As one of country’s top comedians, the only way Sebastian Maniscalco can ever get any rest is to not be Sebastian Maniscalco in his down time.
“I think people are surprised when the meet me because I’m quieter than they expected,” he explains during a recent interview with Billboard in Los Angeles. “When I’m on stage it’s a different story. I’m very focused about where I am positioned in relation to the audience and how we are responding to each other.”
On Saturday night (Jan. 11) Maniscalco will perform his first show of 2020 with a sellout performance at the Fabulous Forum in L.A. for his You Bother Me tour. Last year, he played 46 cities and 77 shows, making his the highest grossing comedy tour in North America.? He kicked off 2019 with four sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in the city that first embraced his stand up at the Empire Comedy Club, a huge, and also sold-out, homecoming show at Chicago’s United Center and now plays the arena in L.A., where he first moved years ago to start his acting and comedy career.
“I was lucky that my parents were really supportive of what I was doing,” he says. “Instead of asking me when I was going to give this crazy idea up, my dad would break down what happened that day and give me advice. And he still does that today, he’s always got an opinion on my routine.”
On stage in front of increasingly large crowds, he is a mix of frenzied energy and off-the-wall observational humor, his facial reactions to his own routine leading the audience through hilarious stories about his Italian family growing up in Chicago in the ’80s and ’90s. He shares ridiculous moments from his wild life — he talks about his time at the 2019 Oscars by recalling how fell down a flight of stairs (“I had those tuxedo shoes on”) and got stuck staring at TV screen when the rest of the cast from the film Green Book took home best picture.
“I was watching everyone go on stage from the balcony area and was asking myself, ‘How did they all figure out how to get down there?'”
He also hosted the MTV Video Music Awards (‘I really don’t know anything about music but did give a shout out to Springsteen,” he said), and played gangster Joe Gallo in The Irishman, giving the Netflix film one of it’s most memorable lines in a scene with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro (“We’re brothers?”).
“Omigod, those sideburns,” joked his manager Judi Marmel at Levity Live about his hairstyle in the film. Marmel has helped make Maniscalco a household name through constant touring and playing increasingly bigger venues each night in markets across North America.
“Sebastian made a decision early on to build an audience beyond the big cities,” she tells Billboard. “He’s very deliberate in how he approaches universal themes of family, and it’s a message that resonates everywhere because it’s the story of people and their differences and similarities.”
Between non-stop tour and film and TV, the 2018 Billboard Comedian of the Year has continued to grow his fan-favorite podcast The Pete & Sebastian Show, which he records with longtime friend and comedian Pete Correale. It will be joining the iHeartPodcast Network with the first episode debuting Feb. 9.
He’s also working on a film with Lionsgate that’s “loosely based on my life centering around my father,” he tells Billboard. “It is basically a father-son romantic comedy with my father meeting my wife’s family for the first time. He wants to ‘see if there’s any problems’ and check out the family,” he explains, describing the project as “somewhere between My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Meet the Parents.”
Does his family ever get upset about being the center of most of his jokes?
“No, I’m laughing with the family,” he explains. “If I stopped writing about them, they’d ask me ‘What the hell are you doing?’
Maniscalco performs tonight at the Forum in Inglewood. For more information on his tour, visit sebastianlive.com.