Fancy Ray McCloney, a “human chocolate orchid,” spreads his roots


Generally, it’s hard to admire a fellow who makes a constant show of admiring himself.  That charming narcissist Fancy Ray “The Best Lookin’ Man In Comedy” McCloney, though, is a wondrously hysterical exception to the rule. He’s crazy about himself with such unabashed, disarming glee that audiences, indeed, are crazy about him.

His career has included stints on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Entertainment Tonight and on The Jenny Jones Show. He’s worked in concert with Richard Pryor, Little Richard, and Chris Rock, starred in the film Junkyard Willie, and was featured on television in Sweden and England. “I am the best lookin’ man in comedy,” he trumpets, like a manic mantra, at least a half dozen times during his standup routine. It’s very effective, because, after a while, you give in and wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with him. Like other comics, his material ranges across topics, but he always returns to his audacious ace in the hole, congratulating himself for being so pretty. And does it in so many different, wildly outlandish ways you can’t wait to see how he’s going to happily compliment himself next.

Odds are you best know him from his broad schtick in television commercials. At any given time, you can catch him doing one spot, switch the channel when he’s done and find yourself looking at him in another one. He’s the most recognizable pitchman in Twin Cities TV. For example, that’s him uproariously lampooning the daylights out of Prince in a long-running commercial for a Minneapolis video store.

Fancy Ray McCloney can be just as wild and crazy in conversation as he is on camera and onstage. But, he indulged a lapse or two into sanity—or something close to it—for an interview at a downtown Minneapolis coffee shop. He brings his hugely successful act to Club Underground on August 14th.

I just caught you at the Red Sea, showcasing an all-new set. Where does the material come from?
It’s just like where does a great song come from. Great art. I don’t create it. That spirit inside that just flows through me. So much of my material is based on me. I’m just a wellspring of joy, energy, and love. The humanness just flows out of me.

I forget exactly. What topics did you cover at the Red Sea?
I talked about everything. The most important topic, the thing I love most in this world! Which is me. And, of course, the Big Bang and creation of the universe. All that power inside of us. That’s inside me and you. Right? From the Big Bang. The carbon, the nitrogen, all that’s inside our bodies. It’s been said [that] everybody’s a star. I just happen to be the Big Dipper.

You were commuting for awhile, but moved back home from L.A. When?
Just about a year ago I made it permanent. To be with my son. Reconnect with [the Twin Cities]. It’s been fantastic.

Even you, the Big Dipper, have to adhere to fundamentals of the craft. Timing. Good comics have to have it. And don’t hand me some noise about you fell out of a flower with good timing.
No, I fell out of an orchid tree. As the Human Chocolate Orchid.

Would you behave for two minutes?
To keep it on the real. It’s somethin’ you got or you don’t. I don’t know how you develop timing. Timing is natural. You have to know the set-up time to build the right tension, then hit the punchline. It’s like breathing to me. How’d I come up breathing, man? I don’t know. I just started goin’ in and out, in and out, in and out. Kept doing it until I made a couple babies.

How’d I know you was gon’ go there? All right, so, it’s just natural.
Completely natural. There’s no timing school. If you ain’t got timing, get a better watch.

Okay, material. You’ve gotta have good material.
Absolutely. I can’t take credit for that. Because right there is the universal power working through me. Sometimes my jokes, oh, I’m so pretty this, so pretty that. But some of it’s true. Like, people think I’m cheap ’cause I bring a mirror to the restaurant with me.

That’s your date. Your reflection in the mirror. Yeah, all right.
I think it’s smart. I haven’t paid for desert in over two years. I ain’t lyin’.

I bet you ain’t seen a shrink, neither. Do you sit down with a tape recorder? Pencil and paper?
I kind of say all the above. Sometimes pen and paper. Sometimes a tape recorder. My best material comes in front of the mirror.

Here we go.
I’m not just saying that. I’m motivated in front of the mirror. 80 per cent of material I write [that way]. Sometimes, in front of the audience, I’m just riffing. Improvising. What you’re looking at is an artist, a true professional, doin’ his thing. That’s what you get when you see Fancy Ray live.

Well, wonderful as you are, even you have influences.
Absolutely. I studied the Muhammad Alis, the Gorgeous Georges, Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, Liberace. There is a list. Muhammed Ali really busted it open for everybody. When said “I am the greatest,” he was a 17 year-old kid. He hadn’t done nothin’. He hadn’t beat a potato sack. But he believed. And to this day the world knows him as the Greatest. He claimed that truth in himself and he made that truth a reality. Love him. Love the belief in himself. And the celebration of life.