Vinnie Vitale is a Hoboken-based comedian who has grown up in New Jersey his whole life. He has appeared on stage at Broadway Comedy Club and Gotham Comedy Club, as well as Carolines where he has opened for Andrew Ginsburg. He is a producer for Comedy Party USA, one of NYC’s longest running underground comedy shows. This FREE comedy show happens every Thursday from 8:30-10pm in the back of The Grisly Pear at 107 Macdougal St. and features some of today’s hottest comics. They also run a monthly comedy contest for new talent to showcase their skills with the chance to win $50 and 2 guest spots on regular Comedy Party USA shows. For anyone interested in finding out more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or like Comedy Party USA on Facebook.
When Vinnie is not performing comedy, he has taught comedy writing classes in addition to privately coaching other comedians and helping professional speakers incorporate humor in their presentations. He has a website too, if you ever feel like reading his blog: www.vinnievitale.com.
Q. Do you think living in New Jersey made you want to become a comedian?
Yes. Experientially and geographically. I have had a rather ambivalent experience here because I grew up in a town way up North where when people visit they go, “This is New Jersey?” I think this dichotomy helped fuel who I am because I don’t necessarily come off as your typical Jersey guy. I mean, I’m Italian and from Jersey, but there is still something a little off about me. One time I had someone tell me after a show, “You’re refreshing. You’re like a Jersey guy with an IQ.” I don’t know whether to take this as a compliment or an insult, because although I think I am intelligent, I am not sure if he was saying I still sound like an idiot.
Regardless, my experiences growing up definitely had an impact on my decision to do comedy. And really the location–there’s a lot of accessibility to comedy in Jersey. I suppose our proximity to New York helps. We are a state full of unique, outspoken people that take pride in being in the spotlight. I think we’ve got more TV shows based around us than other state in the country. Even our governor is a celebrity on the basis of his looks and attitude. Jersey shapes the way we are, and it definitely shaped who I am. I am just happy I didn’t have to move very far to do comedy because I like my family.
Q. Do you have any jokes based on New Jersey?
I wouldn’t say I have many specific observational jokes about Jersey, like “Did you hear about that New Jersey Turnpike? Man it really stinks! They ought to call it the New Jersey ‘Turn-puke’ because that’s what you do when you drive on it–you turn your head and puke, right out your window.” Actually, I kind of like that. Maybe I’ll incorporate it in my act.
Considering my material is predominantly anecdotal, I guess you could say much of my entire joke bank is based on New Jersey, with me being the main joke about New Jersey. My name is Vinnie Vitale so this shouldn’t be surprising. Where else would I be from? I have a story about a time I got mugged at gunpoint in Jersey City, so that’s pretty specific; or lately I have been talking about walking my roommate’s dog in order to approach girls in Hoboken; or there’s the yuppie women from Upper Bergen County who have hired dog walkers so they can do Pilates or whatever other urgent daily demands are on their schedule. Ok, so I guess pretty much everything I say is about Jersey. There’s not one joke in my act that is not about Jersey.
Q. Is there a difference between a New Jersey and New York audiences?
For starters, New York City is the tourist capital of the world, so it’s pretty rare you’ll be doing a show in New Jersey where you’re trying to appeal to foreigners. On the other hand, I also feel like even though Jersey has the perceived “edge” that it does, you’ll have a better shot getting away with your rougher material in NYC because they’ve heard just about everything. It’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be on a show in New York where talking about a homeless person masturbating on the subway comes off as a shocking and completely irreverent topic. They might even know who you are talking about. I once talked about a hot homeless girl I wanted to take to dinner and two guys in the audience knew exactly what street she was on. At the time, she was residing near 48th and 7th ave, in case anyone is interested in trying to get a presumably cheap date.
My goal is to do comedy that is relatable no matter where I am, so really I aim to tailor my material to each specific show. If it’s a college, I might do more stuff about drinking and trying to hook up with girls. If it were a nursing home, I would probably do more stuff about drinking Ensure and hooking up with older women. To answer your question, I’ve bombed in both New York and New Jersey, so no; I guess there is no difference to me between New York and New Jersey audiences.
