After Ralphie May lost out in the finals of NBC’s reality show “Last Comic Standing” in 2003, it was widely agreed that the XL-sized comic “was robbed” of the No. 1 slot.
His fans should thus feel vindicated that May recently filmed a 90-minute special for Comedy Central — called “Austin-Tatious” because it was shot at the historic Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas — that will air this fall.
The show is May’s third for the comedy network. His last special, which aired in November, beat out ratings for Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White’s specials on the net’s Blue Collar Weekend.
Despite his blue-collar trappings — May was born in Tennessee, went to college in Arkansas (where, at 17, he won a college radio contest whose prize was to open for Sam Kinison) and makes jokes about white trash (which he prefers to call “bipolar”) — he resists being categorized with the Blue Collar posse.
“What those guys did was great, they’re leviathans in standup,” May says. “Why would I want to do what they did? Mooch off their success?”
May’s humor and his audience are broader than the red-state crowd.
African-Americans, Latinos and the pope are all targets for May’s sharp-tongued, wise-ass remarks, and his sold-out shows draw a similarly diverse crowd.
“You’d think my shows would be filled up with people that reflect me: white and fat,” he observes. “But my audience is black, Latino, young people, college students, people in their 60s and 70s.” The reason, May says, is that “I’m an equal-opportunity offender.”
May caters to a generation that he describes as “post-racial” — a demo that includes people like himself, a Southerner who’s voting for Barack Obama and who likes Hank Williams as much as Snoop Dogg (whom May counts as a friend).
If you work with them, a mullet wearer “will come and take the tobacco right out of your hand,” joked May during a standup gig caputered and presented by Comedy Central. The comic’s fellow Southerners are frequent targets in his material, along with pretty much everyone else.