comedians you should know

Ricky Velez Will Be Undeniable

Ricky Velez. Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Photo courtesy of comedian

This week, we’re highlighting 20 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) This year, for the first time, we asked the comedians on this list to answer a series of questions about their work and comedy under quarantine. Next up is Ricky Velez.

When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
From the jump I actually always thought I was funny enough to make a real go at comedy or I never would have stepped onstage. It was truly a blessing to be ignorant to the reality of how difficult this business is.

Describe your comedy in five words.
Honest, humble, unapologetic. I only needed three.

If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be doing?
I think I could be in a cult! I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about them and they seem really dope, right up until the leader starts banging everyone.

What of your work do you think you’re best known for?
My stand-up. I’ve had the opportunity to tour with some amazing comedians and showcase my talent in venues around the world as well as nightly shows at the Comedy Cellar, all of which has helped me build a following.

What’s some of your work that you’re most proud of?
The King of Staten Island is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments. The amount of work I put into that project is something I’m really proud of, and Judd [Apatow] making me a co-producer was such an honor. Also, the writing I am doing now with Judah Miller and Judd Apatow is the best work I’ve ever been a part of.

How has quarantine affected the way you approach your comedy and your audience?
This pandemic has made me really take a step back and think about the content I want to put out in the world. Contrary to popular belief, I think artists should take their time with their “content” and go through the process to make it “art.”

What have you done in quarantine for comedy that you thought you would never do?
I did stand-up on a farm. You’ve never really bombed until you’ve heard a cow moo during your set.

Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you?
Bill Burr, John Mulaney, Pete Davidson, Aziz Ansari. I love artists who are the same people onstage as they are off. People who are showing you who they are and how they process the world around them. I also love Danny McBride. He is one of the best comedy writers of our time.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The best advice I ever got in comedy was from Mike DeStefano, God rest his soul, when I was 20 years old. He said, “Become undeniable,” and ten years later I still hold onto it. The worst was from a manager who once asked me if I would consider changing my last name so I didn’t get pigeonholed in only Latino roles …

Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
I have seen fistfights at more than one family funeral.

Assuming quarantine ends at some point, is there anything about the way that comedy or the industry in general has changed that you hope continues post-quarantine?
I believe after quarantine we will see a lot more people deciding to chase their dreams rather than work in a cubicle. Hopefully this gives comedy a boom of new faces and voices.

Ricky Velez Will Be Undeniable