- - Monday, March 16, 2015

Steve Martin said it best: “Comedy is not pretty.” Just ask “Howard Stern Show” regular Nick DiPaolo, the stand-up comic who has been grabbing the mic around the country for more than two decades.

Mr. DiPaolo sat down to discuss his new CD and DVD, “Another Senseless Killing,” who the greatest comic ever is and his life on the road as a working comic.

It ain’t pretty. Funny, yes, but pretty? Not so much.

Question: What inspired you to become a stand-up comic?

Answer: I used to watch my dad crack up his adult friends. He would take over a table at a gathering like Joe Pesci did in “Goodfellas.” That and watching Johnny Carson monologues and seeing stand-ups on “The Tonight Show.”

Q: Who were your comedy heroes?

A: I loved Robert Klein. And Jay Leno when he would make appearances on the Letterman show in the 1980s. Of course, [George] Carlin, [Richard] Pryor and Bill Hicks.

Q: Do you remember your first stand-up gig?

A: Hell, yes! That’s like asking, “Do you remember the first time you were sexually assaulted?” It was at a club called Stitches on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston on a Sunday night. I had been drinking at a cookout at my family’s house 20 miles north.

Like a good American, I got behind the wheel and drove into town. The marquee in front of the club literally read “Comedy Hell.” I did a couple jokes about my girlfriend’s hairy back and an impression of Archie Bunker [getting intimate with] a shark. Some of it worked, but most of it bombed.

Q: Worst gig?

A: Opening for Paul Anka in front of 2,500 people in the round at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. I had only been doing comedy for a couple years and had no business being in that setting.

It was a situation where I knew someone who knew someone who worked at the venue. I pulled into the parking lot a couple hours before the show to see the oldest people I’ve ever seen out in public. People were taking oxygen tanks out of their cars. I must have seen 40 to 50 people using walkers to get to their seats.

They stared at me in silence on stage for the first seven or eight minutes. The stage was rotating, so they could all get equal time watching me die. I felt like a piece of chicken burning in a microwave as I went round and round. Then I did a couple of bran muffin jokes and got a few yuks and got off stage. Mr. Anka was pissed because I used the “S” word. Twice.

Q: Best gig?

A: At a private party in a rich town in Connecticut. A guy paid me $18,000 to do an hour in front of 60 people in his backyard. He had a beautiful stage set up with lights and a great sound system. It was a nicer setup than a lot of comedy clubs.

Q: They say tragedy plus time equals comedy. Is there anything you can’t joke about?

A: I hate that formula. I never understood the logic. So if I wait a year after a tragic event occurs, is the victim less dead than a month after the incident? I personally find it funnier, and more courageous, the closer to the actual date of the tragedy.

Q: Has the Internet hurt or helped comedy?

A: Neither, really. Although it has given a voice to people who think they know comedy when they actually don’t know a thing about it.

But it has also allowed things like podcasts, where comedians can find their core audience and audiences can find them. I saw a guy on [Jimmy] Kimmel one night who was voted funniest guy on Twitter, and he bombed painfully.

Q: Who do you think is the greatest stand-up of all time?

A: It’s hard to pick one, but Carlin, Pryor, even a young Leno in his heyday.

Q: Is Louis C.K. overrated?

A: Absolutely not. I’m surprised at the question, honestly. The guy is more prolific and smarter than anybody working today, in my humble opinion.

Q: What does every comic need on the road?

A: A jumbo-size bottle of intensive care lotion and a nice pair of nonwrinkle dockers.

Q: Where does your material come from?

A: The guy on before me at last week’s gig. No, just teasing. It comes from my life experiences and the way I see them and react to them. I’m chronically annoyed and find life to be a real pain in the ass, so my source of material is endless.

Q: How long have you been doing comedy?

A: Twenty-seven years. Damn! Did I just say that?

Q: Ever see a time when you’ll stop?

A: Not really. I figure I’m going be a wiseass until they put me in the ground or a heckler shoots me. But there is also a part of me that doesn’t want to be the guy at the party who just won’t leave.

Q: You’ve been on Howard Stern’s show a bit. What is your relationship like with him?

A: Nonexistent. Other than doing his show, he might as well be a ghost to me, but I liked him when I was in the studio with him. He was very down to earth. I don’t get to hang with people in the Hamptons, so I don’t hang with him. I mean, I could tell you I do, but that would make me a Brian Williams.

Q: Before you were married, did you ever experience comedy groupies?

A: I wouldn’t call them groupies. I would call them girls who were nice enough to give me chlamydia every 11 months and then do the same to the next headliner who came to the Funny Bone.

Q: Does marriage help or hurt your act?

A: It really does neither. Being single and waking up in a waitress’s bed in St. Louis and catching STDs and getting blind drunk in different cities with different women was a great source for material, no doubt. But so is your wife calling you a bitch because she caught you getting teary-eyed during the last few minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”

Q: What is your favorite joke of all time?

A: It’s a quote from the late, great football coach Bum Phillips, who once said, “How can you take life seriously when the number of people at your funeral depends on the weather?”

And that’s why I am a comedian.


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