#617: Sebastian Maniscalco on his upcoming special, working family into a stand-up act, and why he’s still going to Chipotle

UPDATE, March 30, 2017: Sebastian Maniscalco returns to Boston for six shows at the Wilbur Theatre starting Friday (March 31) and running through Sunday. To celebrate, revisit our chat with the comedian from January of last year, where we caught up on his shows and podcasts, what to expect from a typical Maniscalco appearance, and what kind of wine you need to order tonight at dinner.

When it comes to hot comedians on the rise, there’s no one else burning up right now quite like Sebastian Maniscalco.

Having first appeared on the national radar with his appearance in the 2008 comedy documentary Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, the Chicago native did the obligatory rounds in comedy clubs and on the late night talk show circuit with his unique brand of hyper-observational and physical comedy that has found the perfect balance to keep his audience in stitches. This week, he appeared in a hilarious episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s acclaimed web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where he extolled the virtues of living in Los Angeles, discussed the subterfuge of tipping, and trying to break into television.

The latter might be coming to fruition with a potential sitcom for NBC, and there’s also two big screen appearances lined up, voicing a character for this year’s The Nut Job 2, and appearing alongside Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell in The House, set for release in June 2017.

In the meantime, Maniscalco is keeping busy co-hosting a weekly podcast with fellow comedian Pete Correale, penning his first memoir slated to drop this November and gearing up for the filming of a new special, his fourth, May 7 at the Beacon Theatre in New York.

Mansicalco sat down with Vanyaland recently on the opening night of his current tour, where he had sold out The Wilbur Theatre in Boston for four shows across two nights, to talk about prepping for the upcoming special, how his father fits into his act and fans that want you to be funny all the time.


Michael Christopher: This is the first night of the tour. Do you get nervous, or is it more of just getting comfortable enough with the new material by the time you film the new special?

Sebastian Maniscalco: This, for me, is the first time I’ve performed a headlining set in five weeks, so I’m a little nervous… not that I’m not gonna remember the material, it’s just that once you take some time off and get back up on the horse again it takes a little bit. So the first show you’re gonna see, at least from my past experience, a little rust. [The audience] won’t know it, but I will. But I’m running the for the show that I’m doing at the Beacon Theatre in May, so I’ve been playing a lot with the new stuff that I’ve written over the last five weeks.

How much pressure do you put on yourself when you have a new special coming up? Do you look at that date down the line, circled on the calendar and be like, “There it is.”

Yeah, it’s like you’re working up to that date. This date’s been solidified, say, for the last four months, and it’s kind of been in the back of my head. But now since it’s the New Year, it’s like, “Ok, we’re off to the races.” Every show I do is definitely going to affect that May 7th show as far as the material, the order…so every show counts.

One of the things that you do in your show is you mention your Dad a lot; from back when you talked about teaching him the Internet and he thought the mouse was a foot pedal, to sawing the couch in half that no one bought at his garage sale. The fans love it and have really taken to it. What does your Dad think about being mentioned in the shows?

We just did Chicago in November, I’m from Chicago, and my Dad came to the show. And my Dad, I think he thinks that he’s the comedian. So, he like walks the room like it’s a wedding; people taking photos with him, so he’s really, really excited – not only for the success that I’ve been having, but now he gets to really enjoy it himself. He loves it. He went to Bed Bath & Beyond the other day and he got recognized.

He really is a big part of my life, not only in the act, but outside he’s really involved in my career; he’ll come in the green room with a list of notes that he took during the show and I’m like, “What the fu..?” So yeah, it’s fun for him, I’m glad that he’s involved and I’m glad that the people really enjoy when I talk about him because I think, you don’t have to be Italian; you could be Serbian, you could be Spanish, you could be Greek. I think everybody relates to a father figure, number one, and number two, once I start getting into that immigrant stuff, it’s very, very relate-able for people – they always have someone in their family that’s like my father.

I’m sure you’ve seen the news with everything going on with Chipotle and last month’s massive E. coli outbreak in Boston. And you’ve talked about them in your act in the past; I’m wondering if something happens that ties into a bit you do, and it’s negative, do you take it further or just drop it from the act?

I was just a Chipotle today — it doesn’t faze me at all. I’ll fucking go right in there. I just like it now because there’s no lines. It’s great! I’m like, “This is fantastic!” Yeah, I don’t know; they’ve been in the news but I don’t really touch it. If I was still doing the Chipotle bit I would still use it. If it was something that was negative… I had a bit that was something about a plane crash, but it wasn’t in the news. Then a plane crash happens, and I’ll go, “Ok, I can’t really talk about that, it’s a sensitive topic — let’s hold back on that.”

One of the things we talked about in the past, was when you’re on a date where the girl expects you to be funny. I kind of want to expand upon that. When you meet fans, especially guy fans, before or after a show, and they have their girlfriend with them. Do you ever get a, “Yo — be funny! Do something funny for my girlfriend!”

Yeah… when I’m offstage, I’m very kind of laid back and low-key, and I’m not that guy that’s making jokes. If there’s something there that I can play with, I’ll try to be funny. Every now and again you’ll get an aggressive guy or girl or someone who’s drunk. I had it happen not too long ago in Arizona. Somebody had come to see me, it was a friend, but they brought a friend with them and they were drunk and, [imitates loud and obnoxious drunk] “Awww…. why aren’t you doing what you do?” It’s like, I’m not going to sit here and entertain you when you’re in my green room. I don’t know… sometimes you’re expected to be funny and I just like to be funny when funny is appropriate.

You are constantly on the road doing stand-up, and it’s taken you to some pretty far away places — you go around the world. What’s on your bucket list of a place — or places — that you want to do your show?

Well one of them is going to happen this year; I’m going to Australia in June. I’m going to Melbourne and Sydney, so that’s one of the ones I wanted to go to. I would like to go to Italy to perform, however, a lot of Italians just don’t speak the language. You gotta find a place where they’re gonna understand. That’s it, I really don’t have desires to go do comedy in exotic places. I wouldn’t mind visiting places not doing comedy and going on vacation with my wife to South Africa or wherever, but as far as doing stand-up comedy, the States are fine for me.


If you’re looking for a nice wine, try Gaja (pronounced “Guy-ah”). It’s a nice red wine, it’s Italian.


You’re traveling all the time, you’ve got four shows here in two days, give me seven things that you do to pass the time when you’re on the road.


— Work out.

— Shop on Amazon.

— Nap.

— Restaurants. I’m going to Stella tonight; so I like to check out the spots.

— Currently I’m writing a book with Alan Eisenstock that’s going to be released in November, so I’m working on the book.

— Museums… when I’m with my wife. She’s an artist, so when we’re traveling to a city together, we like to hit a museum.