Ray Harrington has had a busy two years. After winning Portland’s Funniest Professional 2010, the Bangor-bred comedian quit his job and took his unique style of comedy to the glitz and glamour of the big city: Worcester, MA. He’s toured all over the country, and even did a mini-tour in London last year. Pretty impressive, especially considering he’s only been doing standup comedy for four years. I know what you’re thinking–who is this overachiever making a name of himself in the comedy world in just four short years? As a professional slacker, I pretty much hated him right off the bat. And how’s this for a mind fuck: I hated him even more when I spoke to Ray and discovered he’s actually difficult to hate as he’s a genuinely cool guy, despite his extensive knowledge on the horror that is Honey Boo Boo Child.
So how did he finagle his way up the “comedy ladder,” if you will, in such a short time? Sleep his way to the top? I assumed the same thing. But I think it might be that he’s got a wicked, if not slightly dark, sense of humor. Also, his ability to “take the leap” into a full-time comedy career made way for his current success. After both working and doing comedy in Worcester, his wife got a job offer in Rhode Island. The couple discussed the possibilities (because that’s what married people do): either Ray get another job in Rhode Island and try to balance it with comedy, or he would do comedy full time. They chose the (riskier) latter. “At first it was really, really tough.” Ray told me, “not a lot of money coming in.”
Despite financial stress, the risk eventually paid off. For about a year, they were broke. Doing comedy in Boston at first seemed like a logical move, but Ray soon realized the expensive drive to the city wasn’t worth it, especially as he found little paid work there. Luckily, Ray heard about another comedy contest, this time in Rhode Island, rather than Maine. He entered and won. With two contest wins under his belt, it seemed this full-time comedy thing might just work. Working his way around Rhode Island, he found he really clicked at the Rhode Island Comedy Connection. He soon was hosting, then featuring. He cites the Rhode Island Comedy Connection as the first place to give him a headlining weekend. Now, when Ray isn’t touring, he takes up residence in Warwick, RI, which, according to Ray, “is a lot better than Worcester. There are beaches here. More beaches and less crack.” He paused, and though this interview was over the phone, I imagine he wore a reflective expression on his face, “the bulk of this interview probably shouldn’t be ‘Worcester’s a shit hole.’” Noted.
In 2012, Ray was invited to Las Vegas for the World Series of Comedy. And last October, he and his wife went to England on vacation. Though it was just for two weeks, Ray didn’t want to take that much time off from comedy. “I love British humor. There are so many great British comics that no one’s ever heard of, breaking the mould, and I really wanted to get up and be in that.” So, like a crazy person, he decided to work on his vacation. He emailed and called clubs, and soon enough, he was doing a little mini-headlining tour while in London. “I basically paid for the trip tellings jokes,” he said.
Aside from his global takeover, Ray’s been busy with the 2012 Providence 48 Film Project Best Film winner, Relax. The owner of the RI Comedy Connection put together a team for this year’s festival and along with fellow comic Derek Furtado, Ray wrote the short film for the contest. While the script was done, the casting posed a problem. They didn’t have a star. “[The script] kind of went around with a little circle of people and we were like ‘alright, who’s gonna get to play this guy?’ and they all started pointing at me and I was just like ‘oh God…alright.’” For those who haven’t seen the film, Ray stars as a perhaps unhinged and socially awkward man who is told by his therapist to go on a vacation. To relax. This writer won’t give anything away, but the film is bizarre, slightly disturbing, and wickedly funny, as only a film starring a 6’7″ man wearing a fanny pack and riding a scooter can be. “I try very hard not to look the way I looked in that short,” he told me between laughs, “and to walk around Newport, RI which is very touristy, on a Saturday in the summer around all these beautiful looking people, wearing a fanny pack…is tricky.”
The fanny pack struck a chord apparently, because not only did the short win Best Film, but it also swept the Best Director award, as well as Best Actor, which Ray got a kick out of: “I think it’s funny because I had no dialogue until the very end and that was just made up on the spot and my whole reason for being was not to react to anything [in that short], so to win Best Actor for NOT acting was kind of fun.”
While he may be an international sensation/short film star now, he will be making an appeareance in Maine very soon. He’s returning to his homestate for a two-night affair, Friday, September 7th and Saturday, September 8th, where he’ll be recording his first comedy album at the Comedy Connection in Portland. He felt the Comedy Connection was the right venue for the occasion. “I kind of came up in the Portland Comedy Connection,” he said, “that was my first professional gig, hosting there. And to come through that in a pretty short amount of time is pretty exciting. I love that club.”
What’s next for Ray Harrington? Well, it seems like this album is the next big thing on his plate. After that, he told me he has aspirations of doing a one-man show musical based on the TLC reality series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child. I would like to say he was making a joke, but given all the intimate details he knew about that disasterous family’s life (he did the math and revealed to me that Honey Boo Boo was conceived when her mother, Ma-ma, was only 15, and the father, Sugar Bear, was a 23-year-old adult), I think he might be very serious. Until then, he’s continuing to do comedy throughout the states. And if for some reason (you run out of clean underwear, spontaneous combustion, etc.) you can’t make it to his Comedy Connection shows, he’ll be back in Maine a few weeks later, doing a mini-college tour with gigs at University of Maine Fort Kent, Husson College, and Unity College.
Check out the promo for his upcoming Comedy Connection shows below.