So naturally, decided to call the guy while he was trying to enjoy a peaceful walk along the beach in San Diego. Yeah, we can be bastards like that. But he didn't seem to mind, as you'll see in this lengthy interview.
: (Dials number. Phone rings. Someone picks up.) How you doing, Michael, this is Eric from DVDinmypants.com, how you doing?
Marino: (laughs) I'm pretty good, how you doing?
: Pretty good. That's a pretty good website name, don't you think?
Marino: DVD in my pants, I like it.
: You better believe it. Right out of Jersey.
Marino: How'd you get my number?
: Did your people not give you a ring and arrange with you?
Marino: (pause) Oh that's right! You're the guy from Image Entertainment, I didn't know it'd be coming out of Jersey.
: Yeah, that's how I scooped up your name. I'm a Jersey boy myself. I saw your name on there and said, "I've GOT to talk to him."
Marino: Oh, this is fucking sweet. I'm actually walking up and down the beach in San Diego right now. I wish I was in New Jersey having a nice slice of pizza.
: No shit. I bet you can't get a good slice out there, can you?
Marino: You can, but you have to call your mother and say, "Mail it to me."
: (laughs) So then the obvious question is, what made you leave the East Coast?
Marino: The business.
Marino: Yeah, man. I was working as an actor for a long time in New York City, and I did a lot of TV commercials growing up, and I was on a soap for a few years here and there, then I decided I wanted to get into television and some films, so I moved to California. That's kind of where my standup started to take place. I used to do standup in New Jersey at Rascals for a short period of time, then I moved to California.
: Stuff obviously clicked for you. You had a gig on Leno for a while, doing skits and all that.
Marino: I did tons and tons of skits on the Tonight Show with Jay. That was a lot of fun. I actually did some a couple of months ago. That will always be an ongoing thing. Recently, since I've been touring so hard, and I had the DVD come out, I got a part in a couple of movies that come out next year as well.
: One of the titles caught my eye. Pizza With Bullets. That's a great title.
Marino: It's really cool because it stars Vinnie Pastore from the Sopranos, and it also has Talia Shire, you know, from Rocky and The Godfather, and that was pretty cool, hanging out with these movie stars.
: That's got to be pretty nice. Talia Shire, you probably grew up watching a lot of her stuff.
Marino: Of course! And you know what's really cool, too, is they saw me at the Paramount and that's how I got in that movie. They called me up, they said, "Listen, you don't look like a Guido, but I'll tell you what, I'm gonna make you play a priest that wants to be a wiseguy. It'll launch your career." I'm like, jack it up, let's do it.
: That's great.
Marino: The DVD that Image is putting out, that's live from the Paramount in Asbury Park, New Jersey. After a year it finally came out, it's in the stores now and it's selling pretty well. Now they asked me to do the Paramount every year for the next five years.
: So you're going to be back year at least once or twice a year?
Marino: Did it last summer, sold it out again, but we didn't shoot, we just did it for fun, and I'm gonna do it again this summer in August. This time we're gonna get Danny DeVito involved because he saw it and flipped out, and Danny Aiello as well.
: You like taking a trip back here every now and then, hitting New Jersey again?
Marino: Oh, yeah man. In the spring I start working on another movie called Jersey Transit. It's like a replica of the Wizard of Oz, done in Asbury. I was born in Jersey City, I grew up in Scotch Plains, but I always had a house in Belmar.
: I had an apartment in Belmar for a couple of years. So I want to know about your experience breaking into the business, coming out of Jersey, and your experience as a guy heading out to California as a Jersey guy. You do what you do and you make no bones about who you are. You don't put on a fake California persona.
Marino: No, not at all. I'm not gonna sell out, I am who I am.
: Is that one of the things you wanted to do, "I am who I am and this is my experience in life?"
Marino: I'll tell you, the way we did the DVD Live from the Paramount, we did it because the Paramount is such a popular place in Asbury Park, Springsteen and all the other guys, right? And I figured if I could be the Bruce Springsteen of standup comedy, I could sell that and make a big splash in the business. And the thing is with the Sopranos being so hot and the world being so turned on by Jersey guys, because you know supposedly we got an attitude and we curse all the time, a lot of people thought that humor is only gonna work here. That's actually incorrect. That humor not only works all across the country, but in Europe and Canada. People are just so fascinated by it. And the thing is they look at you or they look at me as if to say, "You know what? He's right with what he says. He's not pulling any punches." So if I was to go to Texas and stand in front of the cowboys and just do what I do, they want to be me. They like that. They love that. I've done it in foreign countries. I destroyed Montreal, Quebec, Calgary. It's all basically just an attitude and believing in what you're saying. If I do a one-hour concert people are like, "Wow, all that Italian stuff is great." They don't even realize, I talk about being Italian for ten minutes. It's the attitude that makes people want to be a part of that show. And it's like being a rock star, too, they go nuts. When you hit, they go crazy. I guess I don't deliver my jokes like a typical comic. I perform it, then I make 'em have a good time with it. If you watch the Paramount you see people put their arms up like they're on a roller coaster.
