HBO has a new stand-up special worth checking out from Ricky Velez airing October 23rd. When it comes to comedy, there are a few pillars that have a legacy of leading the industry. Late Night, Saturday Night Live, and the HBO comedy special. Stand-up comedy has seen a resurgence via Netflix, but HBO has supplied some of the most important specials over the last thirty years.
Enter Velez who you might know from The King of Staten Island (which he also produced) and appearances on The Nightly Show and soon from his new special Here’s Everything.
Executive Produced By Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson, the special is Velez’s first special directed and produced by Michael Bonfiglio this past August. It’s a special that touches on Velez’s point of view on fatherhood, ugly babies, drug dealers in the sea, and more from his life.
Lucky enough to speak to Velez about the special, I asked him about its creation, his work with producers Apatow and Davidson, and director/producer Bonfiglio.
AIPT: Stand-up comedy isn’t created overnight. How long have you been cultivating this special?
Ricky Velez: I was just talking about this where I honestly would say since the day I started because the whole thing is a learning experience. And, learning who you are on stage to getting comfortable up there to knowing what you want to talk about. So since I was 19 years old.
AIPT: I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy and I have to say, I love how you carry yourself on stage. You have this cadence and vibe that feels super original and different from anything. I’m curious. Is that something you consciously have built up and worked on? Or is it just you on stage?
RV: I think it’s the most honest version of me. I think it’s where I say f--k it, you know? This is where I’m doing this. This is where I’m safe. This is where I can be who I am. I think that’s where it all comes from. It’s not something I focus on. But being comfortable on stage is probably the most important thing you can do.
AIPT: Are you preparing yourself to have a lot more new friends soon, since you seem so chill and cool to hang out with.
RV: Bro, I stay inside. And people don’t realize that. Like I’m an inside guy. I don’t like it. I have the shades down. It’s like a beautiful day in New York.
AIPT: Have you always been like that?
RV: Um, yeah. I grew up in a neighborhood that my parents either had us in sports, or we were inside. And yeah, there wasn’t like really hanging out off our blocks. Like we had to stay on our block. And yeah, staying home was what we did a lot.
AIPT: With a lot of stand-up comedy, there usually seems to be more time that wasn’t in the special. Was this always a tight 57 or so minutes? Or is there a lot more on the cutting room floor?
RV: We cut one joke.
AIPT: Yeah, that’s tight
RV: Yeah. We cut one joke. You have to understand also when we came back from the pandemic, I waited until I was vaxxed and 14 days out to hit the road. So that gave me a little less than five months. And we booked every weekend and we were moving in a way, pretty militant on stage moving in the way of like, this goes here.
This is better there. I want to close with this. I want to move this… and I was lucky enough to have opened for Aziz [Ansari] and [John] Mulaney and Pete Davidson so I was able to see people going through that process and I learned very quickly that’s the way you go ahead and do it.
AIPT: Under the pandemic, it’s like you had to be tighter and safer and with your time and whatnot.
RV: It was very limited. I loved the Comedy Cellar for it. They let me run time. There were some nights they’re like, “you want to two spots in a row?” That’s 30 minutes then I’d be like “please, yes, please.” And I would just run half my session.
AIPT: How important was it for you to record the special in Brooklyn?
RV: The most important part to me more than anything was that I really wanted to shoot in a place, correctly, with no masks. We shot at Brooklyn Steel, which is a very special place. First of all, it’s the first special that’s ever been shot there. And a few years back my buddy Kevin Barnett passed away tragically. When we did our benefit show, we did it there. And I remembered how much I loved that show. So when I heard it was open, we jumped right on it.
AIPT: With Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson among others like Josh Church all producing, whenever you see those producer credits you wonder what was their involvement? Did they just give you a bag of money? How does that work?
RV: [laughs] No, when it comes to Judd and Pete those two have been my biggest advocate in this business. Pete’s my best friend. He’s probably given me more stage time than any booker, I mean, just opening for him and moving in those ways with him. And then Judd’s been in our lives, me and Pete, but mine especially and really wanted to show me how to be successful in this business. He does like, Jedi stuff, man. Like it’s really wild.
