You’d be forgiven for thinking Sebastian Maniscalco is ready to rest on his laurels. In 2018, the 45-year-old Chicago native published his bestselling memoir Stay Hungry, ranked on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid comedians, filmed parts in two highly anticipated films and has already sold out three of his four January sets at Madison Square Garden. But, Maniscalco says, he’s still hungry.
“I never say that I’ve made it or anything like that,” says Maniscalco, who maintains a work ethic gleaned from his father. “I come from a Midwest immigrant family. … There was summer work. When I came home for Christmas, I was glazing hams at Honey Baked Ham. If my father was working 15 hours a day, I should be working 16.”
Far removed from his days waiting tables at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, where he served the likes of Nicole Kidman and Al Pacino, Maniscalco brings his Stay Hungry Tour to the Connor Palace Theatre Jan. 26. The comedian talks to us about his material, his early days in stand-up and branching out into film.
Q: You draw on your family for a lot of material. How do they react to that?
A: A lot of what I do is rooted in Italian culture, but anybody with a family can relate to it. My father thinks he’s a celebrity now. He’s eating this up with a spoon. My mother loves Facebook and is always sending me messages after she reads something. The last one was “throw your meat out.”
Q: In your early days, you once did a show at a bowling alley. How did that turn out?
A: The problem is people think you can throw comedy anywhere and it’s going to work. This was a place with a bar attached to the bowling alley and a boxing ring in the bar. I did my show inside the ring. Those are the kind of gigs you do as a comedian to build your chops.
Q: You have roles in this year’s Oscar-favorite Green Book and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman. What’s it been like working in movies?
A: Movies are different from stand-up, where you do everything yourself — you’re the performer and the director. In The Irishman, I did a scene with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci and I’m sweating. They were very gracious. And Scorsese was extremely helpful guiding me to what he wanted in the scene.
Q: You recently became a new father. How has that affected your lifestyle?
A: My wife and I have been taking our daughter on the road with us. … She’s 18 months old and she’s been to 19 cities. She took her first steps in Toronto. I told my wife I didn’t want to be the kind of father who misses those big moments.