Written by Joyce Shelfo
It’s no surprise that Sebastian Maniscalco, one of Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite comedians, sold out four shows at Broward Center over Thanksgiving weekend. He’s that funny.
You don’t have to be of Italian heritage to appreciate his comedy, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Having grown up in a neighborhood with a robust Italian population, I knew guys like Maniscalco—the best storytellers ever. Guys like “Tommy Choo Choo” (so named because he worked for the Long Island Railroad) would never just tell a story with words. He’d propel his body into it, act it out and take it to the next level of hysterics.
Maniscalco gets into a boxing stance. “Back in the ‘80s we’d get into fist fights … Here, hold my cologne,” he mimes tossing it like he was bowling for a strike.
The son of immigrant Italian parents draws humor from family life. His grandfather, who lived in the U.S. for 53 years, never spoke a word of English. “Nothing sank in,” says Maniscalco. He had one leg shorter than the other and walked with a distinctive limp. Imitating his grandfather’s stride across the stage, Maniscalco says he just thought all Sicilian men walked like that.
He notes the difference between his family and his wife’s Jewish ties. “Italians don’t do sleepovers,” he says. “We don’t camp out.” Contrast that with his wife, who spent a semester at sea in college and traveled the world. “My wife’s family is positive—into self-help and personal growth. I come from a negative, brutally honest family who brings it to the living room. They’re animals.”
In general, people annoy Maniscalco. He says he’s allergic to them, yet he can’t seem to mind his own business. That’s just fine with his audience, because his irritations bring a treasure trove of hilarity.
He asks, “What’s with the lip? Why do you have to talk back?” Then advises, “Just do what your told”…as he relates the recent fights on planes and a man, slight in stature, being dragged off by stormtroopers in bulletproof vests. Maniscalco does not side with the passenger.
My friend and I laughed our way through the show despite the fact that we were in nosebleed seats. I point this out because Maniscalco’s facial expressions really boost a joke. I know this from his seeing his Showtime specials. To be seated so far away from the stage, and with no monitor to view the physical nuances he’s famous for, caused some jokes to be lost on us.
Check out his Showtime specials. You’ll laugh till you cry.