Ralphie May, the Tennessee-born, Arkansas-raised stand-up comedian who became famous as a finalist on Last Comic Standing, has died. May’s manager Julie Marmel confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter, saying his body was found earlier today at a private residence in Las Vegas. May had been battling pneumonia for the past month, forcing him to cancel some tour dates, but the cause of death was cardiac arrest, Marmel says. May was 45.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February 1972 and raised in Clarksville, Arkansas, May’s first big stand-up gig was opening for his idol Sam Kinison when he was just 17 years old. As May recalled to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel in 2004, in an attempt to soothe his nerves Kinison told him, “Kid, there are 3,500 people ... and not one of them paid to see you.” May continued to perform in clubs around the south until relocating to Los Angeles; in 2003, he was cast on the reality show Last Comic Standing, where he finished second to fellow comedian Dat Phan.
Last Comic Standing brought May’s stand-up career to a national level, and he continued to tour and appear on talk shows right up until his death. His last show was last night at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas, the New York Daily News reports, where he had shows scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night as well. He was also in the middle of a nationwide tour. May released four Comedy Central stand-up specials in his career—Girth Of A Nation (2006), Prime Cut (2007), Austin-tatious (2008), and Too Big To Ignore (2012)—as well as two Netflix specials. He also appeared as a guest on dozens of comedy shows, from Hollywood Squares to Inside Amy Schumer.
May is survived by his wife, comedian Lahna Turner, and their two children.