We interviewed comedian Sebastian Maniscalco when he was in Manhattan recently.
Do you ever get tired of performing the same skit over and over?
I always like to keep it fresh so I’m always trying to write new stuff. Right now we’re working up to a Showtime special, which is going to be shot here at the theater. So after I do that, I start to write newer material because I get bored doing it over and over again. So it’s always nice to do new stuff and create new stuff. It would be like drawing the same picture over and over. My newest bit I’m doing is on the store Whole Foods, it’s a grocery store, that’s my new favorite bit.
Websites about you say that you’re very shy. What motivated you to overcome this to be a comedian?
I was never the class clown. I was very quiet. I kind of stayed at the back of the classroom, observed everyone and when I did book reports in front of the class I used to love that because I was the center of attention then and really got a chance to make people laugh. Even in the book reports, to be honest with you, I didn’t even read the book. What I did was I made people laugh and people forgot that I didn’t even read the book. Laughter has been basically my weapon my entire life. If I could make people laugh I guess they forget about their problems or whatever it might be that might be bothering them.
So you’re the funniest guy in America. Do you feel any pressure?
Do I feel pressure? Yes, I do. These people, for example, will come out tonight, they’ll buy a ticket and they hire a baby sitter and it’s a big night for them. So for me it puts a lot of pressure on me. I want the people to have fun and I want the people to laugh. Because if you come to see my show tonight and then you come back in one year, you would hope to see newer material. So that’s always a challenge for a comedian — to keep writing and keep it fresh. So yes I do feel a lot of pressure.
Who did you get your inspiration from?
Early on there was a guy called Johnny Carson, who used to do the “Tonight Show,” currently Jimmy Fallon has it. When I was growing up Johnny Carson had it. I like Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan and George Carlin. I always watched, kind of stand up comedy on TV. I was fascinated with how do they remember all this, how are they doing this. I fell in love with it at a young age. Actually when I was in second grade, and they had a career day, they went around and asked, “What do you want to be?” I said I want to be a comedian and everybody laughed at me because nobody knew what that was. People were saying fireman, cop, and I’m like I want to make people laugh. I always knew early on that I wanted to be a stand-up.
How do you prepare for shows?
I don’t really do much. I drink a lot of water before a show because I get dehydrated. I sweat a lot so I make sure I have plenty of water. I don’t do anything, I don’t listen to music, I don’t do flips, I don’t do any of that stuff. A lot of comedians walk around and they’re getting hyped. I don’t do any of that. I just sit in my dressing room and when they call me I go, “OK. It’s time to go.” There’s really no rituals.
Did your parents support you when you decided to become a comedian?
My parents were very supportive. I told them I wanted to move out when I was 24 years old to Los Angeles, Hollywood, California to be a comedian. They were like, “Whatever you want to do that makes you happy and you got to work for it.” That really helped me because when you don’t really have your parents’ support sometimes it’s very hard to do things because they always are maybe yelling at you, telling you that you shouldn’t be doing that.
Have you ever not been prepared for a performance?
Some nights are better than others and maybe it’s because maybe I was tired the night I didn’t do well. For example, there’s a lot of travel involved in this business so you’re on a plane, you land, and then you go do a show and sometimes it takes a toll on you. It takes a toll not only physically but your voice gets a little sore, but I never really have not been prepared. It’s just sometimes I’m a little tired but I don’t think the audience knows that, I know it. Sometimes I’m my biggest critic.
How would your life be like without comedy?
I get that question a lot. I used to work as a waiter. My first job was at the Olive Garden and I started waiting tables when I was really young. I think if I wasn’t doing stand-up comedy I would be somewhere in the hospitality business probably running a hotel, like a general manager of a hotel because my wife and I love hotels. I think she likes them more than I do.
When you say something really amusing and the audience is laughing, you don’t laugh much. How do you keep it in?
I’m not laughing when they notice but it’s more of a feeling. So when I make a big group of people laugh, it feels so good. To me it’s not necessarily funny, it’s more of a feeling where I get overwhelmed with all this, it’s really hard to explain. It’s joy, it’s adulation, and it’s all these different feelings going through you at once. But to make a room full of people laugh there’s nothing like it. I’m sure with you guys sitting around making buddies laugh or your girlfriends laugh it feels good and people smile, they have a reaction and just like you, you smile it makes me feel good. I rarely crack a smile on stage. I do but it’s more of a feeling.
Have you ever performed in any movies?
I got three movies coming out. One is with Will Ferrell, it’s called “The House.” The other one is called “Nut Job 2,” it’s an animation. I play a groundhog by the name of Johnny and there’s another movie called “The Cruise,” and that will be out next year. I really enjoyed doing the movies. I was really excited and can’t wait to do more.