Let’s face it: in our increasingly tepid, polite, and politically correct culture we need more people like Sebastian Maniscalco. Forever able to seize the moment, never failing to speak his mind, always telling it like it is, this is one man who isn’t afraid to put it all out there. Yes, the Chicago-area born, Italian-immigrant-raised comedian behind wildly successful network specials including 2016’s Why Would You Do That?, 2014’s Aren’t You Embarrassed?, and 2012’s What’s Wrong With People?, is that little voice within all our heads. The one we are too timid to unleash. Maniscalco is bearing the burden of our bizarre and head-scratching modern-day world. You can thank him later.
Make no mistake: Maniscalco’s is a meticulous, hard-won comedic point of view. “Every night you’re getting up there and doing something new,” says the comedian, who now has hordes of fans pouring into venues across North America to witness his outsize, highly physical brand of comedy. That’s when he’s not appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, or making return visits to late-night shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and CONAN. “It’s just working out a muscle, man,” he says of maintaining his comedic chops. “You don’t become a bodybuilder the first day you start lifting weights. You gotta work each muscle. Same thing with comedy. You gotta flesh out your joke, your bit. You add and subtract. You see what works.”
Distinguished by the New York Times as having his “own kind of panache,” Maniscalco is a success story resulting from years of hard work and a keen self-awareness of innate talent. A natural-born storyteller, one constantly regaling his family with madcap tales at the dinner table, Maniscalco moved to Los Angeles in 1998 and began pounding the pavement on his comedic quest. The tireless worker first made his name at the city’s famed Comedy Store where he performed at every opportunity — even if that meant rushing over to the club on a break from his waiter job at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I felt if I missed an opportunity to be onstage, I missed an opportunity for somebody being in the audience and seeing me.” His persistence paid off: then-massive comic Andrew Dice Clay saw him onstage one night and took a young Maniscalco out on the road with him. But not until Vince Vaughn enlisted him for his popular “Wild West Comedy Show” did his career begin to explode. Says Maniscalco: “From there things started to snowball.”
It’s quite the understatement: Maniscalco now sits as one of the premier standup comedians; and a multi-faceted one at that: recent years have been monumental for the 2016 Just for Laughs Stand Up Comedian of the Year. In addition to starring in his own wildly popular SiriusXM program, “The Pete and Sebastian Show,” his major motion picture portfolio expanded in 2017 to include a voice-over for character Johnny the Groundhog in the animated feature Nut Job 2 and a role in the New Line Feature comedy The House starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. Maniscalco was also included on Forbes’ 2017 list of “The World’s Highest Paid Comedians,” who praised, “thanks to his enthusiasm and willingness to work, Maniscalco will likely continue to be on Forbes’ list for years to come.” Some performers might be content to take a break. But not Maniscalco.
Shares the man dubbed “one of the hottest comics” by Newsday and “one of the funniest comics working stand-up today” by Esquire, “Even though I’ve achieved some success, I will always stay hungry for more.”
And Maniscalco is living by that mantra in 2018.
The comedian, actor, and best-selling author recently wrapped the spring leg of his Stay Hungry 2018 Tour with five sold-out shows at New York’s iconic Radio City Music Hall. People Magazine’s “The comedian’s comedian” broke the historic venue’s record with his appearances ranking him it highest grossing comedy weekend in their 85+ year history. Fans around the world hungry to see the performance will get their chance as the set was filmed for an upcoming Netflix special. Details will be announced soon.
The landmark appearance follows an already packed 2018. In February Maniscalco released his first book “Stay Hungry,” for Simon & Schuster (Gallery Books) making the national best-sellers list. The spring leg of his Stay Hungry tour featured 50 shows in cities across the US and Canada, including Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Toronto’s Air Canada Center, where he sold the arena out (19,000 tickets), culminating with 5 sold-out shows at Radio City.
2018 will also see Maniscalco expand his major motion picture portfolio to include roles in TAG, starring alongside Jon Hamm, Ed Helms and Jeremy Renner as well as Cruise, written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, the writer behind acclaimed films The Wrestler and The Founder. He will also appear in Green Book alongside Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, and Viggo Mortensen. Already hungry for 2019, Maniscalco will join a star-studded cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and more in Martin Scorcese’s upcoming film The Irishman.
Still, for Maniscalco, the work continues. Says the comedian, “There’s a voice always in the back of my head saying ‘Don’t rest!’”
Born and raised on Long Island, he still mines the Big Apple for a lot of his material. He’s a huge Yankees’ fan, and says one of his primary life goals is to one day sit down for a few beers with Billy Joel.
Moreover, it was with another Long Island product, “Saturday Night Live” veteran Jim Breuer, that Correale first insinuated himself into the national consciousness. The name of their Sirius Radio show was “Breuer Unleashed,” but the program unleashed Correale, as well.
Over the last few years, he has popped up on the late-night sets of David Letterman, Jay Leno and Carson Daly. He launched his own show on Comedy Central, “The Things We Do For Love.” He has performed on stages from Las Vegas to Lebanon.
The beginning was considerably less glamorous. Correale went to Fredonia State University in western New York to play basketball, but it was a throwaway drama class that ultimately decided his life’s path.
He enjoyed the class so much, in fact, that he moved back to New York to become an actor. It didn’t go well, and he wound up in an improv group that he later described as “a bunch of knuckleheads.” One night, after they performed at a comedy club long before the main entertainment began, Correale decided to stick around and watch the comics. By the end of the night, he was hooked.
So certain was Correale that comedy would be his future that he mopped floors and cooked burgers at several New York clubs in exchange for the chance to hone his material onstage on slow evenings or after the headline acts had finished. He studied other comedians, in person and on video. He solicited a lot of advice, and eventually his style emerged.
Like many New Yorkers, Correale is cynical and profane. At the same time, he is an “audience friendly” comic who commiserates with his listeners rather than confronting them.
“I was talking to a guy one day at an open mic night at a club,” he said in one interview, “ad he said to me, ‘If you write about things that happen to you, no one else can steal your jokes. And that just made all the sense in the world to me.”
That approach also makes Correale’s comedy flexible, because he can draw from each period of his life. Right now, he talks a lot about being married (his wife, Jackie, is a willing foil) and about being a bit overwhelmed by the electronic advances of the 21st century (although he is on Facebook and keeps a very witty blog).
“If it happened to me, it probably happened to you,” he says.