Ricky Velez on HBO Stand-Up Special ‘Here’s Everything’ and Collaboration with Judd Apatow

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HBO has a special new stand-up for Ricky Velez to check out on October 23. When it comes to comedy, there are a few pillars that have an industry-leading heritage. Late at night, Saturday Night Live, and the HBO comedy special. Stand-up comedy has seen a resurgence via Netflix, but HBO has provided some of the most significant specials in the past thirty years.

Enter Velez who you may know The King of Staten Island (which he also produced) and appearances on The evening show and soon his new special Here is all.

Produced by Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson, the special is Velez’s first special directed and produced by Michael Bonfiglio last August. It’s a special that takes Velez’s take on fatherhood, ugly babies, drug dealers in the sea, and more on his life.

Lucky enough to tell Velez about the special, I asked him about its creation, his work with producers Apatow and Davidson, and director / producer Bonfiglio.

Courtesy of HBO

AIPT: The stand-up does not happen overnight. How long have you cultivated this specialty?

Ricky Vélez: I was just talking about that where I would honestly say since the day I started because everything is a learning experience. And learn who you are on stage so you can feel comfortable and know what you want to talk about. So since I was 19.

AIPT: I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy and I have to say I love the way you behave on stage. You have this cadence and this atmosphere which is super original and different from everything. I’m curious. Is it something that you have consciously built and worked on? Or is it just you on stage?

VR: I think this is the most honest version of me. I think that’s where I fucking say, you know? This is where I do this. This is where I am safe. This is where I can be who I am. I think that’s where it all comes from. It’s not something I focus on. But being comfortable on stage is probably the most important thing you can do.

AIPT: You’re getting ready to have a lot more new friends soon, since you seem so cool and cool to hang out with.

VR: Bro, I’m staying inside. And people don’t realize it. Like I’m an inside guy. I do not like it. I lowered the blinds. It’s like a beautiful day in New York.

AIPT: Have you always been like this?

VR: Well yes. I grew up in a neighborhood where my parents made us play sports, or we were indoors. And yes, there was no real desire to hang around out of our blocks. As if we had to stay in our neighborhood. And yes, staying home was what we used to do a lot.

AIPT: With a lot of stand-up comedies, there usually seems to be more time that wasn’t in the special. Was it still a tight 57 minutes? Or is there a lot more on the cutting room floor?

VR: We cut a joke.

AIPT: Yeah, it’s tight

VR: Yes. We cut a joke. You also have to understand when we got back from the pandemic I waited until I was relieved and 14 days to hit the road. So that gave me a little less than five months. And we booked every weekend and we were moving in a pretty militant way on stage, moving like, it’s okay here.

It’s better there. I want to end with this. I want to move this … and I was lucky to have opened for Aziz [Ansari] and [John] Mulaney and Pete Davidson, so I got to see people going through this process and I learned very quickly that this was the way to go.

AIPT: Under the pandemic it’s like you have to be tighter and safer and with your time and so on.

VR: It was very limited. I loved the Comedy Cellar for that. They let me run the time. There were evenings where they were like, “Do you want to make two places in a row?” It’s been 30 minutes, and then I’d say “please, yes, please.” And I would run just half of my session.

AIPT: How important was it to you to record the special in Brooklyn?

VR: The most important part for me more than anything was that I really wanted to shoot in a place, correctly, without masks. We shot at Brooklyn Steel, which is a very special place. First of all, it’s the first special ever to be shot there. And a few years ago my boyfriend Kevin Barnett tragically passed away. When we did our benefit show, we did it there. And I remembered how much I loved this show. So when I heard it was open, we jumped on it.

AIPT: With Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson and others like Josh Church, all producers, every time you see those producer credits you wonder what their involvement was? Did they just give you a bag of money? How it works?

VR: [laughs] No, when it comes to Judd and Pete, those two have been my biggest advocate in this matter. Pete is my best friend. He’s probably given me more time on stage than any other booker, I mean, just open up for him and move that way with him. And then Judd has been in our lives, Pete and I, but mine mostly and really wanted to show me how to be successful in this business. He likes Jedi stuff, man. As if it was really wild.

