A few questions with Sebastian Maniscalco
On standup comedy, flip-flops and wearing Dodger jerseys to church
Mon, May 2, 2011 (10:14 p.m.)
Sebastian Maniscalco, style correspondent for The Tonight show with Jay Leno and performer on Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, heads to the Playboy Comedy Club at the Palms for a few nights of laughs and possibly a little fashion commentary. Just remember, check your flip-flops at the door—Maniscalco will be judging.
At what point in your career did you realize you could really call yourself a professional comedian and that this was going to work out for the long term?
I started working full time as a comedian in 2005, shortly after we did the Vince Vaughn Wild West Comedy Show. I worked at the Four Seasons hotel from 1998 to 2005, so about seven years, just trying to put some food on the table and pay the rent while I went out to the open mics and got my feet wet with stand-up comedy. Very traditional in the fact that I had to pay some dues before I started making a living at what I love.
How did Vince Vaughn come to choose you for the Wild West Comedy Show?
We met about two years prior to 2005. He used to come out to a comedy show that was here in Los Angeles every Tuesday night and supported his friend Ahmed Ahmed, who is also one of the comedians in the movie. They were roommates and had known each other for 13 or 14 years and he used to come out to support him. We ended up meeting through Ahmed and Vince is from Chicago and I’m from Chicago and we just started talking about Chicago sports and developed a friendship then two years later he called up four of his favorite comedians and said, “I bought a million-dollar tour bus and I wanted to go take a tour across the country; what are you doing?”
What has been one of your funniest moments as the style correspondent for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno?
We went to an airport to see what people wear at an airport. You basically had a guy in his boxer shorts and flip-flops, and he just thought that was appropriate to wear on an airplane. We went to church and some guy walked out with camouflage pants, and it just seems that society is headed toward the toilet. People don’t care anymore. It just seems very blasé. There’s no etiquette. Everybody’s comfortable. And I got a problem with that for some reason. I just wasn’t raised that way. I think it was all in my upbringing. When we went to church, we got dressed up, you wore your nice pants and now people will come out in their Dodgers jerseys and I’m like, “Where are you going?” “Oh, we’re going to the Dodgers game after this.” And I’d say, “So you wear your Dodger outfit to pray?” It was just a little unsettling for me but I guess that’s the sign of the times. I pitched doing a style section in Las Vegas because here’s a town where in the ’50s and ’60s, not that I was around then but, from what I’ve seen and what I’ve read and talking to my parents when they went to Las Vegas, you dressed up and you went out to a casino and you had nice clothes on. I go to Vegas now and I’m in the casino and I’m gambling and there’s a guy in a wet bathing suit gambling right next to me. There’s a town where as far as casual goes—it’s anything goes.
Since you seem to know more about style than the average man, do you ever draw material for your comedy from outrageously dressed people?
I do whole skits on it. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a guy’s wearing flip-flop sandals, which I don’t understand. Men’s feet are disgusting to begin with but now they’re on display when I try to go out for a nice steak at a restaurant and I have to sit there and look at some guy’s hoof? I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. It’s something that should be reserved for the pool or the beach.
Where is your favorite place to people watch?
Literally you step out your door and you could really see it anywhere. You go to a local mall or an airport, any place where people congregate. Wal-Mart’s the big thing now where people put the pictures up on the website. You go into Wal-Mart and you see stuff you typically wouldn’t see anywhere else. I’ve never seen a weirder group of people than at the post office. It looks like people are crawling out from under rocks to go to the post office.
How do you deal with hecklers?
Sometimes it’s cool to have banter with the audience. Occasionally somebody will say something and I’ll say something right back and everybody laughs and it’s funny. But then sometimes you get a drunk person who’s had a lot of alcohol and is disrupting the show and I really have no patience for it. I try to address it with a joke. Every heckler is unique because they say something and you react to what they say or what they’re wearing or who they’re with so every response to a heckle is unique. It interrupts the flow of your set, the timing, it messes up your show and the people who are there aren’t there to hear people scream and interrupt the show so I take offense to it that people would ruin a show where people came out to laugh.
What can you tell me about your new upcoming comedy special?
I just finished taping it. This one is called What’s Wrong with People? It basically covers anything from the way people behave at Subway when they’re ordering a sandwich to how people love to sample before they buy at a yogurt place. Everybody’s nuts about yogurt so I went to check out what’s with this yogurt craze and I’m watching people have to sample 16 different flavors before they buy something. It’s the little annoyances everybody goes through during the day. I think everybody comes home after a long day of work or a long day of going out and has a conversation with their significant others and say, “What the hell is wrong with people?” I cover lots of different subjects. I cover dating; I cover my father and the Internet. My father is an immigrant from Italy and he wants to learn the Internet and he called me up one day and I had to try and navigate him through the Internet over the phone. We’re editing it right now then we’re going to shop it around. My last two comedy specials were on Comedy Central, so hopefully we’ll land it there.
I know you’ve talked about observing people, but who or what else really makes you laugh?
I like Bill Burr and Brian Regan. They are two of my favorites to watch, very relatable. Brian Regan is a guy who doesn’t say one swear word in his entire show and in today’s world where everything seems to be raunchy and dirty and to see somebody like Brian Regan come out there and do a very clean act and make it very relatable and funny is refreshing.
Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to about your upcoming trip to Las Vegas?
I like Las Vegas because it kind of gives me a chance to gauge my material in front of a very diverse group of people. There are a lot of different people in the audience and you can kind of get a barometer for how your material plays throughout the country. This is kind of the pulse of the country.
What can fans at the Playboy Comedy Club expect from your act?
It will definitely have some material specific to Las Vegas. Expect a different type of comedy. You could bring your grandmother to the show, you could bring your teenager to the show and everybody’s going to find something they can relate to. It’s classy comedy. If the Rat Pack was around today, I think I’d be the sixth member.
May 5-7, 9:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturdays. $40. Palms Lounge, 942-7777.