Comparisons between Tom Caltabiano's backstage look at Everybody Loves Raymond's Ray Romano and the Jerry Seinfeld documentary COMEDIAN (2002) are inevitable: Both follow the stars of newly defunct TV sitcoms as they return to their stand-up roots. But where COMEDIAN documented the process of developing a brand-new, hourlong routine in small clubs — an arduous undertaking even for a megastar like Seinfeld — Caltabiano's film kicks back and watches Romano trot out his old my-wife-and-kids gags for a series of primed-to-love-it audiences, including a corporate morale-booster for 3,500 where what passes for drama is Romano's concern that a light-blue bit about oral sex is too risque for the room. But let's face it — it's hard to worry in any serious way that Romano may find himself blacklisted in corporate event-planning circles. The comedian's fear of flying gives the film its structure: He and longtime friend/warm-up act/flunky/Raymond staff writer/former roommate Caltabiano make their way by car through a seven-city tour that starts in Miami and ends in Atlanta, eating at Cracker Barrels and Subway shops and doing their own driving like kids. Caltabiano, who apparently has years' worth of live tour footage stashed somewhere (though the footage of a floppy-haired, endearingly unpolished Romano at New York City's fabled Comic Strip in 1985 is someone else's, since Romano and Caltabiano met years later), persuaded Romano to let him make a movie about the tour. Respecting Romano's wish not to be trailed by a full crew, Catalbiano handed camera duty to Raymond intern/USC film student Roger Lay Jr., who mostly lurks in the backseat while a pair of minicams on the dashboard record what's going on up front — which is mostly good-natured bickering. As to what happens between shows, well, apparently not a whole hell of a lot. If there are groupies, demolished hotel rooms, midnight payoffs to the vice squad or drug- and alcohol-fueled misbehavior, there's no evidence of it here; Romano and Caltabiano mostly watch TV and squabble about whose fault it is they're running a few minutes late. The film does offer glimpses of Romano's personal peccadilloes — he's parsimonious, chews with his mouth open, loves fast food, spends a lot of time worrying about his hair and can't sing worth a damn — which, in this age of rigidly spin-controlled celebrity, probably qualifies the film for status as a warts-and-all expose.
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