Comic Manis­calco vis­its

Fun­ny­man has seen his suc­cess grow over the past two years

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Randy Cor­dova

Ev­ery­thing seems to be go­ing in the right di­rec­tion for fast-talk­ing fun­ny­man Se­bas­tian Manis­calco, who will play two shows in Phoenix on Satur­day.

En­ter­tain­ers, if they’re lucky, get to en­joy a mo­ment in which ev­ery­thing seems to be go­ing their way.

In the midst of such a mo­ment: Se­bas­tian Manis­calco. Just look at what’s been hap­pen­ing. In the past two years, the fast-talk­ing fun­ny­man has made four movies. He head­lined his fourth Show­time spe­cial. He’s play­ing big­ger venues; he just booked a solo Ra­dio City Hall gig next year. And he got the bless­ing of Jerry Se­in­feld, who fea­tured him on “Co­me­di­ans in Cars Get­ting Cof­fee.”

Per­haps big­gest of all — if not his fa­vorite topic — Forbes puts him at No. 10 on the list of the list of the world’s high­est paid co­me­di­ans, re­port­ing that he earned $15 mil­lion be­tween June 2016 and June 2017. Not too shabby for a guy from Chicago whose folks would break out the Sara Lee when com­pany came over.

The 40some­thing Manis­calco, who also hosts a pro­gram on Sir­ius

XM with Pete Cor­reale, called to plug his two shows at the Celebrity The­atre — one is al­ready sold out — and talk about his ca­reer. Ques­tion: You’ve worked for a long time, but it seems like things have gone into over­drive re­cently.

An­swer: I think in the last cou­ple of years we’ve seen a lot of the work I’ve done over the last 17 or 18 years come to kind of a tip­ping point. I’m do­ing movies and the the­aters are sell­ing out. I have a book com­ing out next year. In a busi­ness where you don’t think any­thing is hap­pen­ing for a while, things have been hap­pen­ing. Q: Do you at­tribute it to any one thing, or just a cul­mi­na­tion of things?

A: I think it was go­ing to the com­edy clubs for the last 10 years and say­ing hi after the show. Peo­ple would take pho­tos with me and I’d thank them for com­ing out. I keep my ma­te­rial cur­rent, so when

peo­ple come back, they’re not hear­ing the same thing, and they tell their friends and fam­ily. It just snow­balled. I didn’t have any TV or film ex­po­sure — it’s all been stand-up.

Q: When this kind of suc­cess hap­pens, are you afraid it’s all go­ing to go away?

A: (Chuck­ling) It’s funny you say that. A lot of peo­ple al­ways say, “The sky’s the limit.” I’m al­ways won­der­ing when I’m go­ing to fall off the moun­tain. I come from a neg­a­tive fam­ily. We’re al­ways con­cerned. We don’t look at the pos­i­tive, we look at the neg­a­tive. That kind of drives us.

Q: You talk a lot about your Ital­ian-Amer­i­can fam­ily in Chicago. You are very spe­cific but it be­comes uni­ver­sal.

A: I just started talk­ing about my fam­ily five to six years ago. I never used to talk about my her­itage or my fam­ily. My com­edy was based on ob­ser­va­tional-type hu­mor. You know, go­ing to Chipotle, go­ing to Sub­way, go­ing to Ross Dress for Less. When I started talk­ing about my up­bring­ing and fam­ily, it started res­onat­ing with a lot of peo­ple who have the same kind of im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence: Greek, Mex­i­can, Span­ish, what have you. It hits a lot of peo­ple. It’s multi­gen­er­a­tional. Q: You go on the road a lot, but you have a new baby at home. Is that hard?

A: She’s 5 months now, and I took time off to be with her. We’ve ar­ranged this tour so she can come and maybe ev­ery other week­end she doesn’t come. It’s hard to leave your fam­ily. The kid is so young and a lot of trans­for­ma­tion hap­pens at this age. But to be hon­est, I think I’m home more than a lot of dads. You work a 9-5 or a 9-7, maybe you see the kid an hour be­fore you go to bed. I’ve just had the en­tire week off, and we just got back from a walk around the block. We spend a lot of qual­ity time to­gether. Q: Here, you sold out one show at the Celebrity The­atre and they added a sec­ond.

A: It’s al­ways nice when you put a show on sale and then you have to put an­other one on sale. It tells me I have a good pres­ence in the city. I love Phoenix, I love that the­ater. I love be­ing in the round — it def­i­nitely lends it­self to be­ing very phys­i­cal.

Q: Were you al­ways so phys­i­cal as a co­me­dian?

A: There is a phys­i­cal way I kind of speak. It’s ei­ther hand ges­tures or ex­pres­sions, but ba­si­cally what I’ve done is heighten it for the stage. I no­ticed that I never used to be as phys­i­cal when I first started out. Now peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to the ma­te­rial and watch­ing me. I think it re­ally works. In a day and age when peo­ple are so dis­tracted by cell­phones, you gotta do some­thing other than talk­ing. Q: You toured with An­drew Dice Clay in the early years of your ca­reer. That seems like an odd mix.

A: He taught me a lot about do­ing stand-up com­edy. His au­di­ences were very pro-Dice and his ma­te­rial a lit­tle bit more blue, and then I’d come out there and talk about Ross Dress for Less. It was a chal­lenge, but that chal­lenge made me a stronger co­me­dian. Tour­ing with him for two years taught me a lot about the world of standup. He shared with me what he went through and gave me ad­vice, and I lis­tened in­tently.

Q: So is he the same guy off stage as he is on?

A: There is a bit of height­ened re­al­ity when he is on stage. He’s not walk­ing around say­ing those type of things to peo­ple. He’s a prac­ti­cal joker. When I was with him, he’d kind of do things for ef­fect to make me laugh. He’s just a good guy to learn from. As a young guy he told me, “Don’t pay at­ten­tion to other’s peo­ple suc­cess. Just worry about your own. Don’t look at some guy get­ting a TV show or a movie and say ‘Why am I not get­ting that?’ Your time will come; maybe five months, maybe 15 years from now.” I took that ad­vice and it re­ally paid off. Q: Speak­ing of TV: Do you want your own se­ries?

A: I set out to be a stand-up co­me­dian. Any­thing that is not that is gravy to me. Last year I got to make a pi­lot for NBC called “Se­bas­tian Says” based around my act. Tony Danza got to play my fa­ther. It never got picked up to go to se­ries, but I got a great ed­u­ca­tion on how to make a TV show. Q: How did the Forbes thing come about? Does your man­ager call them and say “Look what my guy made?” or do they ap­proach you?

A: They come call­ing. They get the num­bers from ticket sales. I didn’t know I was go­ing to make the list un­til they said it. It was very strange, to be hon­est. I’m kind of a pri­vate guy. I’m not a flashy type of guy, so it was a lit­tle weird to have that in­for­ma­tion out there.

Q: Did peo­ple start hit­ting you up for money when the list came out?

A: (Chuck­ling) You know what? I haven’t had that ex­pe­ri­ence at all. But I’m the kind of guy who is al­ways gen­er­ous around my fam­ily, so it’s like not even an is­sue.

TODD ROSEN­BERG PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Se­bas­tian Manis­calco will per­form at the Celebrity The­atre on Satur­day.

PICTUREHOUSE

In 2005 and 2006, Se­bas­tian Manis­calco (right) was part of Vince Vaughn's Wild West Com­edy Show. It also fea­tured (from left) Bret Ernst, John Ca­parulo, Vaughn and Ahmed Ahmed.

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