Amish Comic's routine is anything but plain
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — There is just something funny about seeing an Amish guy with a cellphone, Raymond the Amish Comic said.
Such irony has been the bread and butter of the Pennsylvania Dutch country native for nearly 27 years. When he is out and about in Lancaster, Pa., Raymond said, he “kind of blends.”
“When you take me out of Lancaster and stick me in the city, people start rubber-necking me. They point, they stare, they go nuts,” the standup comedian said during a telephone interview.
“There is a bonus that when you see me, when I walk onstage. I don’t belong. They scream, ‘Why is an Amish guy standing in the spotlight approaching an electric microphone?’ It’s kind of visually shocking to see me,” he said.
Raymond, who has performed at Comic Strip Live in New York City, on “Miserable Men Show” on the Howard Stern-affiliate Howard 101, and on the Opie and Anthony channel on SiriusXM, will perform Saturday, Feb. 3, at Shippensburg Comedy Club in Shippensburg, Pa. The show had extremely limited tickets as of press time.
The 59-year-old said he was “Amish born but didn’t sign the deal.”
“I had a strict Amish upbringing, but by the time I was 16, I was out of there,” he said. “I had spent summers with family in the Kutztown, (Pa.), area and they were also out. They helped corrupt my exit plan.”
Raymond got his start in comedy rather unexpectedly during the early ‘90s while working at a T-shirt shop in the Lehigh Valley with some unhappy coworkers.
“People wanted to kill each other. I would say stupid stuff, mainly so they wouldn’t kill each other,” he said. “One day as the workers listened to a Lehigh Valley radio show, a guy dialed up and handed the phone to me and I said some stupid stuff.”
The listening audience got a kick out of Raymond, and the station began to schedule a time for him to phone in.
“I couldn’t take a break. They were scheduled at whatever time. I had to sneak a phone into the bathroom,” he said.
Raymond was “absolutely surprised” by the following he quickly gained, but he decided have a little fun with it.
“I just showed up one day at the radio station in the morning. This was before the world was so secure. I had a funnel cake I tried to bake into call letters and failed horribly,” Raymond said.
No one at the radio show had seen him before.
“They let me in while the show was on. They just stared at me. I said, ‘Don’t you recognize me?’
Then they started cheering, screaming. They went crazy,” he said.
In his early 30s, Raymond was old by the standards of breaking into comedy, but younger than the radio workers had imagined based on his calls in to the show. One of the guys at the radio station had a half interest in a club and invited Raymond to do a guest set.
“I took a month to get 10 minutes together. I let him know I was ready,” he said. “I thought they would get me on the schedule in a few weeks, and they said, ‘OK. We’ll see you tomorrow night.’ I said, ‘Oh. That’s very soon.’”
That gig went well and Raymond was invited back the next night. Through that opportunity, he met other comedians who helped him, gave him advice and got him connected. With credits as part of the workshop production of Sony Entertainment’s recreation of “The Gong Show” and appearances on Comedy Central amd MTV, Raymond continues to be amazed by his success.
“It’s the weirdest thing. I have a lot of friends in comedy who tell me it’s bizarre to maintain a 25-plus year career with a fan base that’s mostly Pennsylvania,” he said.
Raymond said he has roughly 20,000 fans on two different fan pages.
“That sounds like a lot of people, but it’s really not a lot to sustain a 25-plus year career. That is amazing to me,” he said.
His 25-year-old daughter, whom he affectionately describes as a “theater geek,” helps him with his material, Raymond said.
“She said I should take it as a compliment when she told me I was ‘the common man’s comedian.’ I mostly rant and rave about the stuff we all go through, which is traffic, scanning your own groceries, cell phone problems,” Raymond said.
He remains starstruck by other celebrities he’s met and with whom he has worked, including the likes of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron.
“I love what I do so much I can’t even stand it. I love being onstage. I have an amazing fan base,” he said. “Some comedians think it’s beneath them to do too much contact with fans, like if they do they are not gigantic stars. I think it’s so cool after each show to do a selfie photo shoot. People just laugh having their pictures taken with me.”