Ralphie May is now 11 years removed from being the Clay Aiken of “Last Comic Standing,” coming in second behind someone many thought wasn’t as good as him.
May has had the last laugh, becoming a significantly more popular stand-up comic than Dat Phan, the original winner. May is returning to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Nov. 29 and plans to tape a Netflix comedy special there.
In 2011, he contracted serious pneumonia on a cruise ship, then suffered a pulmonary embolism where a blood clot from his leg got lodged in an artery. He said he almost died. (Read my story I wrote about him back in 2012.)
But three years later, he’s healthy. “I’m busting my butt,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “I’m stronger. I feel good. I’m resting a lot more.” Despite his large size, he said his heart is good and his cholesterol and blood pressure are normal: “I’m a crazy fat guy. And a strange one. I’m luckily a medical anomaly!”
He prides himself on pointing out the foibles, the idiosyncrasies and the hypocrisy of life with the occasional curse word here and there but never slips into hostility. And he shares that philosophy with his wife Lahna Turner, a fellow stand-up. “We’re not angels,” he said, “but we’re not mean. I’m even handed. I just point out the stupidity we all do. The people I make fun of most are white people. They’re the dumbest ones. They really are.”
In his mind, “we’re such an outrage society with no bite. We act all shocked. We’re not willing to follow through and penalize people for being jerks.”
A Chattanooga native, he has warm memories of spending summers with his father in Roswell. He attended a lot of Braves games back when Dale Murphy was the big star. During his 2012 trip to Atlanta, he relished a meal at Gladys Knight Chicken and Waffles. But then he discovered his BMW got booted although he had paid. “Cops were involved,” he said. “I had them open up the box where I had put in my money. My $5 was there. I had even written on the bill ‘$5 for BMW.’ They took the boot off. The cop was a fan of mine!”
He is thrilled to be working with Netflix. “It has more subscribers than HBO,” he said. “They’re the next wave.”
May said he chose Atlanta to shoot this special because his 2012 trip was so amazing. Cobb Energy “was explosive,” he said. “The energy was amazing. They hung on my every word. They didn’t want to miss anything.”
He was psyched to see “Last Comic Standing” return earlier this year on NBC after a four-year hiatus. “I am ecstatic,” he said. “I want more stand-up comics in prime time. It’s great for every comedian.” Feeling nostalgic, he did prefer the original format, which featured the comics living in a house together, “Real World” style. “I loved the hijinks,” he said, “just to see how comedy really is.”
And he is not at all bitter now about coming in second. “It feels like first place,” he said. He owns his own tour bus, which used to be a Dave Matthews Band bus. “We pressure washed all the horrible music out of there,” he cracked. He has seven albums under his belt, “a gorgeous wife and two wonderful children. I’m a success. If I got that way being number 2, I say strive f0r number 2. It’s not all bad!”
8 p.m., November 29
$33.90-$42.60 after fees
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta