Amish Comic raises spirits, not barns

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First Posted: 8/5/2013

If you’re ever having trouble figuring out how to take a picture with a friend’s smartphone, word of advice: Don’t ask the Amish guy. It’s not that he doesn’t know how. He’s just more entertained watching you fumble around helplessly.

“If you have your phone, you know how to work it, but as soon as someone hands their friend their phone and says, ‘Quick, take a picture,” you get all trembly. Your shoulders drop down and you go, ‘Ha ha, it must be because of the Amish guy.’ Hell no, don’t blame me because your dumb ass doesn’t know how to work a phone.”

So says Raymond the Amish Comic.

Admittedly not your average Amish guy, Raymond left that life behind years ago, trading in his farming tools for a 23-year career on the stand-up comedy circuit – including a headlining performance at The Gravity Inn in Waymart this Friday – and a devoted Pennsylvanian fan base. Before he ever made a dime making people laugh, however, humor was an icebreaker, a way for Raymond to connect with a world so unlike the one he was raised in.

“It’s not like I was plowing the fields thinking, ‘Hey, I’m a pretty funny farmer. I can get a gig at a nightclub if I just crossed the street,’” Raymond says, explaining how he began slinging quips to alleviate tension while working at a screen printing business following his exodus from Amishland. At his coworkers’ insistence, he began to call in to a local radio show to crack jokes on-air. From there, the transition to stand-up was natural.

“My career was an accident, but I work harder doing stand-up than I’ve ever worked at anything in my life. And it doesn’t even feel like work.”

A self-described “cursing ranter,” Raymond cites Lewis Black and Lenny Bruce as inspirations. Back when he was still finding his footing, though, one icon of comedy influenced Raymond in a more direct way.

“One of the first big shows I ever did was at the Rajah Theater in Reading, which seats about 2,000 people. The show was sold out for reasons I still haven’t figured out. I’d never been in front of a crowd that big,” Raymond recalled.

“George Carlin was performing there about a month before me, so I arranged to be backstage during Carlin’s show if I promised not to bother him. There I was, about to have a heart attack, and Carlin actually took me back behind the curtain while his opening act was on and taught me how to find the hot spots in the room and how to play to them. It was amazing.”

Nowadays, while Raymond still references newsworthy Amish events (such as the success of TV shows such as “Amish Mafia” and “Breaking Amish”), much of his material focuses more on our increasingly high-tech society.

Don’t worry. He’s not playing the part of technophobic preacher, as one might expect. In fact, Raymond is an outspoken Apple addict who maintains a constant presence on Facebook and Twitter, plays “Candy Crush Saga” obsessively, and spends his downtime watching so-bad-it’s-good B-movies like “Nude Nuns with Big Guns” on Netflix.

Why bill himself as “the Amish Comic” then? Why not ditch the black hat and shave the beard?

“I have a very recognizable head,” Raymond says. “It would be insanely stupid of me to shave this beard off. It’s my moneymaker. It’d be like a stripper getting breast reduction surgery.”