: I spent some time watching a lot of your clips. Some of the crowds in California you were in front of, you killed 'em with stuff I figured would only fly in this area.
Marino: I started to test myself in Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Wyoming. I did this one show in Texas, and I said, "For all you Texans out there wearing the big hats I just was to say "howdy ... youse doin'." And they went crazy. I grabbed my nuts and went,"howdy ... youse doin'," and they were doing it for months. Then I did it in Mexico City on an Indian reservation. I put my hand up in the air, I said, "How ... youse doin'," and they couldn't stop doing it. You know, I get a lot of fan mail, a lot of people talking about whacking people, they go, "Yo Vinnie, get the bat." I just did a talk show today in San Diego, Good Morning San Diego, as soon as I went on the show the whole staff is going, "Hey Vinnie!"
: Is this something you had to ease into, something you didn't come right out of the gate that way, or did you take this approach from the start?
Marino: When I first started doing standup I was doing mostly impersonations. I was imitating people, and then I realized, when a comedian makes something up it's usually not funny. But when you talk about something that comes from your life and you tell the truth, the audience will be blown away because they'll look at each other and say, "Wow, yeah, I got that in my life," or, "He's right," so if I was to talk about experiences on dates, guys'll sit there and go, "Yeah man, I spent all my money." If I talk about going shopping in stories people will be like, "Yeah that store is crazy." I talk about whacking people and they go, "You know? If we did, we'd save a lot of money." You know? Whatever stems from real life. So I went from impersonations to basically talking about my parents and my family, and that's how I started to get into it. My parents really are from Italy, and I have blonde hair and blue eyes, you never really see it in movies. I've been in a couple of mob movies and I was always the cop. Case in point, I just did Pizza With Bullets, it's nothing but wiseguys with dark hair and dark eyes, and they give me the role as the priest. But I'm happy about that because, you know, I'm like the Tom Hagen of the movie. Good role.
: Yeah. Looking over the cast, that's a nice gig to land, a real nice gig.
Marino: A couple of weeks before I went on the set I'm sitting there watching The Godfather with my brothers, and I'm like, wow, I'm actually going to meet Talia Shire. And we became friends! I talked to her every day. She was actually asking my opinion on comedy. "Do you think this is funny?" I'm like, you're asking me?
Marino: I'm like, why don't we call your brother (Francis Ford Coppola)?
: No kidding! That had to be gratifying after years in the business.
Marino: Oh, it was unbelievable. One day, while we were on the set, someone calls me and says, "Hey, can you come and do this private party?" And I'm looking at Talia Shire and I'm thinking, "Do I really need a set to do this party?" The guy goes, "I'll give you $1,500 bucks, twenty minutes. You walk into this place, you knock 'em out and walk back out." I'm like, "All right Talia, I'll see you tomorrow." So I walk out of the place, and I go to this bazillionaire's house who's a Kabbalah teacher, the Kabbalah, whatever this is, right? It's his birthday. So I go up there and in the room as soon as I walk in the door the guy hands me the microphone, was 20 people eating sushi. The most difficult place to do standup. They think I'm gonna bomb in seconds, right? Right in front of me is Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, the stars of Dawson's Creek and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Marino: Now I'm saying to myself, what could I possibly do for these celebrities? And I said you know what? The Jersey attitude and reality is gonna knock these people on the floor. And I'm gonna do it, I'm not gonna hold back. I walked in the room and I said, "I'ma tell you people right now, if there's anything missing from this mansion, I had nothing to do with it." And then I just started making fun of everybody. I told Ashton Kutcher we have a show like Punk'd in New Jersey, we call it Fucked. The Kabbalah guy? I says, "I love Kabbalah. I like chicken Kabbalah, beef Kabbalah, steak Kabbalah, any kind of Kabbalah, pal, put it on the grill." The more I did this the more they were laughing. They were peeing in their pants. Gwyneth Paltrow put her arms around me and said, "You're the funniest man I've ever seen." And I'm like, can I take that as a quote? (laugh) Can I put it on my DVD?
: You've gotten involved in a lot of charity efforts. Haven House, Team Earthworks, the Eric Davis Cancer Fund. Tell me a little about getting involved in that sort of thing.
Marino: Actually one of the biggest foundations in California is one I started with about five of my friends from New Jersey. Dough DeLuca, who's the executive producer on the Jimmy Kimmel show, Jimmy Kimmel himself, Adam Carolla, myself and a few other guys. What we did was, we recreated the Feast of San Gennaro out of New York, and did it out in Los Angeles. This past year was the sixth year we did it. Went from 100 people maybe going to the event to last year maybe 100,000. It was televised on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, the live feeds went to me hosting it in the street. Tommy Lasorda was there.
I usually host the show live, Jimmy hosts from his show, and we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Los Angeles Police Department PAL (Police Athletic League), and we ended up calling it the San Gennaro Foundation, founded by 12 Italian kids from New Jersey.
: Is this something you always felt, hey when I have the opportunity I'd like to do some charity work.
