Comedy

For full impact, catch rising comic Sebastian Maniscalco in person

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Seen and heard: Maniscalco’s routine relies on movement.
Photo: Adam Shane
Jason Harris

Three and a half stars

Sebastian Maniscalco May 24, Sands Showroom at Venetian.

On the merchandise section of Sebastian Maniscalco’s sebastianlive.com, you’ll find shirts and DVDs. There are no audio-only albums, and with good reason. There might not be a comedian working today whose physicality is more important to his act than the wiry Maniscalco, a comic who must be viewed as well as heard.

Apart from his thick Midwestern accent, the Illinois native reminds me of many of the Italian-American men from the northern New Jersey neighborhood I grew up in. With a slower pace of speaking—utilizing stretched-out words and frequent hand gestures—he’s part of a subculture of goodfellas you don’t often see anymore.

There’s rarely a setup/punchline form to his work. Instead, the humor comes from dissecting familiar subjects with unique emotion and physicality. If I told you that his bit about women’s pool outfits ended with him imploring the ladies to go with the “hat, wedge, sash” combination, you’d wonder why it’s funny. But watching him dart his arms to the appropriate parts of his body when describing “hat, wedge ...” and then elongating “saaaaaaasssshhh,” it was no wonder it earned one of the biggest laughs of the night.

Not that the 41-year-old doesn’t have some traditional jokes in his set. Of his particularity on how he likes his hotel rooms: “I don’t like a lot of clutter. I’ll rearrange a hotel room. If I don’t like the way it’s situated, I’ll take a chair, I’ll put it in the elevator and I’ll send it to the lobby. People get in, they’re like ‘This is great. They have furniture in the elevators here.’”

Much of Maniscalco’s set is informed by his working-class upbringing. He explained that his father-in-law died and was buried with an empty plot next to him for his mother-in-law, who, a few years later, remarried. When Maniscalco and his sobbing wife visited the gravesite, his course of action was to ask his life partner, “Your mother getting buried here or with the new husband? Because this is paid for. Who’s going in the hole? I’ll go in the hole. We gotta use this for something. Storage. We’ll put in some skis. Christmas tree. Some ornaments.”

At the end of his 75-minute set, Maniscalco earned a standing ovation from the crowd, proving that sometimes, if one is physical enough with his funny, it leaves others no choice but to use their physicality to show appreciation.

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