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Ray Romano takes unexpected, essential stylistic turn in ‘Right Here, Around the Corner’

| Friday, February 15, 2019

Ray Romano’s new Netflix stand-up comedy special, “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner,” further cements a prominent trope within Netflix’s comedy genre — aged comedians past their prime performing for an insufficient amount of time, claiming success by evoking feelings of nostalgia rather than talent.

The special begins with the camera trained on the Queens native explaining the format of the show — two miniature sets he performs consecutively — the second of which is located just around the block from the first in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan. The Comedy Cellar — one of New York’s most recognizable comedy clubs and the stage where Romano’s career took off — hosts his first set. After 23 years without a stand-up performance, Romano returns home. Additionally, the production introduces a surprising caveat: the audience was unaware of Romano’s appearance.

With no outs, the home crowd on his side and a high batting average, a simple base hit would suffice to drive the runner home. And he whiffs. Three times.

Romano relies on tattered, recycled jokes and story lines to support a weak opening set. The first half-hour of the special is dominated by the set I quietly expected yet vehemently hoped would not be performed. It is a mish-mosh of the once-colorful material projected from that very stage — sprinkled with plugs for other Netflix works, references to an outdated romantic life and commentary on the post-stardom aging process.

At the long-awaited conclusion of this comedic regurgitation, Romano is filmed in a single shot pacing down the streets of the Village to the next venue. For this three-minute period in time, Emmy Award-winning Ray Romano is just another New Yorker on the street. Interacting with a few pedestrians along the way, Romano comments on his previous set, breaking the fourth wall per se. Although this segment does not occur on stage in front of a crowd, it refocuses the goal of the special — entertainment. This shot was indicative of Netflix’s exclusive perspective which they have shared with the world — transparency with celebrities — bringing their lives into perspective and off of a pedestal.

Romano’s second set material mirrors this, giving the audience a glimpse into his life as a husband, dad and comedian out of the spotlight. While fully acknowledging that his place in the comedy world has been removed from its former importance, Romano precisely yet quietly characterizes Netflix’s goal for a special of this kind — “I don’t think I’m old. I just know I’m not young. That’s the difference. There is a difference, yeah.”

Upon turning the corner of McDougal and West 3rd, Romano’s show takes the turn with him. From the moment he begins his next set, Ray is warmed up. From his eldest son being ordained as a minister to the bouts between his twin sons, Romano’s material earns the importance it deserves. He brings comedy to the surface of everyday life. Channeling the hilarity from the ins and outs of a day in his life, Romano essentially re-creates “Everybody Loves Raymond,” his Emmy Award-winning show from the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Could this be an attempt to repair Netflix’s unfortunate partnerships with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K.? Does Romano’s appearance in this Netflix original special and his appearance in “Paddleton,” Netflix’s original film to be released on Feb. 22 with Mark Duplass, forecast a more permanent connection? These questions will be pondered for the near future, both regarding Ray Romano and, more globally, the interests and trends of the streaming service. But for now, as it has been, all rise for King Netflix.

Title: “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner”

Starring: Ray Romano

Studio: Netflix

Genre: Comedy

If you like: “Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60”

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

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