AIPT: When I said earlier it was a tight 57 minutes, I really mean it, I don’t think there’s a bad place in there.

VR: I remember Daniel Tosh’s first special. It was five minutes and he had 70 deep jokes. That joke per minute he was making there was so amazing. And these are the ones I remember. He looked at my top five. These are two new stories that are loaded. And I was so happy that I could do the situation of not going up for air.

AIPT: The stand-up specials on HBO are a mainstay of comedy I’d say like up there with Late at night and SNL. Are there any other pillars that you would like to overthrow?

VR: Yeah, I want to be a director, I want to produce more, I want to write something, you know. I just feel like I have this opportunity in front of me. I’ll take whatever situation I can have. And I was lucky to be mentored by the best like Judd. He lets me watch him on set. I stand right next to the director’s chair and hand him jokes. And we’re talking, I mean, I just did it with him and Kate McKinnon. This is the coolest situation ever and I want to take these tools and put them to work and over the next few years.

AIPT: You hear how Judd makes people like Kristen Wigg work on stuff like Bridesmaids, are you working something like this for Judd Apatow?

VR: We are, we are working on something. Yeah, me and him are working on something, yeah. Me and Pete are working on a separate project. And yes, we stay busy.

Ricky Velez Here's All HBO Special Interview

Photograph by Mark Schafer / HBO
Courtesy of HBO

AIPT: I had the chance to go to SNL last Saturday and I have to say Pete Davidson is a superstar man. The girls were applauding. Pete and Chris Rock received the biggest acclaim from the audience.

VR: Yeah, people love this kid. Listen, this is my son’s godfather, he was born on September 11 and he is one of my best friends and I love him and I have nothing to say other than that he is one of the greatest and that it will be.

AIPT: This is done by Michael Bonfiglio. When you see this director crediting a special, what does he bring to the special?

VR: It’s interesting because like, I saw how he worked with [Gary] Goldman on his stage and he’s very involved. He and Goldman were back and forth over jokes and ideas and this and this and the third but I think more with myself. I’m a very emotional person, it’s in the special, you can see it when you watch it. Michael knew how to deal with me and how to show me ways to make things better and we worked really well together. I’m really glad I got to work with him too. We had to make cuts. Like can you do another walk-on, can you do that?

And I say “Guys, can you please put your hands together for Michael Bonfiglio?” And everyone is applauding and I say ‘he did a Gary Goldman and Jerry Seinfeld special. And now mine so either his career is going down, or mine is going up. I’m not sure yet. “

AIPT: I love the opening of this special, the black and white, and it’s like you’re looking us straight in the eye. It’s intense.

VR: It was a very real moment. It was something else that we turned into this. You look at me right after a breakdown.

AIPT: You can feel it. It seems real.

VR: You’re the first person I say this to but yeah, it was a really cool time he took. If you see it again and see when I’m setting there shaking, my wife is actually setting right across from me. She’s in the corner of the plan. That’s why Michael is amazing. He’s a documentary maker. He knows how to do those things that no other comedy director can do.

AIPT: It’s still early days, especially with the special coming out on October 23, but where do you go from here as far as the specials go? Will you do another special? And what do you call it since you’ve already covered everything?

VR: With the “Here is everything”, it is my first stand-up that I put on television. That meant, here’s everything like, this is me, I present Ricky in this one. This is what was important to me. I want you to know who I am and I think it’s so important.

I learned this very early on when I started talking about anxiety on stage and people would come up to me and say: “nobody is talking about it, I have anxiety, that’s it” , I was like, “Oh, I’m connecting with people now in a certain way” and I’m doing something bigger than I thought. And I just think this special is for people to understand who I am and the next specials will probably be my take on the world and how I take them into account.

AIPT: And I hope you are wearing a full leather suit.

VR: I have another crazy idea for the photos. I do, I promise. Look, there are more crazies to come, I promise.

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