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Ricky Velez Is a Real New York City Stand-up

Ricky Velez Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

When people talk about New York comedy versus L.A. comedy, they usually are discussing stage-time norms and the comics who make up the cities’ scenes. But not unlike the players on a sports team, no one thinks about where the comedians are actually from. Well, Ricky Velez, whose debut hour special Here’s Everything premieres on HBO on October 23, would like you to know he’s from-from New York. Queens, specifically. And though his career is on quite the roll after acting in and producing on The King of Staten Island, leading to him developing a TV show for HBO with Judd Apatow, this fact is more important than anything.

On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Velez discusses his new special, working with Judd Apatow, and representing Queens. You can read an excerpt from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune in to Good One every Thursday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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On His Comedic Courtship With Judd Apatow

I wasn’t really on his radar. Pete [Davidson] was begging for me to get an audition for King of Staten Island. That’s who Pete is; he’s the best. And I went in, I auditioned, and that night, I had to do a show with Judd at Largo in L.A. It was the worst situation. I was like, If I bomb and then have to do stand-up in front of him … But I had a really great audition, and then that night, the two shows couldn’t have gone better. I saw him standing on the side of the stage while I was up there. So, I did two different 15 minutes on it of just bangers — just going for it. Then I went back home to New York and I was sitting in bed with my wife, and I got a phone call from Judd, and he’s like, “I want you to write on the movie.” He basically sent me the whole entire script to do a punch-up on. Then he was like, “How about you’re on set every single day?” And quickly me and him just started to relate and have fun and just enjoy each other’s company, and we just kind of became friends. It was really weird.

We’ve been kicking it for a while. We go to some Mets games together. I saw Bruce Springsteen [with him]. It was awesome. I cried. It was nuts. I knew nothing about Bruce Springsteen. I didn’t know the story. I grew up in 50 Cent town. I didn’t know Bruce was the Boss. I didn’t know that’s what we were going to call him. He came out, and I thought people were booing him. Fifteen minutes into that Broadway show, I was using my mask to wipe my tears. It was amazing.

And he’s still my boss, but I really always enjoy Judd because he will let you go as far as you want with an idea, and sometimes he’ll reel it back and be like, “No, that’s not what we’re doing. This makes more sense.” Then he gives you answers on why that makes sense. He doesn’t just tell you. He just kept putting me in great positions. When you’re working with people of that high stature and people that have the past that he has and the how people look at him, you’re a little nervous to start spitting ideas out because his idea is usually the best. And there was none of that. A lot of the stuff he preaches is like, “Lose the ego.” And that made it comfortable to work.

On Being a New York City Native

It means more to me than everybody else, honestly, because I’m actually from here. Everybody says, “Uh, I’m a New York comedian.” No, you’re a tourist in my city. It’s funny because some people have told me I have a chip on my shoulder for it, and it’s like, “Yeah, I do.” When I started comedy, I was laying carpet. We used to come into New York City and put down red carpets for events and then take them up the next day. I was basically trying to get my dream while Adrian Grenier fucking walked over my shit. It was just weird. One of my boys got fired for yelling at the Entourage guys. He was like, “You want to see a real motherfucker from Queens.”

I do have a chip on my shoulder because all that stuff I did. I worked at comedy clubs. I painted the ceiling of a comedy club up on 53rd. I didn’t have a parent pay for an apartment for me. I used to have to take the F train to the last stop, go back to my house, go live in my basement, come back into the city the next day. Half hour bus plus the last stop on the F train. There’s nothing I haven’t done to try to get my dream going.

And New York has been with me the whole time. I mean, my high school won’t show me no love. It’s really crazy. I saw them postin’ up about somebody the other day. I was like, “When am I going to get on this?” But I went to a performing arts high school, so it’s cool to see the kids that didn’t get to continue to follow the dream being like, “Yo, thank you.” I went to dinner the other day, and this kid came up to me, and he goes, “Thank you for representing Queens.” And I was like, “That means more to me than anything.” And then I was like, Thank God, I tipped this kid well. That would’ve sucked.

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Ricky Velez Is a Real New York City Stand-up