Sebastian Maniscalco is reluctant to admit it, but in his heart he knows the truth — after two decades in the city, he’s officially an L.A. local.
It’s hard to tell with his Sicilian-American style and overwhelming bravado, but the “Stay Hungry” actor and comedian truly loves to skewer the absurdity of his newfound home, embraced with thundering applause and tear-inducing laughter Saturday night (Sept. 8) in the city’s most star-studded venue, the Greek Theatre in Hollywood.
Playing to a completely sold-out crowd of nearly 6,000 fans, Maniscalco was at his absolute best during his 90-minute set, sharing stories of his childhood, his overbearing family, the alpaca he hired for his daughter’s first birthday and the legacy of his deceased grandfather, who couldn’t remember Sebastian’s name in his final days struggling with Alzheimer’s, but seemed to come alive when a long lost cousin came to pay respects. He recalled the time his grandfather — in a rare lucid moment — sprung from his bed, pointing at the grandchild to remind Maniscalco that this long lost cousin was a bit of an “a**hole” over decades-old perceived slight that he just couldn’t let go.
Everything about Maniscalco’s routine is a juxtaposition, showing the audience the absurdities of everyday life, reacting in real time with wacky facial expressions, high-pitched vocal inflections and full-body contortions that combine Italian-American hand gestures with wild arm-swinging fluctuations reminiscent of physical comedians like Chris Farley.
In person, Maniscalco is reserved, perhaps even guarded, laying out his philosophy on comedy with deliberation and patience like an architect might walk a client through a set of renderings. But onstage, he is a fully committed performer who has spent years perfecting his craft and recently gained attention and guidance from big name comedian like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.
He’s also breaking records around the country, playing multi-nights runs at venues like Radio City Music Hall and the famed Borgata in Atlantic City. Known for having loyal fans that arrive by the busload from Staten Island or his hometown in the Northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Maniscalco is sure to rocket to new heights next summer with the release of The Irishman on Netflix, where he plays mentally deranged Profaci mob enforcer Joe Gallo.
It’s a Hollywood fairy tale in a way — Italian-American chases stand-up comedy dream to L.A., get’s cast as a mobster in a Martin Scorcese movie, all while building a loyal fan base who eat up his critiques of Uber, Soul Cycle and smart scooters you can rent on your iPhone. Maniscalco’s comedy is a reaction in real time to the absurdity that is both L.A. living and our new app-based economy with blue collar sensibilities that most men and women over 30 find relatable. As long as the world changes faster than our ability to make sense of what is happening around, Maniscalco will have no shortage of material for his devastatingly full-force comedy style.