Sebastian Maniscalco began his career in comedy by sharing stories around his childhood kitchen table.
“I was never a class clown, but I was always an observer of people’s behavior,” he said. “So I’d relay them to my family.”
The 2016 Laughs’ Stand Up Comedian of the Year brings his “Why Would You Do That?” tour to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for two performances on Saturday, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets start at $42.75, and Maniscalco will donate $1 from each ticket sold to his charity, “Tag You’re It,” which supports research in Alzheimer’s disease, children’s education and the U.S. military.
Pulling from influences ranging from Jerry Seinfeld and Johnny Carson to Eddy Murphy, Maniscalco said his on-stage persona mirrors his true personality, but amplified.
“Off stage, I’m just kind of mellow and laid-back,” he said. “But on stage, I like to be animated and act out some of my bits. People enjoy that part of my act. But it’s a heightened reality.”
After moving from his working-class family home in Chicago to Los Angeles in 1998, the comedian said, he “hit the ground running.” Maniscalco worked as a waiter in the Four Seasons hotel while simultaneously trying to build a name for himself as a legitimate comedian.
Eventually, he caught the attention of actor Vince Vaughn, who cast him in “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.” And from then on, Maniscalco has worked non-stop.
Some of the comic’s standout moments include doing an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and traveling to places around the world.
One of the challenges that remains true for Maniscalco is the ability to keep people coming back to watch him, even now after a nearly 20-year career.
“You don’t want to come out and have a bad show,” he said. “I keep writing new material, keep it current, keep it fresh. That’s the challenge. With YouTube and Netflix, the audience wants to see new stuff when they come to see you. I’m always writing.”
But certain aspects of his life come as a blessing when it comes to writing. Maniscalco and his wife are expecting a baby in May, so on tour he talks through his experience as a soon-to-be father.
“The more relatable it is for the audience, the more they enjoy it,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy that writes stuff on a piece of paper. I’ll re-enact a story that hopefully relates to the audience.”
In order to reach a wider audience and “broaden (his) creative juices,” Maniscalco said, he hopes to appear in more television and movies in the future. Also, his podcast with Pete Correale, “The Pete and Sebastian Show,” recently moved to Sirius XM radio on Friday nights.
“There’s nothing better than making a room full of people laugh,” Maniscalco said. “It’s an energy you feed off of, almost a teeter-totter of laughter and performance.”
— charlotte l. jacobson
If you go
What: Sebastian Maniscalco — Why Would You Do That? tour
When: Saturday, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $42.75 to $253 (with meet-and-greet), available at the box office, kirbycenter.org and 570-826-1100.