Michael Rapaport plays DC Improv, reflects on career from ‘True Romance’ to ‘Friends’

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Michael Rapaport at DC Improv (Part 1)

You know him from such movies as “True Romance” and TV series as “Friends.”

Comedian Michael Rapaport cracks up the DC Improv this Thursday through Saturday.

“I love that club,” Rapaport told WTOP. “I’ve performed there once before. I love D.C. I love performing in D.C. I have carved out, unintentionally, a spot for being a political voice. The last time I was in D.C. performing, I brought it, and the crowd loved it, and I plan on being as disruptive and outspoken and honest as I possibly can performing back at the Improv.”

In recent months, Rapaport has gone viral for his rants during the pandemic.

“I talk about COVID,” Rapaport said. “I talk about this president, I talk about the last president, I don’t have any allegiances to any of these people. They’re all disappointing, it’s part of the job to let people down whether you voted for them or not. I hit ’em hard.”

Born in New York in 1970, Rapaport grew up with both parents working in radio.

“They both worked in radio behind the scenes,” Rapaport said. “They worked at a radio station in New York City. I grew up when they were playing vinyl on record players. … I have a lot of respect for DJs and radio personalities because I was around them as a kid.”

After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to launch his standup comedy career, while landing a role as Christian Slater’s friend in Tony Scott’s “True Romance” (1993).

“‘True Romance’ was as exciting for me to do it, as it was for people to watch it and to continue to watch it,” Rapaport said. “It was a great cast, written by Quentin Tarantino, directed by the late great Tony Scott with Christian Slater. It was an honor to be in that.”

He next played a skinhead in John Singleton’s “Higher Learning” (1995).

“Awesome film,” Rapaport said. “John Singleton was a great director, breakthrough film director, I got to work with Ice Cube before he was the friendly Ice Cube we know now, the great Academy Award winner Regina King. It was a pleasure making ‘Higher Learning.'”

He worked with another pioneering director in Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” (2000).

“I love that film,'” Rapaport said. “I feel like more people need to see it. Spike Lee again is another filmmaker who is iconic, an iconic voice, and a breakthrough personality and filmmaker. That was a dope time working on that little movie ‘Bamboozled.'”

He was also “bamboozled” as Phoebe’s cop boyfriend in TV’s “Friends” (1999).

“Working on ‘Friends’ is like working on ‘The Brady Bunch’ for my generation,” Rapaport said. “The show never goes away. People love it. People talk to me about ‘Friends’ every day. … The cast was dope, they were probably making about $600,000 a week, so everybody was in a great mood. I’m happy to be part of an iconic institution of television.”

He starred in another TV series as a teacher in “Boston Public” (2000-2004).

“I liked doing ‘Boston Public,'” Rapaport said. “I wish it was on the air longer than it was. I think it was a little bit ahead of its time, but I really had fun working on that show.”

Folks will also remember him in the sci-fi action flick “The 6th Day” (2000).

“Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger is always going to be something you have to pinch yourself like, ‘This is crazy,’ because everybody loves Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Rapaport said. “He’s so unique, he’s so one-of-a-kind, his story, all of his films and his catchphrases, ‘I’ll be back,’ and everything like that. It was as exciting as you can imagine.”

He also starred in the rom-com “Hitch” (2005) with Will Smith (we spoke pre-Oscar slap).

“He’s really good in the Serena Williams, Venus Williams film ‘King Richard,'” Rapaport said. “You know, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ — it was cool working with him, I’ve known him for a good amount of time, a huge success, that movie. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

His filmography goes on and on, starring across Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries” (1995), Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat” (2013) and Tom Hanks in “Sully” (2016).

He’s also directed the “A Tribe Called Quest” documentary “Beats, Rhymes and Life” (2011) and directing the ESPN 30:30 on the New York Knicks’ title in the 1970s.

“Very rewarding,” Rapaport said. “I loved making the ‘Tribe’ doc, it was something that I put everything into, I’m proud of it, I love that group, I love hip hop and the film is available on Hulu now … and then doing a 30:30 on my sorry Knicks who continue to disappoint, disgruntle and break the hearts of basketball fans is fun. I wish they’d get over the hump.”

Through it all, he never tires of discussing these same roles.

“I’m a fan of actors, I’m a fan of comedians, and if I was doing an interview I would ask the same things,” Rapaport said. “It’s an honor to be able to do what I do after all these years, so there’s no questions that are redundant or that I haven’t been asked, but I’m truly fortunate to have things that people are curious about — that’s how I look at it.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Michael Rapaport at DC Improv (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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