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Romano, Hammond to perform for Garden of Laughs

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NEW YORK (AP) -- While everybody loves Raymond, it's stand-up comedy that Ray Romano loves most.

The 55-year-old actor-comedian says performing live is his passion, so he jumped at the chance to participate in the "Garden of Laughs" event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

"It's great to see some of the guys that I started doing stand-up with, like Brian Regan and Wanda (Sykes)," Romano said. "And Bob Costas is hosting."

Adam Ferrara and Darrell Hammond are also scheduled to perform in the comedy event, which will benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Romano, who starred in the long-running TV series "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the short-lived "Men of a Certain Age," says he feels more comfortable onstage.

"Yeah, I love to act and explore different characters, but I'm still learning and finding out if I'm good at all," Romano said of his work in front of the camera.

"When I do stand-up, I'm in my element. This is what I am a pro at doing."

Romano joked about the upcoming benefit: "I want to know when I'm going on. Because I don't want to go last."

He calls performing with old friends a "win-win situation."

"I'm a fan of all of them. I started with Brian. If I was going to pick one guy whom I have the most in common, it's him. Brian and I are friends. We both started around the same time," he said.

That experience dates back to their days at the Comedy Cellar in New York's Greenwich Village.

"I did 15 shows a week when I lived in New York. I did five shows on a Friday and seven shows on a Saturday. It was everything I did and it was my sole source of income," Romano said.

Then came "Everybody Loves Raymond," in which Romano played a sportswriter and family man. The sitcom wrapped up in 2005 after nine seasons and is now widely seen in syndication around the world.

"It's pretty baffling to hear how successful it is in Australia and Israel. Mainly because I was in it," he said. "It's because the story was very relatable because it's family. Family is the same no matter what language you speak."

Romano feels that same theme shines through in the animated "Ice Age" film series, in which he voices a wooly mammoth named Manny. Romano says he's proud to have each of his children perform a speaking line in each movie in the series.

But now it's back to the stage, and Romano couldn't be happier.

"A ballplayer reaches a certain age that he can no longer hit the ball out of the park. Then he retires. But with stand-up he can keep doing it. Yes, you have to learn to adjust and you have to be more current and hopefully you hold up for some time."

Madison Square Garden President and CEO Hank Ratner says the Garden of Dreams Foundation has conducted events and programs for more than 215,000 children and their families, including those facing homelessness, extreme poverty, illness and foster care.

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