Sebastian Maniscalco: Comedy beyond the Wild West

By | April 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm | One comment | Features

Sebastian Maniscalco

With a recently aired Comedy Central special, a friendship with Vince Vaughn and a DVD in stores June 2, comedy fans have a new seven syllables to remember: Sebastian Maniscalco.

Just a few short years ago, Sebastian Maniscalco still had a side job serving tables. Now, this month he just served up his first hour-long Comedy Central special, Sebastian Live; it’ll hit stores on DVD on June 2. Sebastian became a comedian to watch early last year when he appeared in Vince Vaughn’s movie Wild West Comedy Show. Punchline Magazine caught up with Sebastian recently to find out how he’s handling his success.

How did you get started in stand-up comedy?
The first time I did stand-up was in college. They had a contest to see who was going to open up for a headliner at our school. Then I didn’t do it until about four years later when I came out to Los Angeles. I started doing open mic nights and actually took a stand-up comedy class.

Ever since then it was just basically getting up on stage anywhere I could, whether it be a bowling alley, a boxing ring, or whatever weird place had stand-up comedy. That’s kind of how I started, and each year the pay and gigs got progressively better. The pay was never an issue for me. I never got into this for money. What I basically enjoyed doing was making people laugh.

Were there times when things got tough and you thought maybe you had made a bad career choice?
No, actually, I didn’t. I’ve always known that this is what I was supposed to do. No matter how tough it got I knew if I was patient and put the work in that it would pay off in the end. I never second-guessed myself. I never put any time limit on it. I always thought if you gave yourself a time limit then you were setting yourself up for failure. It was all or nothing for me. I made this decision and never looked back.

How did you meet Vince Vaughn? And how important was the Wild West Comedy Show in helping achieve your current success?
We met at a club called Dublin’s in LA in 2002. He used to come out to support a friend of his, another comedian named Ahmed Ahmed. Dublin’s was a really trendy place to go on Tuesday nights because it had a lot of hot comedians and a lot of who’s who in Hollywood coming out to watch comedy. He’s from Chicago; I’m from Chicago. We had a common bond in that we both loved Chicago sports.

We saw each other around town a lot over the next two years. While he was filming The Break-Up in Chicago he had an idea that he wanted to take four of his favorite comedians and do a traveling variety show in the style of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. I was working as a waiter at the time and was happy to be asked to be a part of something like that. It took me from being a feature act to a headliner.

It had to be a great feeling to finally give up your bar towel and apron and make a living as a stand-up comic.
I waited tables for seven and a-half years while pursuing this dream, and it is definitely gratifying to make a living doing something you truly enjoy. When I didn’t have to go back to waiting tables anymore it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

What accomplishment are you most proud of so far in your career?
Being on The Tonight Show is one of my best moments. As a comedian one of your dreams is to be on The Tonight Show. It kind of validates you as a comedian. You talk to people around the country and you tell them you’re a comedian, and if they don’t know who you are the first question they ask is, ‘Oh, have you been on The Tonight Show?’

What are your current goals as a comedian?
The main goal right now is to develop a sitcom based on my stand-up comedy, which maybe isn’t as easy as it was 10 or 15 years ago. The culture of television has changed. There are so many channels, and now there’s the Internet and viral video. You know people are turning on a video on the Internet for four or five minutes rather than turning on the TV for a 30-minute sitcom. The culture has changed and stand-up comedians have to adapt.

Do you think the Internet is going to be a problem for comedians? Or is it a blessing?
You know, I always thought that the cream rises to the top. The Internet is definitely a great vehicle for comedians to get themselves out there. But I think now everybody has really short attention spans and wants everything right now. I mean, you look at a show that doesn’t do well in its first few weeks and they pull it right away. Whereas you look at Cheers; it came out literally in last place the first year it went on the air. They brought it back and it turned out to be one of the best shows ever. Now that would never happen.

Are we talking to the next Sam Malone?
Sure, I wouldn’t mind that guy’s career.

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