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Sebastian Maniscalco on Stand-Up Tour, ‘Hacks,’ and Sold-Out Madison Square Garden
Sebastian Maniscalco is sharing his tour must-haves, how he mines for material and his comfort TV watch for USA TODAY’s weekly series, The Essentials. USA TODAY, Dan MacMedan, David Banks; Getty Images; Dan Anderson, Lionsgate; Peggy Sirotta; Birdie Thompson/AdMedia/Zuma Press

In a new series The Essentials, celebrities share what fuels their lives whether it’s at home, on the set or on the road.

Sebastian Maniscalco may have started out as a stand-up comedian a few decades ago, but in more recent years he’s turned himself into a multi-hyphenate: actor-author-podcaster.

He’s acted opposite Robert De Niro in the semi-autobiographical “About My Father,” and his Max comedy series “Bookie” was just renewed for a second season. His book “Stay Hungry” dove into his passion for food and humor. And his popular podcast with Pete Correale, “The Pete and Sebastian Show,” takes on everything from parenting to funeral etiquette.

But don’t think for a second that stand-up is in the Chicago native’s rearview mirror. In fact, Maniscalco, 51, can’t wait to get back on the road for his new 47-city It Ain’t Right tour, which kicks off July 11 in Norfolk, Virginia, and wraps up Dec. 15 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sebastian Maniscalco has been on tour for a few decades doing his stand-up comedy, which has led to a career as a TV and movie actor. He’s on the road again this summer for his It Ain’t Right tour. Courtesy of Sebastian Maniscalco

“Expect the unexpected this tour,” Maniscalco tells USA TODAY. Pressed further, he says this tour “has more production than past shows, I like to give people something to look at, so it’s not just a microphone and a screen. People should feel they went out for the evening, that they’re seeing something special.”

Maniscalco shares a few thoughts on how he copes with life on the road and his essentials for handling it all.
Sebastian Maniscalco plays L.A. bookie Danny in “Bookie,” a new series from Chuck Lorre and Nick Bakay. Maniscalco is best know for his stand-up comedy specials on Netflix, as well as for starring as himself in the recent movie, “About My Father.” Warner Bros. Discovery

“It’s funny,” says Maniscalco, “back when I didn’t expect anything to happen, and stuff happened, that was exciting. Like, I would put a show on sale at Madison Square Garden and it would sell out, and it was like ‘Wow!’ But now, there are expectations, and I’ve never felt that before.”

That challenge in fact gets the comedian’s competitive juices flowing. “My feeling is simply that my stuff has to be greater than or equal to what I did in the past, and if it’s not people will never come back. I feel I have to deliver every time,” he says. “It’s just like a restaurant. If you eat there and it’s great, then you go back and the pasta isn’t as good as the last time, you go, ‘What happened, this place sucks now!’ I can’t have that happen.”
“About My Father” (May 26): Sebastian Maniscalco (right) writes and stars in the culture-clash comedy as a man encouraged by his fiancée to bring his immigrant hairdresser father (Robert De Niro) to a weekend away with his rich and eccentric future in-laws. DAN ANDERSON/LIONSGATE

The comedian hints that his tour entrance will be memorable, recalling the shows of one of his favorite ’80s rock bands, Motley Crüe. “I grew up watching them and loved their productions, you know, where (drummer) Tommy Lee would be in this cage playing upside down,” he says.

So, wait, Maniscalco may do his act twirling upside down in a cage?

“No, and it’s not like I’ll do a joke and huge pyro will go off,” he says, laughing. “It’ll be something fun. But at the end of the day, it’s my material that has to get people talking, and that’s means everything to me.”

Maniscalco is a husband to artist Lana Gomez and devoted father to their two young children, ages 7 and 5. He’s also a busy entertainer with a boatload of publicity chores. All that adds up to less time being out in the world, which generates most of a comedian’s material. “I used to have free time, when you do things like, whatever, you go to RiteAide, just experiencing life. And now it’s less of that, it’s a lot of interviews,” he cracks.

But he’s got a remedy in the works. “Take later tonight, I’m going on a police ride-along in downtown LA. My mind is churning about that. But, I’ll have the luck where suddenly the police will go, ‘We need help, grab a gun!'” he says. “But yeah, as long as I can still put myself in situations I can draw material from, I’m good.”
USA TODAY’s The Essentials: Sebastian Maniscalco knows comedy is only as good as your material. USA TODAY

“This year more than ever they’ll come on the road with me, and that’s important. But when I’m home, I’m home. I make sure my family time is quality,” he says. That can include a weekend getaway to Santa Barbara, or just horsing around with his 5-year-old son playing a toddler version of basketball.

“I love it, but he’s like double dribbling and traveling, and I call him on it, because you know, he needs to know,” Maniscalco jokes. “But I’m also fast-forwarding this experience 10 years, and I can see him dunking over me and I’ll be on the floor in pain. So I’m enjoying these moments.”
Charlie Sheen (left) and Sebastian Maniscalco share a scene in “Bookie,” a new Max series from TV veteran Chuck Lorre, who famously directly Sheen in “Two and a Half Men” before the duo ended up at loggerheads more than a decade back. Warner Bros. Discovery

If you’re expecting R-rated shenanigans from Maniscalco and his crew, guess again. “There’s no furniture being thrown out hotel windows in my world, no,” he says. “Generally speaking, I do the show and I go to the hotel. There’s no wind down. I know some (comedians) have like 18 guys with them and they’re going roller coaster riding or to the water park after the show. Well, that’s fun, but not me.”

One way he does unwind is by watching TV. “I’ll watch ‘Top Chef,’ because I love food shows, or documentaries, I’ve watched a few episodes of ‘Hacks,’ but if there’s something my wife struggle with it’s this. We’ll start watching a show together, and I’ll leave for a few days and get ahead, and suddenly, it’s like I’m cheating on my wife with TV shows. I’ve actually lied about being ahead, and just watched it again like it was the first time,” Maniscalco says, laughing. “That’s where my life is at.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sebastian Maniscalco talks stand-up tour, ‘Hacks’ and selling out Madison Square Garden