You will hear a lot of Ralphie May stories in the next few days, I’m sure. Ralphie and I go back nearly twenty years. We shared the stage together a million times as I was coming up. He played the club I owned a million times too. When I shut it down and went out on the road, Ralphie was right there. I toured with him for a good year.
Back when my club first opened, I scheduled Ralphie for the opening weekend. I booked him in April for the August 1st opening. He called me once around May to tell me he booked a little show called Last Comic Standing. “The show probably won’t do anything, but maybe you can at least use it to promote a little.”
Cut to the end of July when LCS was wrapping. I had somehow, in the most random of accidents, managed to book him on the weekend between when NBC aired the finals and when they announced the winner. Any comedian can tell you that you won’t ever have a more bookable week than that in your life. Everybody wanted him at their venue that week.
I expected a cancellation, obviously, and more so when I couldn’t get Ralphie on the phone.
He called me back a few days later. “Hey pal. Just wanted to let you know I’m still in. I wouldn’t bail like that. And I don’t want any more money either. I told you I’d do it for a grand, I’m gonna do it for a grand. I want this club to work for you”
That is the Ralphie I know.
The Ralphie who made fun of my crappy earbuds while we were waiting for a flight. The one who then wandered off to one of those airport kiosks a few minutes later and came back with a new pair of Beats. “Because you’re a good friend,” he said.
I’ve got decades of stories. Hours of phone conversations. The time he took me to eat sushi with him and Butterbean. The time he made me pick up the tab because my ex stole my motorcycle, showed up and crashed our lunch. That time we shared a dressing room with The Temptations.
I’m sitting on my couch listening to my phone beep and ring incessantly right now, and the truth is I don’t want to talk about it. I’m just wrecked that my friend is gone.
He was a crowd-destroying monster on stage, but he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. I feel lucky to have been let inside his world, for the good things and the bad.
I love you, bud. Thank you for all of it.