Comedian Ralphie May enchants Orlando crowd with wise words
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 16:01
Ralphie May, a 39-year-old comedian known for pushing 400 pounds, shared more than his usual vulgar routine with the audience at Orlando Improv on Jan. 7. Never one to shy away from sensitive subjects, May told jokes about everything from race to sexism and politics to equality, not to mention his recent brush with death.
According to an article from the Tampa Bay Times, May began to feel sick after he was treated for a kidney stone at a hospital in New York. On Oct. 23, 2011, he was booked to perform as the headlining act on a cruise ship.
Before going, May visited a clinic where he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. The doctors gave him antibiotics, an inhaler and told him to set sail — a decision May regrets as he found himself in the ship's infirmary three days later.
Once he arrived back on land, May was told that he had bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia; he had also developed blood clots. After blood thinner, painkillers and and a nine-day intensive-care stay, May was finally released. He lost 40 pounds.
The first hour of May's routine at the Orlando Improv was about this experience and what it taught him. Not only was he able to see the humor in the seriously grim situation, but he also encouraged his audience to remember the ones who have always been there for them.
"I have a neighbor that I call Gay Tony and even though I may joke around about him, that man was calling me every day I was in the hospital," May said. "He kept promising to fly down from Los Angeles and help my wife take care of the kids if I didn't get better. That man called me every day, and my own brother never called me once."
Although every family has its problems, May expressed his gratitude for his immediate family: his wife of 13 years, Lahna Turner, and their two children, daughter April June, 4, and son August James, 2.
Turner opened for May's act, playing songs like "A Duet Between Helen Keller and Anne Frank" with her guitar and joking about being with a larger man.
"Yeah, he's definitely the elephant in the room. Don't give me that look – he's my husband, I can say it," Turner said to an amused audience.
May has just finished taping his newest special, Too Big To Ignore, which will premiere on March 4 on Comedy Central. This follows up his other specials, including Ralphie May: Prime Cut and Girth of a Nation, according to his biography on the Orlando Improv website.
Some of May's other accomplishments include being the first comedian in 10 years to receive a standing ovation on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and being the only white comedian to perform on The Big Black Comedy Show.
May told the crowd about a particularly intense night at the hospital where doctors put him on medication that would eventually save his life, but also took six hours to take effect. In those six hours, May said he thought he was laying on his deathbed and remembered how people say that a person's life flashes before their eyes when they are about to die.
May shared that it's not the good times that he remembered, but the regrets. He remembered missing a sonogram because of a show he had to do in Chicago. He remembered missing birthdays and soccer games while being on tour. He remembered having to watch a video of his child's first steps.
"It's the regrets that flash in front of your eyes, not the good times," May said. "So if you've got people in your life that you care about, and maybe you haven't told them in awhile, tell them you love them. Grudges and fights aren't worth it. Put the hate in your back pocket, people. Life's too short."
And May, once again, brought the audience members to their feet.