Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has appeared on nearly every late-night talk show, several movies and multiple stand-up TV specials, but Phoenix has a special place in his heart.
The 45-year-old Illinois native says performing at the stage in the round was an important stop in his transformation to a household name.
It was 2005 when he was introduced to the rotating stage, seeing a different audience member every few minutes. The set-up was an initial challenge, however, he says it helped his routine and now tries to have similar set-ups at his large venues.
“It allows a lot of freedom on stage because I’m so physical and expressive in my act,” says Maniscalco, who returns to the Celebrity for two shows on Saturday, May 18.
“I’m not standing in the middle of the stage telling jokes, I’m prowling around. It made it so that when I do arenas, I want to do it in the round. Even in a large crowd makes it as intimate as possible.”
Maniscalco’s tour supports his 2019 Netflix special and 2018 autobiography called “Stay Hungry.” Last year, Maniscalco landed in Forbes’ top 10 highest-paid comedians list and became a comedic star. However, it hasn’t always been easy. He paid his dues in tough situations, just like his predecessors.
From a cat climbing on stage during a show in Las Vegas, to standing on a small crate in the corner of an Italian restaurant, the son of Italian immigrants has had his share of struggles. However, incidents like those make him appreciate his success even more.
He fondly remembers a performing in a sports bar with a bowling alley. The stage was a boxing ring in the middle of the venue.
“People are sitting there watching the game on TV, while unbeknownst to them a comedy show starts,” he recalls. “There’s fresh blood on the floor, because I think there was a fight the night before, and as you’re trying to get your punchline off, there are people behind us picking up spares.”
Since then, Maniscalco has traveled the world around with his brand of stand-up comedy. He’s an everyday man, one who has that familiar look. Midwest transplants often say he’s “the type of guy who grew up on their block” and is relatable. In 2018, Maniscalco made his feature film debut, as Johnny Venere in the Academy Award-winning film “Green Book.”
“Stay Hungry” viewers saw his physical comedy, something audiences have become accustomed to. However, his life has evolved along with his comedy. Now married with a 2-year-old daughter and another child on the way, Maniscalco has a new set of experiences from which to draw.
The “old” Maniscalco may have covered a Chipotle visit or observations at a TJ Maxx. Now his jokes center around fatherhood as well.
“I think people are resonating with the family, and how I grew up, the nostalgia of it all,” he says. “Some of that material is absent in stand-up comedy today, you don’t see it.”
However, he says childless fans will not feel left out. The jokes are not simple stories about his mischievous daughter. Rather, he shares his awkwardness at parents’ events or other related activities. He hadn’t anticipated that.
“It’s more jokes about the situations I find myself in because of it,” Maniscalco says. “It’s like a fish out of water. I’m joking about myself being in places I’m not used to, like preschool or places like that, and I think people can relate to that.”
Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, celebritytheatre.ticketforce.com, 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., Saturday, May 18, tickets start at $44.