Comedian Joe DeVito set to host the 2023 ED’s Awards Show on Tuesday, August 22, at the Paris Theater
Joe DeVito‘s dead-on timing, unexpected twists and sheer flights of lunacy have made him a favorite at clubs and colleges across the USA, and at the top venues in New York City. Joe has appeared on television more than 150 times, including Comedy Central, The Late Late Show (CBS), Last Comic Standing (NBC), AXS-tv’s Gotham Comedy Live, Comics Unleashed, E! Network, CNN, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and more.
As a writer, Joe has contributed to Maxim Magazine, MTV, and the award-winning film “Super Size Me.” When he was invited to the prestigious Just for Laughs Festival in Canada, the Montreal Gazette rated his performance “9.5 out of 10,” adding, “He ruled the room!” Joe’s debut album “First Date with Joe DeVito” is in regular rotation on Spotify and Sirius XM satellite radio.
At the 30th Anniversary EXPO, Joe DeVito will bring his interesting, intelligent and unique brand of comedy to the ED’s Awards Show as its host. We had the chance to catch up with Joe for a quick interview where he revealed that he once had a regular column for a strip-club-industry magazine (pen name: “The Iceman”), and that he used to have a habit of asking big-boob feature entertainers to autograph their 8x10s with lyrics to Slayer songs. No, seriously.
ED: Before becoming a comedian, you were working in an office and your coworkers pushed you along a little bit because they recognized that you were really funny. How did their encouragement jumpstart your career in comedy?
DeVito: I had always been someone who likes humor. I was a class clown in high school, and all that stuff. As I’d gotten older and entered the business world, as a writer, I kind of thought the days of clowning around were over. But just hanging out after work, talking with my coworkers, telling stories about my family and all that, they said, “You know, you gotta try this.” So it had never really occurred to me that standup was something that a grownup could decide to do. I mean, to me that was like, if I just one day decided, “Well, I’m going to be an astronaut.”
A coworker signed me up for this three-week class. And she went with me to make sure I would go, because she knew that I was nervous. And you know, at the end of those things, they have a graduation show. And I survived. I knew how to write something to be read, but when you’re on stage, it’s a whole different story. About two years in, I thought, hey, I think I want to take a run at this. Then I got laid off from my corporate job and I thought, “Alright, this is the time,” and it worked out. And that was over 20 years ago now.
ED: When did it when did you start to get to a point where you were being recognized, where you were getting on TV shows and being contacted by producers and things like that? When did it elevate to the point where you were starting to get some phone calls and getting noticed?
DeVito: In 2005, I did a little thing on Comedy Central, and I did the Montreal Comedy Festival, which are kind of like stepping stones as a comic. But I still had a day job. What made the change for me was 2006, doing Last Comic Standing and making it to the semi-finals — which, that year, they went to the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. And I made the semi-finals, which was the top 36 out of 1000s of people they saw. And I remember at the time being so bummed that I didn’t make it to the next round. But then when the show aired, to get exposure like that on primetime network TV back in 2006 was amazing. And after that, the offers started coming in, and that’s when I was able to switch to doing it full-time.
“There used to be one club near the podunk town where I grew up in Connecticut. It was right over the border in New York State called the Lake Lounge. And once a month, they would have a featured big-bust dancer with massive implants. I remember one of them, she did that thing where she hits a guy with her huge fake boobs, but it didn’t look fun for him. And I remember his friend said to him after, ‘What did they feel like?’ And he said, ‘A pair of Air Jordans.’” – Joe DeVito
ED: How do you define yourself as a comedian? How would you describe your on-stage personality?
DeVito: It’s interesting what you learn about yourself when you start to do this, and for many years, I actually taught stand-up classes in Manhattan, and it was fun to watch new people go through the process. You don’t really think about it that when when you get to be on stage — you know, I would tell them that, for the next five minutes, you’re telling a bunch of strangers, “You’re going to see the world the way I do.”
