Ricky Velez Wouldn’t Let Him Film His HBO Special At The High School He Attended

You may recognize Ricky Velez from his tenure as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, or perhaps as Pete Davidson’s best friend in last year’s semi-autobiographical film The King of Staten Island.

In real life, Velez and Davidson not only were friends but also roommates in Brooklyn before they each became famous. Davidson and Judd Apatow executive produce Velez’s first hour-long comedy special for HBO, Ricky Velez: Here’s Everything, which recently premiered on HBO and is now streaming on HBO Max. Velez hopped on a Zoom with Decider to talk about how he originally wanted to film the special at his high school alma mater in Queens before changing locations to Brooklyn Steel, as well as what he has learned from his past gigs and from writing alongside Davidson and Apatow.

RICKY VELEZ: Life has been crazy. but I’m really trying to take it all in and enjoy it. All this is a bit surreal to me. I grew up here in New York and it’s been really cool, and I come from a blue-collar family, and me and my brothers are really enjoying and loving all of this.

Is fame and success is that something they teach you or they prepared you for at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria, Queens?

I’m glad you brought them up, because they will not recognize me. I’ll tell you that much. You know, we almost did the special there.

They have a great auditorium.

Gorgeous auditorium. A beautiful auditorium, so we went to go do it there and the school said yes. The Board of Education shut me down. And it’s like … I went to the performing arts school. I come back with Judd Apatow and (director) Michael Bonfiglio. But I understand that they said no because supposedly I can be saying things that can be triggering for children and that’s how they took it. But, I mean, it’s funny you say, ‘Do they teach you that?’ Because you almost become jaded to celebrities at a very young age because they’re just walking around the hallways of your school. Tony Bennett was around, I used to see Tony Bennett a lot. Billy Joel, him and Tony Bennett put out an album together while I was there and they were around, Lady Gaga is often at the school. It’s a really crazy and incredible experience.

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Did that experience help solidify your aspirations for comedy instead of pursuing a blue-collar job?

No, I think I left that school almost with a bad taste in my mouth about theater. I think I was too young and immature to really take in what they were teaching, and I left and just went to school. I went to college for less than a year, then came home and tried to join the military. And I got denied to the military and I started laying carpet. My buddy has a carpet company. And the carpet company, they do events. So I would basically be like laying carpet for like Fashion Week, and red carpets for like movies and all this other stuff. Now sometimes when I show up to things I’m like, ‘Yo did the Hall’s do this carpet?’ Yeah, and then I was 19 at that time and I was pretty miserable and there was a lot of depression and whatnot and I knew there was something that needed to go down. My mom wanted me to get back into acting, but I needed the instant gratification that stand-up gives, and it’s given me that for a long time now and I love it.

I know that you were roommates with Pete Davidson a long time before you co-starred with him on The King of Staten Island. But tell me what that’s like, you’re 21, and he’s a lanky teen and you’re like, yeah, I want to live with that guy.

When we were living in Brooklyn Heights, he was 18 at this point. It was funny because, I think he had just like gotten Wild ‘n Out. And like we were doing enough shows. But, I mean, it was just a fun time in our lives, that was definitely, like, not healthy, I’ll tell you that much. Like, there was always smoke in the air. But it was definitely what made us. I mean that’s my brother. I’ve been, we’ve been through it, thick and thin. But at the end of the day, we’re just best friends and it was a great experience. I loved living with Pete, but I’d never do it again nor tell anybody else to do it. (laughs)

Do you stand outside waiting for TMZ to roll up on the latest relationship and say you warned them about living with Pete?

No. I have nothing to say to those people. I’ve got no time for any of that. It’s just weird because we’ll just be like walking down the street and those people show up. It’s uncomfortable.

What was it like in 2014, when both of you broke through? That’s the year Pete got SNL, while you won the New York’s Funniest competition, which springboarded you to The Nightly Show?

Yeah, that was cool. That was awesome. We both were just loving it, life was really great at that time. I got Variety Top 10 the next year.