An interview with the entertainer, who brings his trademark impatience with humanity to the Moore Theatre on Jan. 12.
It was a rough holiday season for Sebastian Maniscalco. His 19-month-old daughter was in the hospital until just before Christmas.
And yet, like any comedian who spins stage time out of everyday life, he came away with some material.
“I am starting to develop a whole routine on the hospital and medical care,” Maniscalco said from his home in Los Angeles. “As I am living my life, it’s bleeding into my act. It’s the holidays, it’s the hospital, it’s my daughter’s first birthday party, or trying to get my daughter into preschool.
“There are all these little minefields of comedy that I don’t have to work too hard to find,” he said. “I’m just relating to these experiences we’re all having.”
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Throw in a little Italian-tinged swagger and some spot-on physicality and you see what has made Maniscalco, 45, one of the world’s top-earning comedians for the past two years, according to Forbes. He is about to launch the second leg of his “Stay Hungry” tour, which will bring him to Seattle’s Moore Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 12, for two shows. He is in the Golden Globe-nominated film “Green Book,” currently in theaters, and will play the role of Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. The Netflix film will be released this year.
Last year, he released a memoir called “Stay Hungry,” which his father, a hairdresser, sells in his salon.
All that, and Maniscalco doesn’t feel he can rest. He’s still hungry, still thinking it could all disappear in a minute. No matter that Jerry Seinfeld has had him on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (a career highlight) and filmed another with the two of them riding scooters.
“I live in the negative,” he said, quietly. “I never want to get excited.”
Maniscalco has crafted his comedy around his upbringing in the suburbs of Chicago, the son of a Sicilian immigrant. He learned how to hold a crowd at the kitchen table, telling stories over coffeecake and Sanka. He watched comedians like Don Rickles and George Carlin on “The Tonight Show” and fell in love with the craft, with holding an audience’s attention. Timing. Delivery.
It was a talent he honed in school.
“I was a shy kid, never the class clown,” he said. “I always despised the class clown. ‘Sit down, it’s not funny.’”
But when it was his turn in front of the room, say, to do a book report, Maniscalco owned the room.
“You’ve got 20 people and you’re up there and you’re not capitalizing?” he said, with his signature incredulity. “This was my time to shine.”
He didn’t really have a plan, but enrolled at Northern Illinois University, where he was president of his fraternity (“I had a captive audience every week”) and won a contest to open for a comedian who had booked a gig there.
“I want to say it was six or seven minutes, but it felt like 70 minutes,” he said. “I got booed, but I knew that was where I should be.”
Maniscalco saved up $10,000 and, in 1998, drove to Los Angeles in his red Plymouth Laser. Three months later, he got a job serving cocktails at the Four Seasons, which allowed him to break away to do open-mics, then brief sets at clubs like The Comedy Store.
And while waiting tables wasn’t the ideal job for someone who “was always hypersensitive of people’s behavior,” he said, it did help him create an onstage persona that worked: Smart, macho Italian guy who doesn’t have the patience for, well, anything — especially people. The ones who want samples at the yogurt store. The people who shop at Whole Foods, where “everybody looks like they make their own clothes.”
He does a bit on how we used to react when someone rang the doorbell, (“It’s called ‘company’ … The whole family went to the door”) and how we react now (“Your own mother is crawling across the kitchen floor. ‘Get down, Ma! Army crawl!’”)
And Uber? “It’s like hitchhiking with your phone.”
He is fast and physical, employing what is known in the trade as the “act out” — he jumps like he’s on a pogo stick to describe Chipotle employees racing down the line, building a burrito; and taking a selfie, or what he calls a “lonely.”
After his Seattle shows, Maniscalco is headed to New York City, where he has sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden and is close to selling out a fourth.
He wishes he would give himself the time to bask in it all. But it’s not in him. He’s still hungry.
“When you’re in this whole thing, it’s great,” he said. “But you don’t really stop and smell the roses. You’re in the mix of it.
“I don’t work off a goal. I’m not planning a vision board for 2019.”
That could be a bit.
Sebastian Maniscalco. 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12; Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; $39.75-$59.75; 800-982-2787; stgpresents.org