There’s a smile behind each all-encompassing jab New York City comic Geno Bisconte dishes out. It makes us a little worried, actually. But is there cause for concern? ”
By Jessica Agi
Geno Bisconte may not be a household name in the world of comedy, but he has a lot to say, mostly about what stand-up comedy means not only to the entertainment industry but also to society at large. In his new monthly live show, ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Comedy, People staged at the world-famous Carolines in New York City, he probes some of his favorite comics about the inner workings of their comedic minds. Punchline Magazine recently sat down with Bisconte and did a little probing ourselves.
On stage you definitely hit a lot of themes – lighthearted, disturbing and otherwise. But there’s always a smile on your face. Why?
My act is very edgy; I do a bit about domestic violenceÃ¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“If I want to have fun, I’ll run into a women’s shelter with a skillet and yell.”WhereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my dinner, bitch?” But then you get women who get mad at it, and when they do, I get so angry. If your husband hits you and you go back to him, I think it’s hilarious. Get the fuck out of there! People are afraid to talk about things like the Holocaust or slavery; I had nothing to do with it. My parents were Catholics, good Catholics — they fucking gave their money to the church. They did that 10 percent thing. Where does it all go now that they’re dead? To pay off a hobbling altar boy in Boston because we thought not talking about it would make it go away.
So what happens when the crowd turns on you?
If they laugh at nine of my jokes and they don’t laugh at the tenth, that’s a compliment. If you’re really proud of your craft, you don’t wanna just be that monkey with the cymbals clapping; you want people to like your jokes. You don’t want the crowd to be a bunch of whores, like when you say, “Hi,” and they’re like, “Wah, that’s hilarious!” No. When you don’t laugh at that tenth joke, then I know you really liked the other nine. So thank you; I’ll do my job and fix that tenth joke.
My buddy told me there’s two ways to do my act: You can either do it mean — and then I’m just a preachy asshole up there — or mean with a happy edge. So it’s like, “Look, what I’m saying is mean, but I’m in a really good mood and I’m a really good guy and you’re gonna see it.” And when they’re not on my side, I can either get mad at them and get really mean and push them away more like the idiot that I am, or I can just be like “Just focus on what you’re saying. Have faith – know there’s a point to it and just keep going. Eventually, they’ll come around.” I’ll tell you what I’l never do: I’ll never let up and be like “Oh, what’s the deal with airline peanuts?” My act is my act; I’m not going up there if I don’t get to say something.
What do you want people to take away from your live show?
I’d like them to learn to laugh at themselves. The people that say, “He’s making fun of black people,” or, “He’s making fun of Italian people,” or, “He’s making fun of female people,” are getting caught up in those adjectives: black, female, Italian. I’m making fun of people; we’re all people. You gotta laugh at yourself. Don Rickles was the greatest at it ’cause he’d attack everyone, and they’d be like. “Yeah?” And they’d just laugh, because he wasn’t being mean about it. It sounds deep, but we’re all in this together. Unless you have the answers to everything, let’s just fucking laugh at it.
People are always like “Oh, don’t make fun of that.” Why? People don’t realize it, but if I do a black joke and white people look and go “Why isn’t the black person laughing,” then they’re the racists. They’re the ones saying, “I’m white, they’re black. I can’t laugh.” I’m like, “Hey, that’s a joke. I’m just using an adjective here.” I’m making fun of myself, as much as everyone. Once you start laughing at yourself, everything is funny. You have to be able to laugh at what’s not funny. Laughing at what’s funny is easy.
Such a huge part of comedy is experienced at clubs. So when people like Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia and Michael Richards get on TV, they’re huge representations of stand-up in the media. Does that help or hurt the rest of you?
It depends on your viewpoint. It can only help me, because I believe comics like Michael Richards and Dane Cook and Mencia polarize people. People that are truly fans of comedy will be resentful of a guy like Mencia, who is just coming up more and more that he’s a fucking crook. When people call me Michael Richards, which does happen a lot, I’m just like, “You don’t get it. Michael Richards is a racist. There’s no question about the way he snapped. He can apologize all he wants for what he said, but it came out there.
Dane cook is a brilliant entertainer. That’s his goal — to entertain and fill seats and sell out Madison Square Garden. He’s not trying to make you think. I think it’s great for us. I heard Jim Norton say it once about Tough Crowd, “We don’t want a middle ground.” I don’t want you to say, “Geno Bisconte? Yeah, he’s okay. I could take him or leave him.” No. I want them to be like, “He’s great!” Or. “He’s awful.” I want you to be passionate about me one way or another. I think these guys in the media really help true fans of comedy because they help them pick a side.
You have an interesting view on the role of contemporary comics, comparing some to philosophers and others to rock stars. Can you explain that?
I think Dane Cook’s a rock star. I think Jim Norton is a philosopher. There are two lines of thought, and it all goes back to: Do you want to make me laugh, or do you want to make me think and laugh? I think stand-up comedy is as close as we have to modern-day philosophy. You look at the lives comics lead and, yeah, some are rock stars – they get laid and do all that shit, and that’s great. But then you look at guys like Dave Attell. You see him on a Wednesday night and he’s just going through a whole list of new things. Norton’s the same way.
I just saw Doug Stanhope, who is as close as you’re gonna get to a modern philosopher because he just says his point and then goes off on a tangent. He’s really got something to say. You really want to make people think. After a while, you want to do more, otherwise you feel like you’re just a monkey on a wheel being like, “Laugh! You get it? You get it?” You want to make people think. Look at the greats – you got Carlin and Pryor and Norton. They make you think.
There’s no such thing as a philosopher these days – Priests? Rabbis? These people took the word of God and then as it went into writing, made it more and more masculine. I’m trying to think where in the Koran it says to fly a plane into a building or where in the Bible it says priests shouldn’t have kids. It doesn’t, but it’s just Man ruining the word of God. That’s not philosophy. That’s fucking bullshit.
So in one sentence, what’s your philosophy?
Be happy. If you had a happy childhood, grow up and spread that around. If you didn’t, then how dare you fucking try and spread the misery that you were strong enough to leave. I won’t sit there and fucking feel bad for you if you’d rather be right than be happy. Was that one sentence? Use a lot of ellipses.
For more information on Geno, check out www.genobisconte.com.