Ray Romano

Ray Romano, PBS Pioneers of TelevisionEmmy-award winning actor Ray Romano grew up in Queens, the middle son of a middle class Italian-American family. As a teenager in the 1970s, Romano was obsessed with Saturday Night Live and began organizing comedy shows in the basement of a local church. It was his first taste of the life of a comic.

“We wrote our own sketches, we did our own props, we did our own make up,” remembered Romano. “It was a success for us. We heard laughs. That was really where I got the bug.”

Despite this initial success, however, Romano’s comedy career didn’t take off as quickly as he had hoped. A few years after those church basement laughs, he found himself working as an accountant and living in his parents’ basement, unable to support himself with his true love, standup comedy. Hard work, persistence and a dogged pursuit of his passion eventually paid off, and after six years in the business, Romano graduated to television specials and late night talk shows. After one particularly successful spot on David Letterman’s Late Show, the phone call finally came – it was CBS, and they wanted Romano for a new sitcom.

The resulting family comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond, premiered in 1996 and enjoyed consistent critical and popular success throughout its nine seasons. Romano’s onscreen family, the Barones, mirrored his off-screen one – a loving wife, daughter, twin sons and a close-knit Italian-American extended family.

Ray’s Dramatic Side

After Everybody Loves Raymond ended its run, Romano went on to expand his acting chops, co-creating and starring in TNT’s Men of a Certain Age in 2010 and later taking on a reoccurring supporting role on NBC’s family drama, Parenthood. Though he might not have envisioned his career taking dramatic turn, Romano embraced the diversification with typical nonchalance.

“Under every comedian there’s a lot of angst in there. There’s a lot of stuff he’s working out,” shrugged Romano. “So why not work it out through drama also? Get to kiss a few women.”