"Call Me Adam" chats with actor, writer, and stand-up comedian Ralph Harris about his one-man show MANish BOY that is playing in the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival through August 24 at The Players Theatre in NYC (115 MacDougal Street). We also discuss working with Eddie Murphy, best advice, Life Savers, and Super Powers.
MANish BOY tells the story of an unexpected journey that ensues when Ralph Harris returns to his childhood home to take a DNA test revealing fears of becoming a father while reigniting good and bad memories only to discover where we're from makes us who we are. Click here for tickets!
1. Your one-man show MANish BOY will be playing in the 2014 NYC Fringe Festival fromAugust 9-24. What excites you about having this show in the Fringe Festival? The idea of doing a show anywhere in NYC excites me, but the opportunity to do theatre in a town where theatre and great acting is appreciated everywhere you turn is a magnificent thought. Just speaking those words musters up the nerves in my stomach, to know that this run with the Fringe legitimizes my entry into this great tradition and experience.
2. How do you feel the Fringe Festival will help nourish the show in a way another festival might not? I've done other festivals that are targeted to a demographic; not that there's anything wrong with that! However, the fact that the FringeNYC has the word International in the name of this event speaks volumes to where this opportunity could lead. It's sure to open doors that I never considered when I decided to write MANish BOY.
3. What made you want to write MANish BOY? What made now the right time to do it? Having been a stand-up comedian for over 20 years, I had a tendency to feel that I could never get totally comfortable going deep with my story telling, to the audiences of a comedy club. I longed for an opportunity to connect with people who didn't shy aware from truth, just so they could have a laugh and a few drinks and go home. I wanted to make people feel something, after they left. After mulling over a VHS tape of Whoopi (Goldberg's) HBO One Woman Show taped in 1985 (which eventually broke from repeated use), the thing that stayed in the back of my mind is what she revealed, which was - a way to present another aspect of a comedy performance. So, in 2003, I started writing MANish BOY, and after several visits to a therapist through the creative process, I later came to realize in 2008, that it was time to tell the story!
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing MANish BOY? Because the show deals with issues of growing up in a single family home, I hope that they can connect with something they may or may not've experienced directly, but will have a fresher attitude towards the differences that shape people. As well, the issue of becoming a first time father, after learning of a child nearly seventeen years later. The benefits of "The Village" that become the virtual parents of us all. That watchful eye of concern who made sure you knew right from wrong, and stayed on the right path.
5. In addition to being an actor and writer, you are a stand-up comedian. Since your comedy is character driven, how do you feel performing your one man show is similar to stand-up comedy and different? It's similar, because I can still be funny through my story telling. However, theatre is a different reaction because it's as if the audience is connecting to what's not being said, where with stand-up, you almost have to hit them over the head, because of all the other distractions that go on in the room at a comedy venue.
6. What was the best part about getting to perform in the blockbuster hit film Dreamgirls with your comedy idol Eddie Murphy? What did you learn from working with him? Eddie is the consummate professional, as well as so many of the other stars in the film. But, as far as my man Eddie, here is a guy who isn't known for his dancing, who took on a roll that could've gotten him chewed up by critics, but he was out there on that stage working his ass off, all while going thru a big divorce. The focus that he brought to work everyday was infectious. I was actually sad to leave after the two weeks it took to shoot my scenes. I've always wished for the opportunity to tell my comedy idols a very personal thanks, for giving me so many wonderful examples of an alternative outlet for my passion to perform. Occasionally I still get the opportunity to spend time around Eddie, because we both are big fans of professional boxing. Unfortunately, he roots for the other guy all the time! LOL
7. What do you get from your film/television work that you do not get from your stage work? What I feel about the experience of film and television, is it's priceless. I mean the work is around forever! Especially with the advanced technology we have today, this interview will be available in some library forever, and people will be able to share the experience of my thoughts at this very moment, that's monumental.
8. What's the best advice you've ever received? Long ago when I toured, and opened for George Benson, I learned the very important fundamentals of Show and Business. How necessary it was to try to give the audience more than what they might expect. I realized with stars - it had to be bigger, the performance had to be virtual fireworks. Because that's what professionalism is, it walks thru the door and takes command from that moment on, until it decides to leave. But most importantly, I must never forget the business! Because, we've all been witness to too many examples of those who didn't have the knowledge or the right amount of experience to handle the business. At the end of the day, this entertainment business will bless you beyond anything you can imagine, but there will be nothing there at the end, if you don't know the business.
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a comedian, actor, and writer? I don't tend to share this, but...I've learned thru the course of my career that my personal fears tend to get conquered more thru my acting, stand-up and writing. Because, I can play the character that I've always admired. Be the jackass or the hero through my art. But, the Ralph that walks around on a daly basis, prefers to be virtually invisible.
10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? My superpower would be to fly. Because, at this stage in the business I've made friends in places I'd only imagined existed. And I'd love to see them every single day if I could, but we all know that airfare is nuts these days!
11. If you could be any Life Saver flavor, which one would you be? I'd be butterscotch, because even when all things in my life seem to go wrong, a butterscotch Life Saver, always makes me forget (if only for a moment) that nothing in the world is wrong.
12. How do you want to be remembered? As a person and artist, who wanted to do my fair share of humanitarian outreach, to affect positive change in other peoples' lives, as well, as an artist who deserved to have his name mentioned along with the names who audiences around the world deemed "Great at What They Did."
Ralph Harris is one of today’s hottest comedic and acting talents and has appeared in film and TV, including the role as "Host" of the culinary competition My Momma Throws Down on the TVOne network. Making his feature film debut in Dreamgirls, Ralph kicks off the movie as the "Detroit MC" who helps Jamie Foxx hook up with the "Dreamettes," giving him the opportunity to work with so many talented actors, but most specifically the chance to work with his comedy idol, Eddie Murphy. Ralph continued his film career, immediately landing his second feature role in the film Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell & Wanda Sykes. Ralph’s jump to the big screen comes after years of successful television work, including appearances on Seinfeld, The Parent ‘Hood, Nick Freno, Living Single, In Living Color and featured spots on The Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Ralph is probably best known for his starring role in the ABC-TV sitcom On Our Own, which aired during the immensely popular TGIF block on Friday nights and which currently airs in syndication on TVOne. You can also catch Ralph on TV in airings of his two previously recorded Cable TV specials –Comedy Central Presents & the HBO Half-Hour Comedy Special, as well as the newly released, Clean Guys of Comedy. The Philadelphia native continues to tour the country and perform to sold-out audiences as a stand-up comedian, his first career. His comedy is character driven and is influenced by many of the greats, including Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy & the late Jonathan Winters.