The child of two immigrants from Sicily, Sebastian Maniscalco is climbing the ranks to become one of America’s favorite comedians. The comedy legend had his humble beginnings sharing jokes at the dinner table. Now, he has four Netflix comedy specials and is selling out shows in Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall with his “Nobody Does This” tour. For the past three years, Maniscalco has been among Forbes’s top 10 highest-paid comedians, and his numbers continue to grow. If he’s so successful, why is it that you may have never heard of him?
Maybe you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, but it’s likely that you’re not familiar with Maniscalco because he built his fanbase under the press’s radar. Maniscalco converts his strong work ethic into a busy tour schedule, which explains why he’s one of the highest-paid comedians in the world. The majority of his audience is made up of Italian families who enjoy his loud, emphatic humor and expressive physical comedy. Recently, though, he’s caught the attention of younger generations.
Maniscalco fans are envious of newcomers who have the opportunity to watch the comedian with fresh eyes. Over the past seven years, he has been the star of four Netflix specials: “What’s Wrong With People?” (2012), “Aren’t You Embarrassed?” (2014), “Why Would You Do That?” (2016) and “Stay Hungry” (2019). Each of these hour-long sets showcases his peak humor and the seamless way that he can “churn societal and cognitive dissonance into laughter.”
Not only does he have multiple Netflix specials, but he also hosts a television show on Discovery+, called “Well Done,” in which Maniscalco explores the world of food. In Hollywood, you may have seen his appearances in the movies “Green Book” and “The Irishman,” which have both either won or were nominated for several Academy and Golden Globe awards.
On stage, Maniscalco covers a variety of topics including the infuriating way people act in public, his unique relationship with his father — whom he occasionally portrays with a gruff Italian accent — and how different the world is now compared to when he was growing up. Even though these bits are specific to topics personal to him, his material resonates with everyone.
Maniscalco tells each of his comedic stories while striding across the stage with confidence and exaggerated arm gestures. Offstage, however, he appears solemn and self-critical. After his appearance on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, Maniscalco told The New York Times that he felt he was “too passive” and “looked like hell.” Rather than wallowing in self-pity, he uses these critiques to adjust for his next show.
There’s no one better than Maniscalco in terms of physical comedy. Some comedians find success in telling their jokes deadpan, standing statically in place. However, Maniscalco takes the title “stand-up” comedian to the next level, using the entire perimeter of the stage to tell his jokes. Like a true Italian, he talks with his hands. He uses his body to act out the bothersome braggart at the gym or the clueless people at the self-checkout machines in supermarkets. “I’ve noticed [that] noises that are not coming from my voice get laughs, whether it’s a slap on the leg, a microphone tap,” Maniscalco said to The New York Times; it’s the “explosive move that people are not expecting” that gets the most vivid reaction.
For his physical comedy, Maniscalco credits his Italian roots and upbringing. “I think that’s where I got a lot of my physical comedy from, being in that environment and watching people speak with their hands and their facial expressions,” he told The Chicago Sun Times. “I just got a lot from watching my father’s face.” Maniscalco carefully observed the way his father conveyed messages through his voice and body language. Even when his father was being serious, it seemed funny. He also commented on the “inherent funniness about the way Italians express themselves” in an interview for the Sons of Italy blog. “Being Italian lends itself to standup comedy in the sense that the physicality and the facial expressions come with the culture,” he said.
The best part is that Maniscalco doesn’t even have to do or say anything to make people laugh. The look of utter shock on his face is enough to send the crowd into an uproar. His facial expressions alone speak more than his words do. His deep and furrowed brow, wide eyes and hanging jaw at the pool guy who has four Band-Aids on his foot had the audience howling. Some of his funniest facial expressions come from his gripes about people who take too many selfies or the low-quality ice cubes at his date’s house.
The running theme throughout Maniscalco’s touring sets is that times are different now than they were while he was growing up. When he was growing up, the sound of the doorbell ringing was a glorious occasion that meant company was coming. Distant family members or friends might stop by the house for a quick visit. Mom would bring out the best snacks and desserts for the guests. Nowadays when the doorbell rings, everyone in the house drops to the floor in a desperate attempt to pretend that nobody is home. Word of advice? Don’t go to anyone’s door unannounced.
Similarly, the comedian contrasts the way his wife grew up with his own upbringing. His wife, Lana Gomez, had a mother who was more forgiving and subscribed to the belief that accidents happen. When she grazed a cement pylon with her car, Gomez’s mother might’ve replied “As long as you were not injured, we can always replace it.” Maniscalco’s father, on the other hand, would have resorted to yelling something like “Guess who’s walking this summer?” or “Can’t get you nothin’ nice!”
As for the future, Maniscalco plans to make a return to the big screen. He is currently working on an untitled dramedy with comedian Ray Romano. He also keeps himself busy by filming a screenplay called “About My Father” starring Robert De Niro. And if that isn’t enough, he’s booked back-to-back tour dates for the next five months. As Maniscalco explained, “There’s a voice always in the back of my head saying ‘Don’t rest!’” — fortunately for fans, it doesn’t look like he has any plans to take a break in the coming year.
Leave a Reply