‘Everybody Loves Raymond’: Ray Romano Still Gets Choked Up Talking About This Star’s Role in His Career

In the trajectory of actor and comedian Ray Romano’s career, it’s truly incredible that, had it not been for one moment, his career may never have reached the heights that it has.

The Everybody Loves Raymond star even now still gets emotional speaking about the celebrity who played such a critical role in his success and life.

Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, and Doris Roberts of 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, and Doris Roberts of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ | Jim Spellman/WireImage

How Ray Romano got noticed

In the early 1990s, Romano was flourishing as a stand-up comic. He had appeared on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show in 1991 and, as he told NPR in April 2019, on “every stand-up show they had. I loved doing stand-up.”

He was offered the opportunity in 1995 to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman, where he cracked jokes about life with young children, the lack of sex, the exhaustion. A lot of people noticed. A lot of the right people.

“I was happy to be doing what I loved, but I was – I kind of reached a plateau, I guess, of where I was going to go,” he said. “And if that’s all I did for the rest of my career, you know, it’s – it doesn’t suck to be doing what you love to do. And Letterman, after I’d done my Letterman set, I kind of thought, well, that was a really good set. So let’s see if it had – you know, maybe somebody? And it was Letterman. It was Letterman who was watching from 20 feet away.”

Letterman was so impressed he offered Romano the chance to create a sitcom around himself and his comedy. Everybody Loves Raymond premiered in 1996 on CBS.

‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ almost didn’t make it

The CBS comedy series got off to a bumpy start. Debuting on Friday nights, the show was a hit with critics. But no one was watching it, or at least not enough viewers to guarantee it another season.

The show’s creator, Phil Rosenthal explained how it happened that in its first season, the comedy was relocated to Monday nights.

“[President of CBS Entertainment] Les Moonves called me into his office,” Rosenthal told the Archive of American Television in 2005. “He said, ‘We’re going to try the show on Monday nights in March.'”

RELATED: ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’: Brad Garrett On Why the Show’s Writers Had Robert Touch His Chin So Much, Plus His Favorite Moments

Moonves, the showrunner said, was willing to give Raymond “six opportunities,” telling Rosenthal that if the show did not succeed in its new time slot, “‘I can’t help you anymore.'”

“It was thrilling and scary at the same time,” Rosenthal said. “Yes, we made it into the playoffs but you could be sent home at any moment, right?”

Of course, the show, which ended its run after nine successful seasons in 2005, enjoyed spectacular ratings and viewership.

“We got on Mondays and our ratings doubled from where they’d been on Fridays,” Rosenthal added.

Romano still gets choked up talking about Letterman’s role in his career

David Letterman, as Ray Romano describes him, didn’t just give him a situation comedy. He changed the entire path of his career, his life, his family’s life. It’s an emotional topic for the comedian, as he told NPR.

“Yeah, I’m getting emotional now when I think about it,” Romano said. “But yeah, it’s true. Look, there are many things that happened in my life. There are many milestones. There are many things that got me to where I am but none more so than the five minutes I did on “Letterman” that night.

“I mean, it changed my life. It changed my children’s life. I mean, I’d still like to think we’d be the same people. It all kind of welled up in me.”