Ricky Velez was hoping “Here’s all”, his new HBO special, would be a creative escape. After significant delays due to COVID-19, the project is still a professional step – only now it feels more like a necessary return to an art form he loves.
Shot in front of a vaccinated audience at New York’s Brooklyn Steel this summer, “Here’s Everything” finds Velez in stoner comedy mode, embracing politics and parenthood with acerbic irreverence. The longtime New Yorker, who is Puerto Rican and Irish, also pits his childhood in a working-class neighborhood in Queens against the privileges he now attains as a rising star on the national stand-up circuit and in Hollywood.
“I’ve been on both sides my entire life, and I think it’s more common than people think,” said Velez, 32. “I just like going to the line and making people understand why it’s fun to dance to it. This.”
“Here’s Everything,” due out October 23, could help establish Velez as his generation’s answer to Jean Leguizamo, another champion of Latino identity. Like Leguizamo, Velez was drawn to comedy from a young age and also faced professional obstacles as a person of mixed heritage.
A former manager, for example, suggested that she change her last name to avoid being “pigeonholé” as a stand-up performer. Most recently, Velez opted out of an audition for an upcoming film after saying he was asked to announce his citizenship before submitting a self-cassette.
“I think there are caps on this shit for Hispanics,” he said, “and I refuse to sit in these rooms.”
One person who identified Velez’s talent early on, however, has been Pierre Davidson. The two met as teenagers on the New York City comedy club circuit and took breaks from work around the same time. Shortly after Davidson joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 2014, Velez landed a role as a panelist and correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Night Show with Larry Wilmore”, Which aired for two seasons, and he appeared on“ Master of None ”in a guest spot.
Davidson and Velez were fortunate enough to reunite onscreen as co-stars last year in “The King of Staten Island.” Davidson co-wrote the screenplay with comedian and writer Dave Sirus and director Judd Apatow, basing much of the film on his own life. Velez played Oscar, the drug trafficker sidekick and stage thief of Davidson’s Scott Carlin.
Like many films released amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “The King of Staten Island”Debuted with less than ideal fanfare after giving up on a planned theatrical release. Still, it laid the foundation for Velez’s professional relationship with Apatow, a creative force behind “Knocked Up” and “Trainwreck,” among other landmark films. The couple bonded over the Mets games and a shared love for Bruce Springsteen, and they came up with the idea for “Here’s Everything” – which Apatow produced by the executive – shortly thereafter.
“I love that he finds a way to be brash and weird, but he’s also very kind and self-deprecating,” Apatow told HuffPost in an email. “He made me laugh so much I asked him to help me set up the script. [for ‘King of Staten Island’] on the weekends, and his ideas about Pete and his ideas for jokes were invaluable. He is a very deep and moving writer.
Joking that Apatow has become “like my father,” Velez said he appreciates the fact that “The King of Staten Island” and “Here’s Everything” allowed him to express both his Puerto Rican and Irish sides. “A lot of my auditions come for one or the other, never both,” he said. “And Judd never asked me to be anything other than Ricky at any time. It was something very special.
Following the release of “Here’s Everything”, Velez plans to continue working with Apatow and Davidson on new film and television projects. However, he has no plans to give up live-action comedy, noting, “Stand-up is instant gratification, and I live my life like that. I don’t have to wait for someone to tell me if I’m okay or not. I hear the crowd.
As for “Here’s Everything,” Velez hopes viewers walk away from the special with a better understanding that “whatever thoughts they have that they don’t talk about, they’re not the only ones having them.”
“Plus people need to stop taking themselves so seriously,” he said. “Let go of the ego and you will be in a better place. ”