Marino: Yeah, because you know what? I make a great living, I'm always happy, I'm touring all over the country, things are going great for me, and there's not that many Italians in California, so when we started what we did we also started the Sons of Italy Hollywood Lodge, which was never there. Hollywood Boulevard has never seen the statue of San Gennaro carried down the boulevard like they do in New York City, and for the past two years we did it. I mean you talk about controversy, because in California the Mexicans say that the Italians didn't discover America, there's no such thing as Columbus Day, and here we go marching down Hollywood Boulevard. But nobody got shot. (laughs) What I did was, since I had done so many fundraisers, including two I did for 9/11 when it first happened and then three years later, I got honored by the Italian-American League of Los Angeles and the police department. Just last week I got four more awards and they made me a reserve, LAPD, so I'm actually a cop. I did a lot of work for them, and when you do a charity you don't get paid, so they kind of want to give you something. I got a key to the city.
Chief (William J.) Bratto was Guiliani's right hand man back in the day when he was mayor, and then he relocated to be the chief of police here in Los Angeles. When he was relocated I was the one they hired to roast him at his gala. And I hit him good. Since then I had done so many charities for them that I got his home telephone number. I even roasted Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis, a bunch of different city officials. That's even harder than doing a celebrity because they're really stuck up. But Chief Bratton, just a week ago he called me up and said, "Why don't you ever come over and have dinner with me and my wife?" I'm like, yeah, the whole thing makes me nervous, chief. I'll just do the show and go home.
: Get it done and get out.
: So how did your experience growing up in Jersey City inform who you are today?
Marino: On the morning show this morning the guy said to me, "You know, you talk a lot about whacking people, you always say that tagline, Vinnie get the bat, and everyone is affectionate about it now and they say, You know what? That might be a good way to run things. How did that start?" And I said to him, I don't know about the majority of people in New Jersey or the majority of Italian people. I can't speak for them. But when I got my driver's license I was 16, my brother got his when he was 16, my father said, "Okay, here's your walking tall stick." And it was a baseball bat. He said you put this in the front seat of your car and if anyone tries to give you any problems while you're driving or they try to take your car, hit 'em with the bat. I've had the bat in my car since I'm 16. It's still in my car. So it's actually a reality. People in that day were like, yeah, take the bat, don't let nobody take your car. Then I would make it a joke. If a cop pulls you over, though, he says hey, how come you have a baseball bat, if you say you have it for protection he can arrest you on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. So if a cop says what's with the bat you say softball. Even if there's snow on the ground. Softball game. One cop said to me, "Okay, so you got a softball bat. Why is it cut in half with a metal rod down the center?" I said I'm on the remedial team. There you go.
: (laughs) That'll get you some cross-eyed looks here.
Marino: A lot of routines that I did from my mom talking to us when we were kids. I did a routine that I didn't know the F word was a dirty word until I moved to California, I'm from New Jersey, it's like the word "the." You just say it. My mother's very Italian. She used to do this thing when she's say, "I'm not gonna cook anymore. This is the last time I'm gonna cook." She says, "You kids are spoiled. You're spoiled so I'm not gonna cook anymore," so I turned it into a routine, I said my mother was responsible for the Last Supper, she said to Jesus, "I'm not doing this no more. Take a picture because we're not doing this no more."
: So that stuff has got to resonate with the audience because it's for real for you, it's not something you made up.
Marino: It's real for everybody because Jewish families will be like, "Yeah, my mother said that." Spanish families, "My mother used to do that all the time!" It's just family. Last night I was coming up with new routines about dating. I said dating should be a tax deduction for a man. You take a girl out to dinner, you don't get laid, why can't you declare a loss at the end of the year? You invested, you didn't get a return.
: (laughs) That's good stuff. While you were here, while you were growing up, did you spend a lot of time down the shore?
Marino: Are you kidding me? I used to eat, sleep and drink the Jersey Shore, Belmar back in the '80s. That's gonna be my new routine, I'm gonna do a show called "Stuck In The Eighties" and what it was like, the music and not having cell phones, not having a fax, not having computers, not having communication. But you had a lot more fun.
: Yeah, you just got in the car, rolled down the street and when you saw some nice asses you shouted out.
Marino: OOOOooohhh!! Over here! Ha ha. That could be the routine. I'm over here, where are you? Over there! And you know, there was clubs everywhere in Belmar. I think they said there was like 20 clubs in a one-mile square radius. That's all gone now. Crazy music, no one was hurting anybody, you just jumped up and down in neon green. It was like 100 degrees, beautiful day, everybody was in the club at two in the afternoon.
: Well, you get beautiful days out there all the time. Can you actually miss the garbage weather we get out here?
Marino: Yeah man, of course. I'd love to come home and just walk through the snow for a night.
: Well Michael, I don't want to take up much more of your time. You want to plug something before I let you go?
MARINO: My plug is, buy my shit.
Marino's latest, Mike Marino: New Jersey's Bad Boy of Comedy, is available from Amazon.com.