By Ryan Meehan
Michael Vecchione was born in Youngstown, Ohio and graduated High School in Boca Raton, Florida…. He played football and placed second in the 1991 AAA state wrestling tournament…He attended Pennsylvania State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Special Education from Cabrini College in Pennsylvania. Mike has worked as a counselor and Special Education teacher in the Philadelphia area. At the end of 2003, Michael moved to New York City. He has appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, Comedy Central’s Fresh Face Debates, and Russell Simmons Presents: Stand Up at the El Rey Theatre. Michael also had a guest appearance on the IFC hit show Z Rock. In 2010, Mike won the People’s Choice Award for the New York Comedy Festival, was a semi-finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and was selected to perform at the prestigious Montreal Comedy Festival (New Faces). Later that year, Mike went on to perform on the Tonight Show starring Jay Leno and shot his own Half Hour Special for Comedy Central. Mike is based in New York City but headlines all over the country, and he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: What do you think is the least valid stereotype of Italian Americans? Why do you think that is the case?
MV: The least valid stereotype of Italian Americans is the organized crime stereotype. Actual Mafia families have been decimated by the government, drugs, and guys turning on each other. The glorification of honor and loyalty is just a fantasy. It is glamorized by the media and television. Some Italian guys walk around acting like they are connected, but the reality is…they are not, and they are acting this way because they are insecure about who they really are. For the guys who are really in it, they are, for the most part, without any real substantial wealth…and sooner or later face a life behind bars or a death sentence, which in the end, is more sad than exciting.
FOH: If you had to put a percentage on it, what percentage of your act on stage is based off your experience teaching young people?
MV: My act is based on my experience with teaching young people to the extent that I learned how to gain a rapport and keep their interest. The exercise in human interaction has helped me in stand up…As far as actual material gained from teaching, it used to be more… but is around 1% now. The further I get from that part of my life, the less actual material I have on it. But it just depends on my focus…If I focus on that part of my life, I will be able to generate material. Ironically, for me, teaching was a tremendous learning experience.
FOH: You’ve worked both as a counselor and a special education teacher in the Philadelphia area. Are there any intangibles from either of those life experiences that you have been able to apply to doing comedy?
MV: My experiences as a teacher and a counselor lend itself to my stand up in the sense that dealing with people, some of which are classified as “difficult,” has its ups and downs. Every day is not going to be a home run. But, if I could put the long term results out of my mind and focus on doing the right things day to day, I would make tremendous progress and avoid mind bending frustration. The same is true in stand up. I focus on controlling only what I can control…Do the right things to be the best of my abilities every night, and let the chips fall where they may. It’s hard to do, but if I could perceive my frustrations as learning experiences designed to help me improve, even if I do not attain large commercial success, i can create something worthwhile and valid.
FOH: What was the worst gig you’ve ever had and what was it that made it so bad? On the flipside, what was the best gig you ever had and what made it so great?
MV: The so called, “worst gig” I ever had was the Festival of the Juggalos…which is an event thrown by the fans of The Insane Clown Posse. It was outdoors, in the middle of the woods, in Illinois. In retrospect, I approached it wrong by trying to do my act. They booed the entire time and at the end, I said…Now, I would like to talk about my dreams…And one guy in the back stood up and said…Fuck your dreams…
The so called “best gig” was the Tonight Show…Jay Leno was awesome to me, the crowd was fantastic, and even though I am highly critical of myself, I was happy with my performance.
FOH: Your film resume lists characters that you have played as follows: “Delusional Man, Abusive Father, Hockey Player, Thug, and Hitman” All of those are probably the complete opposite of what you are like in real life, but you seem to look like a pretty big guy as far as size goes…Do you think that works as an advantage onstage or does it have no effect on the way you’re perceived as a comic?
MV: My look is…for lack of a better term…authoritarian. I am on the shorter side, so it may look like I have short man’s disease. That is where shorter guys try to overcompensate for their lack of height with aggression. I have heard that I look like a cop many times…that is the opposite of who I am off stage. I am, for the most part, gentle, fun loving, and soft spoken.
FOH: What is the hardest thing for up and coming comedians to do when they are working their way up in the ranks? Did you have a personal experience with any particular roadblocks that could have very easily stopped you in your place and made you give up comedy?
MV: The thing about this business that should be acknowledged right off the bat is that…It is not fair. If you start with that premise, everything else becomes easier. Everyone is different…Many performers have gifts that I do not have. So it is important not to view others as competition…If anything, I have gotten the most help in this business, from other comics. The thing I focus on is making my work the best that it can be. If I can learn to be more creative in everything I do, even if I do not attain commercial success, I will have created something that I can be proud of and will be a good representation of who I am.
Official Website: http://www.mikevecchione.com/
Mike on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mvecchi1
Mike on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/vecchione?fref=ts
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