‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ creator gives DC’s Warner Theatre a taste of comedy

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Phil Rosenthal at Warner Theatre (Part 1)

He created “Everybody Loves Raymond” before hosting the food and travel show “Somebody Feed Phil.”

2023 file photo of Phil Rosenthal, (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)(Scott Roth/Invision/AP/Scott Roth)

This week, Phil Rosenthal gives D.C.’s Warner Theatre a tasty menu of comedy on Wednesday.

“People ask me, ‘What do you do in the live show?’ and what I want to tell them is, ‘The lights go down, I come on stage, I eat a sandwich, and then I leave,'” Rosenthal told WTOP.

“No, I have a special surprise guest moderator, especially for Washington D.C., I come out, I tell funny stories about everything that’s happened to me in my life and of course the show. … Then the second half of the show is all Q&A with the audience.”

He recently visited D.C. to film the second episode of season seven, which premiered March 1 on Netflix.

“What a phenomenal food town,” Rosenthal said. “I went to Yellow for breakfast, they have the best iced lattes, incredible pastries and one of the best shawarma pitas.”

“We went to Stachowski’s Market for a gigantic pastrami sandwich; Baked & Wired is delicious; the Indian restaurant is old and famous, Rasika; Ben’s Chili Bowl; Bread Furst; the Mozzeria, some of the best pizza in the country run entirely by deaf and hard-of-hearing people. … One of the best Korean restaurants in the country, Anju, and a Lao restaurant, Thip Khao.”

Rosenthal even whipped up some bipartisan dining at Maketto on H Street in Northeast D.C.

“One of my favorite episodes we ever did,” Rosenthal said. “I’m thinking if I’m going to Washington D.C. in 2023, what would I want to accomplish on my trip given I do a food and travel show? What if I could get a Republican and a Democrat to sit and have lunch together?” Rosenthal said.

“It was not easy to get this, but then I got two great people: Kevin Fitzpatrick, Republican from Pennsylvania, and Pete Buttigieg, our secretary of transportation.”

Born in Queens, New York, in 1960, Rosenthal attended Hofstra University before eventually breaking into Hollywood as a writer and producer on the popular ABC sitcom “Coach” (1989-1997) starring Craig T. Nelson.

“I did a bunch of shows working for other people for about three or four years before I got on ‘Coach,'” Rosenthal said.

“I came into the middle of that run. I worked there I think seasons six, seven and eight, so it was already a well-oiled machine. It was during my third year that my partner and I amicably split up … I stayed on one more year to establish myself as a solo writer. During that season I got a videocassette of a comedian who had just been on the David Letterman show … Letterman thought someone should create a sitcom for this Ray Romano fella.”

That show was, of course, the hilarious CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996-2005), starring Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton and Brad Garrett, as well as the late Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle as Ray’s parents.

“[Romano had] incredible integrity in addition to being one of the funniest people in the world,” Rosenthal said.

“In the history of sitcoms, I would say that [Heaton] is one of the best people ever to play the wife. [Garrett] is one of the single funniest people in the world. [Roberts and Boyle had] relatability. … That might be the strength of the entire show. The best compliment we’d ever get was, ‘You were listening outside our house last night!'”

Along the way, Rosenthal acted in “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” and won a Peabody by cowriting the 9/11 telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” simulcast on NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS. However, the idea of hosting a food and travel show took a while to develop, pitch and sell.

“From the time ‘Raymond’ went off the air to the time I got the first food and travel show on PBS was 10 years,” Rosenthal said.

“Some people think that because I did ‘Raymond’ and had some success that they just gave me whatever show I wanted, and that’s just not true. I had to really struggle. First of all, nobody wanted anymore sitcoms from me because the business had changed drastically; they all wanted hip, edgy and sexy shows.”

“I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” aired on PBS before changing the name to “Somebody Feed Phil,” which launched to Netflix in 2018.

“I sold the show with one line, ‘I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain, if he was afraid of everything,'” Rosenthal said.

“PBS gave me six on the air … then thank God Netflix came along. … There’s eight [episodes] this season, our biggest season ever and I think our best season. We go to Kyoto, we go to Mumbai, we go to Taipei, we go to Dubai, we go to Iceland and Scotland. It’s a pretty wide range of cities this year.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Phil Rosenthal at Warner Theatre (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on the podcast below:

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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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