Aug. 21--After landing in the top five of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," Louis Ramey suddenly acquired thousands of new fans.
The only problem?
"They all expected me to be Bill Cosby," said Ramey, a blue comedian who had to sanitize his act for national television. "They wanted me to be squeaky clean."
When fans started showing up to his performances with their kids and grandkids, Ramey realized he needed a change of scenery -- a place where he could do his act without any expectations of moral decency.
So, he moved to England.
Not that the country has a particularly depraved sense of humor. But for Ramey, performing outside the United States meant that he didn't have to live up to the wholesome persona that made him famous on "Last Comic Standing." In other words, he could be himself.
"That's one of the reasons I moved to London," Ramey said. "They loved me over there."
And Ramey loved England. But after more than a year of living abroad, the Atlanta-born comedian felt homesick, and returned to New York City this spring.
Now, Ramey is back home touring the American comedy circuit. He stops in Stamford for the grand opening of the Laughs R Us ComedyClub at the Fez on Saturday, Aug. 24, where he'll share the stage with comedians Jason Andors, Eric Nieves, Latice Klapa and promoter/musician DJ Kool Mike Ski.
Taking his act across the pond in the summer of 2011, Ramey was surprised by the laugh-out-loud reaction to his brand of off-color humor. His girlfriend was just as amazed.
"One day, I brought her over to London," Ramey recalled, "and before I got on stage, I told her, 'You'll be shocked by the response.' ... I needed to pause between every joke. There were people falling over laughing. Ten minutes into it, I looked over and her mouth was wide open."
Ramey chalks up the response to the fact that English audiences are generally more accustomed to dry, subtle humor a la "Monty Python," as opposed to the in-your-face sexuality of many American comics.
It also didn't hurt that the English, while generally more reserved than their cross-Atlantic counterparts, are familiar with American culture. No matter where Ramey performed in the United Kingdom, his jokes worked.
"The No. 1 lesson I learned is that if it's good stand-up, you can perform any place that speaks English," Ramey said.
Not every bit translated, of course -- especially outside of Europe. Ramey, who also performed in Dubai, India, and Hong Kong, sometimes ran into trouble when he ventured into salacious territory.
"If you mention certain topics, you can hear the butts tightening," Ramey said. "In India, they are so reserved that if you talk about sex, they giggle like little children. If you talk about orgasms, women grab their purses."
Jokes about religion, especially in Muslim countries, were off limits.
Now that he's back in the United States, Ramey, who appears on Comedy Central's "Live At Gotham" on Thursday, Aug. 22, doesn't have to worry about censoring himself. Thankfully, there haven't been many kids or grandkids showing up to his performances.
Ramey treasures the total freedom he has back in the states. But nothing quite compares to seeing the crowd at "The Comedy Store," London's most famous comedy club, explode in laughter.
Said Ramey: "I liked the idea of no one knowing who I was and just showing up and knocking out of the park each time."
Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scottgarg
Laughs R Us Comedy Club at The Fez, Stamford. Saturday, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m. $15. 917-251-5046, email@example.com.
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