Stand-up comic Ray Ellin was performing at a New York comedy club a few days after Rosh HaShanah. It was his usual act — some family stories, some bantering with the audience. As usual, he asked people in the crowd where they came from.
“Germany,” said one couple.
That’s raw meat for a Jewish comic.
“I wish you,” Ellin said, “a year of health and happiness — and reparations.”
“It killed — killed,” Ellin says. The crowd roared.
The Germans? “They laughed too.”
For Ellin — whose original family name in Russia was Yelinovich — an ad-lib line about wartime reparations, the payments made by the German government to Holocaust victims and refugees, was a typical part of a night’s work.
“I’m not a dirty act, but nothing is taboo for me,” says Ellin, an “early 30s” native of Boston who moved here after finishing Boston University and makes his living playing clubs and colleges, corporate and charity events, synagogues and Jewish community centers, bowling alleys and cafeterias and subway platforms. “I’ve performed in almost every state,” he says.
Ellin will be part of a lineup of some 50 emerging comics taking part in the NYC Underground Festival Oct. 2-11. The festival, at several comedy clubs around Manhattan, features established comics who haven’t yet broken into A-list territory (nyundergroundcomedyfestival.com). He’ll also perform at the JCC of Mid-Westchester on Oct. 17 and Dec. 5.
Ellin (rayellin.com), who lives in Manhattan, is a comedic multi-tasker, hosting a cable TV show and syndicated program, co-starring in an indie film, making a few TV pilots, filming commercials, producing a “Latino Comedy Series,” and founding dailycomedy.com.
“I’m a very entrepreneurial person,” he says. “You can’t sit around waiting for the next gig.”
The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust this year named him one of “New York Best Emerging Jewish Artists.”
Ellin spent his first six years of school in the Maimonides School, in Brookline, Mass., where the day school teachers alternately encouraged and discouraged his budding talent in making classmates laugh. The typical class-clown story. “I was quiet at home. The classroom was my stage.”
He knew he wanted a life in comedy. “I thought about being an orthodontist for two days.”
After conquering Boston, he came to New York, the Mecca of aspiring stand-ups. “When money was tight,” he writes in his online bio, he lived in his 1976 Dodge Aspen — “not the most spacious accommodations, and no plumbing, but cheap.” To supplement his income, his bio states, in the third person, “he temped. He tended bar. He sold postal uniforms to letter carriers. Measuring a mailman’s inseam wasn’t exactly his dream job, but he was good at it.”
His goal: to host a talk show. His comedic influences: Carson and Letterman. “I always wanted to be the focal point,” to get laughs and help other comics do it.
It’s a matter of time, Ellin says, before he plays to a national audience.
German tourists, beware.