You know how people say there’s a fifth Beatle. Well, Ray was the 10th Mmm Comedy.
Context is important, so let me tell you a little story. A long time ago (in August 2002) a girl (me) moved to New York City. I didn’t know a soul. I moved there to shake up my life and ACT, dammit! And right away started doing improvisation. I auditioned for the Improv groups at the New York Comedy Club run by a woman whose name I cannot for the life of me remember. And I got in! They had two shows a week. Friday and Saturday, if I remember correctly. I probably don’t. But it wasn’t this improv group that was important, it’s the people I met while doing it.
You see an intrepid group of us decided to branch off and start our own group: Austin, Dave, Joe, Kate, Morla, Duncan, Josh, Max and Me. Some of us (Me included) still wanted to stay in the NYCC groups, but we all were feeling like we could be better together. (We were.)So Mmm Comedy was born!
Our idea: Do a variety show every week. We’d script a show, weave it with improv and improv games, a musical guest and a couple of comics. It was pretty inspired. And fun. None of us had any money, we just chipped in where we could for advertising and such. Dave designed the logo. I did the webpage and designed the flyers. In fact, here is our website, from the internet archive Wayback machine, in all its glory. (Please note, this was in 2003. I did not have Dreamweaver. I hand-coded html straight up in notepad.) We all took turns in Times Square handing out 2 for 1 coupons; some of us (me) less than others.
We had our first show on Monday, January 6th, 2003 in Hell’s Kitchen at Tobacco Road. From January until April, we rocked it. It was glorious. We produced a whole new show EVERY WEEK. We split up into groups to write the scripts (like Monty Python we had certain people who worked really well together.) Throw in a musical guest and a couple of comics and we were golden.Our favorite comic was Ray Payton. Click on the video below, and you’ll see why. Dude was funny! He did stand up the first week, and came back several times. Heck, he’d come to the show even if he wasn’t on the roster. We loved Ray. Although Ray didn’t improv with us, he was another member of our troupe. An integral part.
You probably knew this was the point: I found out over the weekend that Ray passed away on Friday. I suspect from complications from Diabetes. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t said anything publicly yet because I have yet to find an obituary for him.Over the years, I’ve reconnected with the rest of my Mmm Comedy buddies (thank goodness for Facebook!) But I never did with Ray; he used his legal name, Rahssan Damon Payton, on Facebook and I only knew him by his stage name.
I regret losing touch.
My heart goes out to Ray’s (Rahssan’s) friends and family. He was a gentle soul who was rip-roaringly funny.