When he was 16, 42 of his bones were broken in an automobile accident. At 17, he won a contest to open for Sam Kinison, whom he considered his idol. Kinison suggested that May move to Houston to further develop his comedy routine. May graduated from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
In 2008, May reflected on his childhood with Arkansas Online; at the time, he was shy of his 36th birthday. He said, "I had fun growing up in Arkansas. Now that I live in L.A., I dream of traffic being equivalent to a busy day around the malls."
In 2003, May was chosen to participate in the first season of Last Comic Standing. He finished in second place in the competition, with Dat Phan winning first place. Afterwards, May appeared in comedy shows, such as The Wayne Brady Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2005, he was the only white comedian on The Big Black Comedy Show, which also featured Mo'Nique, Rodman, and Vince Morris.
In 2005, May released his first comedy album Just Correct. He later recorded four Comedy Central specials titled Girth of a Nation (2006), Prime Cut (2007), Austin-tatious (2008), and Too Big To Ignore (2012), as well as two Netflix specials titled Imperfectly Yours (2013) and Unruly (2015). He appeared in For Da Love of Money. May also performed at the "Gathering of the Juggalos 2012".
On July 3, 2005, May married comedienne Lahna Turner. The couple had two children: daughter April June May and son August James May. The couple filed for divorce in October 2015 and sought physical and joint custody of their children, but the divorce was never finalized.
May suffered from obesity throughout his life. His weight increased to 800 pounds (360 kg), following a car accident at age 16. He participated on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club and had gastric bypass surgery in 2004, which lowered his weight by 350 pounds (160 kg). A bout with viral pneumonia on a cruise in October 2011 made May lose 40 pounds.
In November 2011, he had almost died of a pulmonary embolism after contracting serious pneumonia on a cruise ship, then suffering a pulmonary embolism where a blood clot from his leg got lodged in an artery.
May discussed his grandmother in a number of interviews and credited her with helping take care of him and his siblings as they were growing up. Speaking to the Arkansas Times in 2012, May said, "Thank goodness for my grandmother, she was a hell of a woman. She was really beneficial, she kept us in a stature way above our means and made sure we were taken care of as far as clean clothes and shoes." His Facebook bio also references his grandmother. "When I was a kid, my grandmother taught me how to crochet and how to quilt, and that's kind of how I do an act. I have one-liners, I have dirty jokes, but I also have long stories that are 10 or 20 minutes long and the laughs come every eight seconds. It's a different set. And it's a different life than most people have led."
In an interview with the Arkansas Times in 2012, he discussed growing up in Clarksville, shedding light on some of the hardships he faced. He shared, "It was a hard life growing up. It was a similar story to a lot of people in Arkansas. My mom was a florist. I'm the youngest of four. My father and mother hated each other, and they took it out on us. She'd sue him for not paying child support, then he didn't pay, and that ended up costing us a lot..."
In 2013, May and his wife Turner started a podcast together called Perfect 10. Asked by Las Vegas Weekly how the podcast was going, May said, "It's going great! We love doing it. It's fun, it's something different, it's something that my wife and I get to work on. And I think it's different than a lot of podcasts. We do a lot of crazy sh*t, and have a lot of fun and it's a real blast."
On October 6, 2017, May died of cardiac arrest after battling pneumonia for several weeks and had cancelled previous shows over the past month. His publicist Stacey Pokluda had confirmed this. He was 45 years old and is survived by his wife and two children. It was later published that hours before his death, May was scheduled to do a meet-and-greet after his final performance at Harrah's in Las Vegas around midnight, but May had already shown signs of his deteriorating condition.
|2002||For Da Love of Money|
|2005||Big Black Comedy: Vol. 2|||
|Big Black Comedy: Vol. 4|||
|2006||Girth of a Nation|
|Bangin' With Ralphie May|||
|2008||The Best of Comics Unleashed With Byron Allen|||
|2012||Too Big to Ignore||Himself|
|2016||Inside Amy Schumer|
|2017||Penn & Teller: Fool Us|||
|2006||Girth of a Nation|
|2012||Too Big to Ignore|