Despite his monster last few months, Sebastian Maniscalco is staying hungry.
Currently riding the wave of Green Book‘s awards season run, the comedian-turned-actor is about to experience the biggest week of his career. On Tuesday, Maniscalco’s latest stand-up special Stay Hungry will be released on Netflix, followed by four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19 and 20. His continued success in the comedy world comes as he’s breaking into the movie business. After brief appearances in The House and Tag, he scored his largest acting role yet opposite Viggo Mortensen in Green Book, this year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. And his next acting gig is even juicier as he stars as real-life gangster “Crazy Joe” Gallo in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishmen, which is headlined by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
Ahead of his big week, EW chatted with Maniscalco about all the emotions he’s dealing with, avoiding politics in his comedy, and the surreal experience of going head-to-head with Robert De Niro.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a huge time for you, so how are you feeling?
SEBASTIAN MANISCALCO: It kind of all just hit me this week. It’s one of those things that has been on the calendar for a while and I haven’t paid much attention to it, just because I’ve been doing other gigs and family obligations, holidays, what have you. But this week, I’m going, “Damn, there’s a lot going on next week!” And it’s culminating in Madison Square Garden with four shows. So yeah, it’s all a lot of different emotions: excitement, anxiety, happiness. It’s all that in one.
Crafting an hour-long special is not something that happens overnight, so what was the process like developing the material and fine-tuning it?
For me, I never want to rush a stand-up special just to do one. It’s one of those things where you’ve worked on the act time in, time out, you’ve done it in small comedy clubs, done it in theaters. Then there’s a feeling of, “Okay, this is ready to be documented and shot.” With my material, it generally derives from a real place and real-life experiences, whether it’s me being a new father or my relationships with my wife or my father and how life seems to give us all these different experiences. I just take those experiences and translate them to the stage. So material has never been something that I’ve had to struggle with. Yeah, there’s times where you’re trying to find the funny in things and it’s just not there, but with all my specials, once they come out, I still do that act when I tour but I also do new stuff that I’ve been working on. I shot this thing in May, so obviously since then I have a lot of material that I’m going to be doing in addition to stuff you see on the special. You kind of get the best of both worlds. You don’t know who has seen what and who has been to a show, so you have to give them a little bit of old, a little bit of new and hopefully you’re hitting everyone’s taste points. But I’m really not doing the act for anybody but me. If I think it’s funny, then I believe that the audience will also enjoy it.
Like you said, your big week is culminating in Madison Square Garden. That’s got to be exciting after years working the comedy club scene to now have four sold out shows at this mecca. What does it mean to you to be able to get this opportunity?
New York has always been a great market for me, I started at Gotham Comedy Club and subsequently shot specials at the Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, and now reaching Madison Square Garden is the pinnacle. It’s the most famous arena in the world and here I am doing four shows there. And to be honest, I’m looking at this as, I don’t want to say just another show, but I’ve done arenas before, I know what to expect. But I will definitely be a lot more anxiety-ridden because of the magnitude of the shows and who is coming to the shows. Once I’m onstage, I’m the most comfortable. It’s just the stuff leading up to it that is a lot to take.