Comedian Adam Ray is a busy man — and a pretty chill one, too. He’s the kind of celebrity who calls you “bud” when he needs to reschedule your phone interview for the fifth time that day. And when you finally connect, he delivers.
Ray cut his teeth as a YouTube comedian and performer on Funny or Die. He launched a podcast, About Last Night, alongside fellow comedian Brad Williams, and he’s the co-host of a new gameshow that premiered this month on TBS. He’s also been serving as host and MC of the Leafly Comedy Tour.
Born and raised in Seattle and now living in Los Angeles, Ray’s no stranger to the cannabis community. He spoke to Leafly about his preparations for Leafly’s Denver show, his mom’s soft spot for Bette Midler, and how a jolly, 6’2″ San Diego bro helped him fall in love with cannabis. Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:
Adam Ray: “Whoa, 206 area code!”
Leafly: Heck yeah, calling from your hometown!
As soon as it popped up I was like, “This guy’s the shit.”
Oh stop, you’re the talent here. So let’s get to it: You’re the MC for our Denver show. What does that even mean? How do you prepare?
Hosting for me, I don’t just come out immediately and start hitting jokes. You’re welcoming people to the party, so there has to be some organic, playful banter between you and the audience. I really enjoy that.
When you’re hosting, your job is just to set it up for the other dudes and not be too, you know, filthy or racial or political one way or the other. You’re being a gauge for what the night’s going to be. Your job is to be funny and get ‘em warmed up.
And in this case, when you’re prepping, in your mind is this a cannabis thing or is it just another show?
Nah, it’s just another show. There’s the backdrop of it being in the cannabis world, but, you know, I’ve done shows at pot dispensaries where everyone is suuuper baked, and I would definitely cater more jokes to it. That was different. I’ll definitely make sure I have some jokes that are appropriate for the cause, but it’s just another fun show to do that’s not in L.A., you know?
Yeah, it seems you’re tied up in L.A. a lot. I know you wear a bunch of different hats, but what should people check out if they’re new to Adam Ray?
Well, my standup for sure, because that’s me — I write all my stuff, I perform it all. My podcast, too, the interviews and the guests that we get and my relationship with my co-host, Brad Williams, who’s also a comic, you get a real strong sense of who I am through that.
I think at this point, comedy’s all about longevity and finding your voice, and it just takes time to figure out what your point of view is. Once you do — nothing ever gets easy, but things become more natural. Once your point of view gets really honed, you’re like, “Oh cool, now I know I have opinions and perspectives about things without even having to think about it, really, because I know who I am.” And that helps for the writing and everything I’m trying to put out.
This show, Separation Anxiety, we bring in a couple and separate them. The person with me thinks they’re playing for $2,500 on a shitty internet gameshow, but they’re actually playing for a hundred times more than that. Every question’s worth a hundred times more, so they’re actually playing for $250,000. I have an earpiece in the whole time, so I’m kind of a puppet for my co-host, Iliza [Shlesinger], as well. Anything she tells me to do, I have to do it. So there’s a lot of comedy there, and it’s great because I get to be myself. I think in any endeavor you want to make sure that you’re accessing all your weapons.
I’m pumped for Ghostbusters; I’m in that coming up. I’ve got a couple other acting gigs that are coming up. That’s why I try to keep my site updated with all my stuff. It’s got a good representation of standup, podcats, and — I used to work at Funny or Die, so I’ve got a shitload of YouTube and Funny or Die videos. I lived in the sketch world for a long time, and that was a great way to figure out my brain and my style.
When you’re sitting around, graduated from acting school and trying to build something out of nothing, you’ve got to start figuring out who you are and putting out vibes. The more you’ve got on your plate to access and market yourself, the better. You can’t just do one thing these days, you know?
Totally. Hey, can we talk about cannabis?
What’s your take on it?
Uh, I love it. I love it, maaan!
No, I started smoking probably a couple times in high school but never enough to really have an impact. I mean, one time I did, at a party, tell somebody to call the cops because I couldn’t feel my legs. And they were like, “You mean the ambulance?” and I was like, “No, the cops, because they can put us in touch with the ambulance!” What?!
And then I went to college at USC and my roommate was a 6’2” bro from San Diego who was just like, “Dude, what’s fuckin’— Adam, what’s up, dude? Dude, hell yeah. Dude, do you fuckin’ burn, dude? Let’s fuckin’ burn and play video games, dude.” And that guy was so likeable and loveable, and I couldn’t have had it better.
So I started smoking and was always still coherent and laughing. Ten years later, my consumption has slowed because of, like, the amount of voiceover work I’m doing now; it rips my throat up. Moving on to pens and oils and stuff has definitely helped.
I thought at one point I was going to stop smoking at 30. And I definitely have scaled way back. For me, I can’t be as effective as I want to be with everything that I’m doing if I’m smoking all the time. So it’s usually a nighttime activity. That being said, if it’s a weekend and I go see Dave Chapelle and I end up at his after party and he hands me a joint and says, “Hit this, man!” like, I’m probably going to take a rip.
Do you feel like the perception of it has changed much as states like Colorado and Washington have legalized?
I like that it’s gotten a lot cooler in society. I mean, shit, Obama said he smoked — he probably still smokes. The science of it has come along, and the effects from it. You see less and less stories, too, of people doing fucked up shit on weed, you know? It doesn’t have a bad name. There’s a lot of good press for it. Those stories of the guys who, like, do bestiality— you might hear about a guy who took too long ordering at the drive-thru at a Wendy’s, but he didn’t molest a dog or rob a Baskin-Robbins. Well maybe he did.
Yeah, maybe really politely.
OK, so I’m always curious to ask comedians: There are a lot of weird strain names out there. What would you name a new one?
Like, if I were to title it? I think naming it after yourself would be a little too narcissistic, but maybe call it… maybe Bette Midler? My mom loves Bette Midler and I’ve gotten her to smoke in the past few years to help her arthritis, so I say it because of that. She would be really pumped. And probably way more down to smoke for therapeutic reasons if she knew one was called Bette Midler. The title has a lot to do with it. Because you hear some, it’s like God’s Death Wish, and you’re like, “Yeah, definitely not smoking that.”
OK, the last word is yours. Anything else you want to throw out there before I let you go?
Yeah, just again, people should check out my podcast, About Last Night, on iTunes. All my tour dates are at adamraytv.com, and all my videos. Check out my TV show, Separation Anxiety, TBS, 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights. And, you know, come find me after the show and let’s burn.