AIPT: When I said earlier that it is a tight 57 minutes I mean it like, I don’t think there’s a bad spot in it.
RV: I remember Daniel Tosh’s first special. He was five minutes in and he was 70 jokes deep. That joke per minute he was doing there was so incredible. And those are the ones I remember. He watched my first five. Those are two brand-new stories that are loaded. And I was just so happy to be able to do the don’t come up for air situation.
AIPT: Stand-up specials on HBO are a pillar of comedy, I’d say like up there with Late Night and SNL. Are there any other pillars you’d like to topple?
RV: Yeah, I want to be a director, I want to produce more, I want to write something, you know. I just feel like I have this opportunity in front of me. I’m going to take every situation I can get. And I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by the best like Judd. He lets me shadow him on set. I stand right next to the director’s chair and just hand him jokes. And we’re talking I mean, I just did it with him and Kate McKinnon. It’s the coolest situation ever and I want to take those tools and put them to work and the next few years.
AIPT: You hear about how Judd gets people working like Kristen Wigg on stuff like Bridesmaids, are you working anything like that for Judd Apatow?
RV: We are, we are working on something. Yeah, me and him are working on something, yeah. Me and Pete are working on a separate project. And yeah, we’re staying busy.
AIPT: I was lucky enough to go to SNL last Saturday and I gotta say, Pete Davidson is a superstar man. Girls were cheering. Pete and Chris Rock got the biggest cheers in the audience.
RV: Yeah, people like that kid. Listen, he’s the godfather to my son, he was born on 9/11 and he’s one of my best friends and I love him and I don’t have anything to say other than he’s one of the greats and he’s going to be.
AIPT: This is directed by Michael Bonfiglio. When you see that director credit on a special, what is he bringing to the special?
RV: It’s interesting because like, I saw how he worked with [Gary] Goldman on his special and he’s very involved. Him and Goldman would go back and forth on jokes and ideas and this that and the third but I think more with me. I’m a very emotional person, that’s in the special, you can see that when you watch it. Michael knew how to deal with me and how to make me see ways of making things better and we worked really well together. I’m really happy I got to work with him too. We had to do cuts. Like can you do another walk-on, can you do this?
And I go “Guys, can you please put your hands together for Michael Bonfiglio?” And everybody claps and I go “he’s done a Gary Goldman special and Jerry Seinfeld. And now mine so either his career is going down or mine is going up. I’m not sure yet.”
AIPT: I love the opening to this special, the black and white and it’s like you’re looking right at us. It’s intense.
RV: That was a very real moment. That was something else that we turned into that. You’re staring at me just after a breakdown.
AIPT: You can feel it. It feels real.
RV: You’re the first person I’ve told that but yeah, that was a very real cool moment that he took. If you see it again and then you see when I’m sitting there shaking, my wife is actually sitting directly across from me. She’s in the corner of the shot. That’s why Michael’s amazing at it. He’s a documentary maker. He knows how to do these things that no other director in comedy would know how to do.
AIPT: It’s early yet especially with the special coming out October 23 but where do you go from here as far as specials? Will you do another special? And what do you call it since you’ve already covered everything?
RV: With the “Here’s everything,” this is my first stand-up I’ve ever put on television. It meant, here’s everything in the way of like, this is me, I’m introducing Ricky in this one. That’s what was important to me. I want you guys to know who the hell I am and I think that’s so important.
I learned that very early on when I started talking about anxiety on stage and people would come up to me and be like, “no one talks about, I have anxiety, this that” I was like, “Oh, I’m now connecting with people in ways” and that I’m doing something bigger than I knew. And I just think this special is for people to understand who I am and the next specials will be probably my views on the world and how I take them in.
AIPT: And hopefully, you’re wearing a full leather costume.
RV: I have another crazy idea for photos. I do, I promise. Listen, there’s more crazy to come I promise.
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