By Linda Reijnders
PALM BEACH — “It feels good to make others feel good.” Ray Ellin is a kind of half Aruban so to speak. Well, he lives here almost half the year and his nickname is Aruba Ray. The American comedian, host and producer lives the other half of the year in New York. He just finished producing a new tv show for Comedy Central, which will air in the fall. Here at One Happy Island he created, produced, and hosts a very successful nightly live stand-up comedy show through his company Aruba Ray, called Aruba Ray’s Comedy, which is at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Aruba Today was curious about the man behind the laughs.
“I really think I became the number 1 ambassador for Aruba in the States. When I am on different TV shows like on NBC and Fox I always talk about Aruba. I love it, it’s a part of my soul.” He wants people to know how much he loves the island and does the best he can to promote it. He also brings big name comics here that are followed by many, many people. He takes the comedians around to show them the Aruba outside the resort. Ray is happy here, during the day enjoying his Aruba and during his shows in the evenings making people laugh.
“It is a great feeling, a positive affirmation. You know that you make other people feel good and that makes you feel good. There is just one big positive vibe in the room. Of course that feeds your ego. It’s great energy.”
The comedians he brings here are not just any names. They are very experienced, very talented performers, who have been on dozens of tv shows and movies. This run of shows will include Chuck Nice, Christine Hurley, Lenny Marcus, Tony V, Pete Lee, Tony Woods, Joe Vega, Mike Vecchione, Ricky Velez, Yamaneika Saunders, Gregg Rogell, Jessica Kirson, Jimmy Dunn, Brian Scott McFadden, and Dan Naturman will climb the stage. And of course, the shows are hosted by Ray himself. These shows have become the most popular thing to do at night in Aruba. An almost guarantee to laugh your heart out.
“When I was 11 years old, I used to watch Saturday Night Live and also the Tonight Show. When I was nine I vividly remember watching SNL and thought: what is this, this is great.” Little Ray made kids laugh in school, as well as relatives when he was only 3 or 4 years old. “I got that from my mother, I would see her entertaining people in our house when I was a kid. She is very outgoing and funny, and a classical pianist, so I kind of picked stuff up from her. It was positive and fun, I loved it.” He told his dad that he wanted to be a comedian, and of course he was not too wild about the idea. “But I told him: this is what I want to do. It was very clear to me. My first performance was when I was 11 years old, during 6th grade graduation, and it went well. After that I did standup at summer camp and school talent shows.” When he was 15 years old, Ray performed at nightclubs in Boston. He would take the train by himself to downtown Boston to comedy clubs in pretty terrible neighborhoods. “One was in a neighborhood called ‘The Combat Zone.’ A fifteen year old had no business being there,” he laughs. He kept performing, and got better and better, determined in following his passion.
Ray studied Film at College and after that he moved to New York City. He acted in many tv commercials, a few films, hosted several tv shows, and was asked to produce a comedy tour with Latino comedians throughout the States. “That gave me the idea of making the movie. I produced and directed ‘The Latin Legends of Comedy’ which I financed with 6 credit cards. While I was in the middle of making the film, someone called to tell me that only 2 or 3 percent of all movies that are made end up being sold. But fortunately, I sold it to 20th Century Fox. During the opening weekend, the film finished third in per-screen average behind Oscar winners The Last King of Scotland and The Queen.” The movie could have been bigger, Ray says, but he did it all by himself and was kind of burnt out.
The success of the film was meant to be: “I was at this film festival, and the other film makers all brought large support staffs. I was sitting in an office in the hotel alone, cutting my movie promo flyers by hand. They were just terrible. The other movies had beautiful posters, I had these lousy paper flyers. A week after the festival a guy called me from a movie studio: “Can you send me a copy of your movie. I picked up your flyer at the festival and I thought it looked interesting’. You never know where the magic might occur!“ Ray laughs out loud. Before Ray had his successes, he had day jobs like bartending and waiting tables.
He even sold uniforms to mailmen, did all kinds of jobs while in the evenings he performed in different comedy clubs in New York. He found Aruba after finishing working on a tv show: “I hosted the talk show LateNet for a while, a live show for the internet, which was way ahead of its time. People called in from all over the world to interact with my guests, who were big big stars. It did really well, was fun, got a lot of great press and amazing guests. After that show finished I needed a break, and ended up having a trip to Aruba. I fell in love with Aruba, and that is where this journey started.”
The Aruba Ray’s Comedy Shows is full on again with shows at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino (some days are off, check the schedule at www.ArubaComedy.com). Curious about Ray and his fellow comedians? Visit the show and let your smiles flow. To Ray it is all clear: “If I am not on stage for a week I feel weird, it’s a part of my system. Eating, breathing, performing.”