As morose mob boss Sonny Corinthos on General Hospital, Maurice Benard doesn’t often have the chance to show off his comedic chops.
A lead actor on the daytime drama, Benard has the occasional chance to perform at comedy clubs like Stand Up Live in Phoenix’s CityScape. Despite his large fanbase, he isn’t always the main attraction. His father, Humberto Morales, steals the show, Benard says.
“I had a whole show about myself, first,” Benard explains. “It’s me riffing about goats, llamas, my mom and dad and my life. Then I go into GH. There’s quite a bit about GH and Steve Burton, who plays Jason. It’s easy to poke fun at GH and Steve.
“Then, I bring my dad out. I’m telling ya, my dad, if he had been an actor or comedian, he’d been right at the top. That’s how much charisma he has.”
Besides performances by Benard and Morales, the Saturday, December 8, show will feature a question-and-answer session with the audience.
“I’m pretty honest—without getting fired,” he says with a laugh.
Seriously, though, he’s frequently asked questions about being bipolar, a disorder he was diagnosed with at age 22. His character suffers from it as well.
“During the Q&A, I talk about mental illness, like I have on talk shows,” he says.
Benard’s multicultural upbringing began in San Francisco. After high school, he went straight to the job market.
“I got into modeling, but I was very unsuccessful,” he says. “I was too short. I lied and said I was taller. I went from modeling to acting and, as everybody knows, I had a nervous breakdown. It was difficult.
“But then I got All My Children, playing Nico Kelly, and the rest is what it is.”
He moved from New York to Los Angeles two years later and was cast as Desi Arnaz in Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter. Benard will star as John Gotti in a forthcoming Lifetime movie The Victoria Gotti Story.
“It was very difficult and very exhilarating at the same time,” he says. “I only had 48 hours to prepare and I had to age from 20 to 60 and do a Bronx accent. It was tough, but I think it was worth it.”
He is also starring in the upcoming Mickey Rourke film, Nightmare Cinema, as Father Benedict. In the movie, five strangers converge at a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings that shows them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales.
“It’s really gory—especially my part,” he says. “It’s very gory but fun. That comes out in February. It’s been reviewed as 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Emmy Award-winning actor joined the cast of General Hospital in August 1993. He briefly left the show for a year-long hiatus due to a nervous breakdown in December 1998.
“This role is what I do best,” he says. “Sonny is unpredictable. You never know from one second to the next what he is thinking, feeling or planning. He’s a man in personal conflict who maintains an outward appearance of calm at all times, at any cost.”
Benard says he does have other things in common with Corinthos. They both have an intense side, but fans enjoy witnessing Benard’s sense of humor.
“I hear all the time, ‘I didn’t know you had that side,’” he says. “I love doing standup but being on GH is like a family. The job is incredible.”
Maurice Benard, Stand Up Live, 50 W. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 480.719.6100, phoenix.standuplive.com, 1 p.m. Saturday, December 8, $49 and $99.