Interview: Sebastian Maniscalco, Jerry Seinfeld's favorite comic, coming to Cobb Feb. 19

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

This was posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

It's hard to imagine what it feels like if Jerry Seinfield, one of the biggest stand-up comics in the world, places his enthusiastic stamp of approval on your head. Sebastian Maniscalco does.

Last year, the Italian American from Chicago was invited to be a guest on Seinfeld's Crackle series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

"It was like my Johnny Carson moment," said Maniscalco, who is coming to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for the first time February 19. Tickets here. (He last performed in Atlanta in early 2016 at the Tabernacle.) "It's like getting called over to the couch. I made it somehow in a way when Jerry validated me as a comedian. I've been doing it so long, I know if Jerry says you're funny, you're funny. It was great. It was nerve-racking. I had met Jerry before and hung out with him a bit. Not enough to be so comfortable. The first few minutes of the show, I was thinking, 'I'm driving around with Jerry Seinfeld. It's crazy!' "

Only 15 minutes of the four hours they spent together were captured on screen, but he felt it was truly the best moments. "It was like a blur," he said. "I can't recall all of it, it went by so fast."

Seinfeld, who is coming to the Fox Theatre himself April 7, last fall called Maniscalco "my favorite comedian these days" to the Los Angeles Times.

If you watch Maniscalco's stand up, you could see why. He's an observational comic with a bit more edge and physical dexterity than Seinfeld, tackling today's "conveniences" such as Yelp, Uber and AirBnB.

"Jerry Seinfeld is very methodical in his approach to stand up," Maniscalco said. "His jokes have no fat. They're very thought out. That's the same approach I take. That's what he appreciates."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Seinfeld told the L.A. Times that he loves Maniscalco's "level of exaggeration and outrage and his irritability." To him, it's "just a symphony of a very unhappy person... It's the meeting of light and dark."

Maniscalco said he doesn't perceive his piqued nature as darkness per se. "It's lighthearted stuff," he said. "It's not unhappiness at all. It's more angst and impatience. I'm really a happy guy. There are undertones of disapproval of how human society interacts on a day-to-day basis. It's all kinds of fun!"

For Atlantans who saw his last Showtime special last year called "Why Would You Do That?", he said about half his show at Cobb will be new material and half from the special. "With YouTube and Netflix being out there all over the place," he said, "it's tough to satisfy that appetite. But the stuff they'll see in Atlanta, a lot of it they have never seen before."

At age 43, Maniscalco is about to be a father. His baby is due May 1. "Family is already the core of my act," he said. "With a baby coming, there's going to be so much more material. Being a father. Interacting with other parents. Just pulling from life itself. Hitting the core of family, then getting into daily minutiae. That's a good combination for my act."

He said his now pregnant wife Lana Gomez has centered him, made him much lighter."She's a very happy person. She's from the South. She has given me a different perspective on people and life. She invites everyone in. My family, we erred on the side of caution. Should we let that pizza guy in or pay him on the porch?"

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

The physicality of his act, he said, has evolved over time. "I'm definitely more animated," he said. "If you look at me 10 years ago, you'll see glimpses of it on stage. But it's nothing to where it is now."

Maniscalco feels with people's increasingly short attention spans, he has to do more to keep them alert. "I'm out there for a long time," he said. "You got to give them a little more than standing behind a microphone. It never worked to just stand there."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Pollstar described his stage act as "athletic pantomime." "That's a good description," Maniscalco said. "You have to do it in spurts. Do it too much and it loses its punch."

He said he is inspired by the late comic actor John Ritter, who made physical comedy a focal point of his time on the classic 1970s-era sitcom "Three's Company."

"I just loved the way he used to turn his head and had his eyeballs out, just the non verbals," he said. He had a particular moment in his mind of Jack Tripper, Ritter's character, trying to sit on a hammock while camping. "He kept flipping over," Maniscalco said. "The look alone, the reactions. All the flips were different. That just rubbed off on me." (Check it out here)

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

He had an NBC pilot last year co-starring Tony Danza that wasn't picked up. "I don't know what happens behind closed doors," he said. "We put out a really good product. For me, I looked at it as a great experience to go work with Tony Danza. I grew up with 'Who's the Boss' and 'Taxi.' I got to be involved in all aspects of a show like wardrobe and casting and production. To have that under my belt moving forward is great."


Sebastian Maniscalco

8 p.m. Sunday, February 19

$42.15 to $63.65

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta