be funny.