Q. What made you want to do Stand Up comedy?
I have always loved being the center of attention. Plain and simple. Well, for the right reasons. And pretty much the only right reason for me is laughter. I’ve been the center of attention for the wrong reasons too, which probably also had some influence on my decision to go into stand up. I just loved being the class clown, no matter the cost. On a bet, I once danced on the lunchroom table and got suspended. It was really dumb and not even that funny, and to this day I still reflect on how it characterizes me as a person with any sense of dignity, but people seemed to enjoy that it was happening. I guess by the time I started doing comedy, I had exposed myself to enough embarrassment in my life that trying to tell jokes on stage seem like the next sensible thing to do. I also always wanted to be a rock star throughout high school, but was never much of a musician. When I stop playing in a band in college, I really wanted to recapture the creative process of writing music and performing again, so stand up comedy seemed the best alternative. In many ways I like it more.
Q. Who are your comedic influences?
My father, my brother, my uncle Johnny, and my best friend are the funniest people I know. Most of my friends are pretty hilarious and I draw inspiration from them. My grandma is funny too, and a really good storyteller. As far as comedians go, it’s impossible not to say Louis CK. He might be the most obvious one to say, but he is the king right now. And I think he will continue to be until the end of his life. Steve Martin’s book got me started. I’m also a huge fan of Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Doug Stanhope, Lavelle Crawford, Reggie Watts—and like 8 million others. It would be pointless to name them all. Then I’d have to start mentioning comics I now know personally, and that would just get weird. It would be especially awkward if they read this interview and I see them: “So, Vinnie, I never knew you were such a fan? You want my autograph?”
Q. What would be your super power?
I love the idea of flying, or rather, floating. Sometimes I’ll have these euphoric dreams where I am weightless and floating around, and I wake up feeling like that would be the coolest thing ever to do. If anyone can tell me where to find one of those gravity removing rooms like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I would love to go there one day. But realistically, I would choose teleporting simply because I am constantly late to everything and can’t stand traveling. I like the notion of traveling sometimes. If I’m sitting on a peaceful train ride or flying on a plane somewhere, it can be relaxing and is typically built around the anticipation of going someplace desirable; otherwise I don’t really have time for it and would rather just cut out the whole process so I can add time to my life. Then again, if I can teleport everywhere people will constantly expect me to be places on time and I won’t ever really have an excuse again. So nevermind, fuck teleporting.
I guess sometimes I just get tired of the urgency in life. Pink Floyd’s “Time” really speaks to me: “10 years have gone behind you, no one told you where to run, you missed the starting gun—baaaaaaaaaaaaah, naaaahnaaaah, banaananaanaahh naaahnaaah (that’s the guitar solo. It’s very powerful.)” I wouldn’t mind being able to sit in my lounge chair, knowing I have not a single responsibility for a few weeks. I could just read and write, and probably drink a lot of whiskey, without a care in the world. I don’t know why I have chosen sitting in my shitty apartment room over a beach, but I guess that’s how much I don’t care about the surrounding pleasure in it all. It’s just being able to put things in a standstill for a little while. My power would be to slow down time. I’m going to go smoke some more weed now.
Q. Any advice for people wanting to get into comedy?
There’s too many of us. Don’t do it. No seriously, I probably shouldn’t even be doing it. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about following your passion and doing it for the pure obsession you have in making an impression on an audience, and knowing something you said and spent weeks, months—even years—crafting could evoke such a response. Just don’t start if you plan on stopping. Because you won’t. It’s an addiction. Thankfully I chose this instead of something like say, heroin. Although when comedy consumes your life to the point of destroying it, you won’t get sent to a $100,000/year rehab facility with a pool and nurses who tend to you night & day, while you get scheduled doses of another drug similar to comedy until your weaned off. Instead, chances are you’ll wake up one morning going, “Shit. Why did I decide to do this? Ten years have gone behind me and no one told me I still wouldn’t be making any money.” So screw it, stick with the drugs if you want to get your life together at some point; it’ll probably be better for you.
If you would like to see Vinnie perform in New Jersey, he will be at the Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ on August 10th at 8:00pm. For advanced ticket reservations, please call (973) 347-7777 and tell them you would like to attend Sean Gaffney’s comedy show.