RAY: When? Doing stand-up in New York....how many years ago?
RAY: You know that for a fact?
TOM: 1989. That's when I started doing stand-up. I actually first saw you at the Improv in New York in '88, the year before I started. That was also the year I read about a guy who won a comedy contest in Atlantic City with over 100 comedians. That guy turned out to be you. I vowed to win that contest someday.
RAY: And did you?
TOM: No. But I did make it to the finals, top fifteen out of a hundred.
RAY: Well, you didn't set a time limit for winning. You didn't say "I'll win it before I'm fifty." So you could still do it.
TOM: They stopped doing the contest.
RAY: So you're off the hook.
What is it about your relationship that has allowed you two to remain friends and work together for so many years?
RAY: Well, at first we were doing...well, we weren't doing stand-up together. We were in the stand-up scene together. I was--
TOM: When I started, you were a headliner. I was...not.
RAY: A driver. You would drive the headliner to the gig.
TOM: You also needed a good outfielder for your brother's softball team. So we talked in the outfield sometimes. And we won two championships.
RAY: Uh, but then, when we starting talking, whatever, we kinda had a couple things in common. And you were in LA when I was doing Carson.
TOM: Yeah. By coincidence.
RAY: By coincidence, when I was doing Carson in '91, Tom was out here. And you came to my Johnny Carson spot. And we became better friends then, I remember, bonding over such an experience as doing your first Carson and the nervousness that goes along with it.
TOM: I remember the night before Carson, there were a couple other comedians who wanted to take you to a strip club, but you didn't want to go.
RAY: I wanted to hear Johnny say, "Tomorrow night on the show, Ray Romano!" Which is just as exciting as a lap dance and twenty dollars cheaper.
TOM: I also remember we all said goodnight and left your room, and when I went to my car the parking garage was locked for the night. We weren't that good of friends yet, but I ran back to your hotel and ended up crashing on your floor. I got up at 5 a.m. and got my car because I was thinking, "This guy's doing Carson today. I don't want to be in his way."
RAY: That should've tipped me off right there. That I couldn't get rid of you so easily.
RAY: And then, whatever, stand-up together. Then when the show came along and I was moving out here by myself, I knew that we worked well together comedy-wise and I knew that I would need somebody. I didn't know any of the writers and I wanted to bring my guy, you know, someone I could have, uh, my sounding board, someone to work off of, so I brought Tom. We stayed in an apartment together. I left my family at home for the first year, so we shared an apartment and a car that whole time. And a bed? Did we have two different beds?
TOM: Depended on what happened that evening.
RAY: Then Tom became a regular writer on the show .
TOM: And I ended up co-writing the episode that you won the Best Actor Emmy for. [The Break-Up Tape with Aaron Shure.] So it was worth my airfare.
RAY: See, that's a case of the acting elevating the writing 100 percent.
TOM: What does that mean? The writing was zero percent before you did the acting?
RAY: You do the math.
TOM: You just can't give it to me, can you?
RAY: I can give it to you. You were living in your car before Raymond.
TOM: Well, despite the verbal abuse we always worked well together in stand-up because I'm single and he's married so our material didn't step on each other. It was a good combination. Also, Ray was funny and I wasn't and so it....
RAY: It's all balance. I wanted to look at women, he...
TOM: ...got rejected by women.