One of the things I learned was what a friend of mine pointed out to me. He said, “You like tricking people.” I never would have thought about that, but it’s true. So much of my standup is a misdirection. You think I’m going one way, and I pivot. One of the things I’m able to do — I don’t know if I would call this a “style” — is that the material has clearly been developed, but it still sounds like I’m just having a conversation. There are different ways to do it. Some people go up, and they’re in character, or some people go up, and they just chat with the audience. For me that’s so important that you feel like you’re talking to whatever version of me I’m presenting.
ED: The formula for being a successful comedian seems to be a combination of writing the material and the delivery. You’re also a writer, which probably gives you a bit of an advantage. Maybe somebody’s funny the way they talk or the way they express themselves verbally, but they may not be the strongest writers. But you seem to have both! How much does your ability as a writer help your act as a comedian?
DeVito: When you start off, you’re always a lot better at one than you are at the other. And I was lucky that I knew how to express myself on paper. The performing? I was terrified. But then there are people I’ve seen who go up and they’re just so fearless and charismatic right from the beginning, but they’re not really saying anything. So for me, the painful process was getting on stage, nervous, taking those beatings, bombing when I was first starting out, whereas for someone who’s a born performer, it’s learning how to get those thoughts down on paper in a way that makes sense. And this is another thing that helped me when I was teaching stand-up, I would tell every class on the first day there’s only two things you need to remember: a joke starts out this long it needs to be cut down as short as it can be, and the other thing is, say the funny part last and then stop talking.
ED: Is it tougher time to be a comedian now than it was 10 or 20, 30 years ago? Because you are more limited in what you can talk about, as everyone seems to get offended by one thing or another?
DeVito: I don’t know if I would say that, because the flip side is, it’s easier than ever to find an audience and find an audience that likes what you do. Some people want it both ways, it’s weird. Some people want to be 100% ‘artiste,’ and then they complain that they’re not getting booked and that they’re not getting the mass appeal rewards. There’s always a trade-off. It’s hard to say if it’s harder than it used to be. Because I know people like to say, “Oh, you couldn’t make that movie now.” Well, you could, you just would have to do it a different way. If you were to meet someone’s grandmother, you would still be you, but you would speak to them in a different way than if you met a guy your own age. So I look at it that way, that you just have to know what’s the right conversation for that person, or for that crowd.
ED: Since you’re about to host the ED’s Awards Show, I have to ask: Do you have any memorable experiences in an adult nightclub?
DeVito: Actually, I wrote a “humor” column under a fake name for Xtreme Magazine (a regional adult nightclub publication, based in the Northeast, which is no longer in circulation). I called myself “The Iceman,” because my grandfather and his father in the Bronx, their family business was they had a little ice car, before refrigerators. They would carry those big blocks of ice into people’s ice boxes. So yeah I was called “The Ice Man.” But again, you know, we’re talking 23 years ago, before I did standup.
One day the editor said, “I need your mailing address, we have a fan letter.” And one of the dancers said — it was so funny — “We get so bored here, we read this magazine, and it’s mostly ads, but we like laughing at your column. So I got a fan letter from a dancer in a strip club, and that was my little taste of show business right there.
As far as going to clubs, there used to be one near the podunk town where I grew up in Connecticut. It was right over the border in New York State called the Lake Lounge. And once a month, they would have a featured big-bust dancer with massive implants. And we realized for 10 bucks, they would take a picture with you, and you can get a signed headshot. So this is the early ‘90s — picture me with hair down the middle of my back, kind of grungy. We figured out we could ask them to write anything on the 8×10 and they didn’t care. So I would have them write lyrics to Slayer. And I remember one of them, she was this nice woman. And she was like, “Yeah, I’m not writing ‘Enter to the realm of Satan.’” I remember one of them, she did that thing where she hits a guy with her huge fake boobs, but it didn’t look fun for him. And I remember his friend said to him after, “What did they feel like?” And he said, “A pair of Air Jordans.”
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