Comedian Mike Marino: “Make America Italian Again!”

Comedian Mike Marino. Photo Courtesy of M. Marino
Comedian Mike Marino. Photo Courtesy of M. Marino

With the upcoming Presidential Elections, most of people are feeling at loss. What candidate is the best to lead the US in a world, more than ever full of challenges?

If an alien invasion would get rid of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in the best tradition of The Simpsons – which by the way is both the longest-running American animated program and sitcom – and stand-up comedian, Mike Marino, would take office in the White House, the Italian-Americans across the country would certainly flourish. 

No more debates around the preservation or abolition of Columbus Day, every month of the year would be declared “Italian Heritage Month,” it would be impossible to find food other than pizza and pasta, and you name it.  

Above all, to quote Marino’s worlds: “the world would be a lot funnier.” And, as a result, healthier. Cause remember: “Laughter is the best medicine.”

How was growing up in an Italian-American household?

Growing up in an Italian home is simply the best. My mother hailed from Duronia, Campobasso, Italy, while my father, of Italian descent, was born in New Jersey. 

I am the middle son in between my two brothers. We were all brought up in Jersey City and Scotch Plains, according to Italian traditions. My mom used to cook pasta, at least three times a week, and used to make her own tomato sauce, that we called “gravy.”

How were your beginnings in the show business as an actor?

As a young boy, every Sunday at 2 pm, after our portions of pasta, I used to impersonate actors, such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Archie Bunker.

When I was 16, I was performing in TV commercials in New York City. Alongside TV, I performed in theater.

Around the age of 28, I ventured in stand-up comedy. People were not able to picture an Italian like myself, with blonde hair and blue eyes. I remember how when I told that to other people, they all laughed. 

You acted both in several TV series, as well as for the big screen. In what way your approach to the character you impersonated, differed on the two?  

When I moved from New Jersey to California, everyone kept saying that Italians from New Jersey were funny. 

I decided to focus my career on stand-up comedy, amusing the audience simply by talking about my family and emphasizing my Italian roots in the major Hollywood’s clubs, as well as at The Tonight Show and other popular talk shows.  

Most of the films you starred in, had a fun take on mafia. In your opinion, what makes Italian-American mobsters so funny?

I essentially poke fun at stereotypes. The way we refer to mafia is just a slant or a joke. However, sometimes there is some truth in it.

When I took part to Byran Allen’s Comics Unleashed, and I said the joke: “If we had an Italian President running the US…”, it transcended to the world as something funny to laugh at. 

That was the inception of the web series, Marino 2016, in which I am a fictitious candidate for the presidential elections, together with a bunch of mobsters. My point of view gives people a breath of fresh air, by standing against the craziness of Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns. 

Let’s delve more into the TV pilot, Re-constructing Jersey. What was that about?

It is based on my real life. My brothers and I used to live with my family till late 40s. We all worked for our family-owned construction company, called Marino Paving.

The title, Re-constructing Jersey, refers to the fact that – after the storm Sandy hit the shore – the town needed to be reconstructed. In the same way, our lives called for a “reconstruction.”

It’s sort of an Italian version of the popular ABC’s show, Modern Family.

Let’s talk more about your current, successful web series, Marino 2016

It all just started as an “experiment.” My fellow comedians and I wanted to see how people would react. Eventually, I got nine million viewers on Facebook. 

People are loving to see a bunch of knuckleheads, running for the White House with no chances to win. However, let’s pretend we would win the elections. No doubt the world would be a lot funnier!

Tell me more about the leading positions you fulfilled within the Italian-American community in L.A.?

I was the former president and co-founder of the Sons of Italy, in Hollywood, about a decade ago. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore. 

I was also the Vice President and co-founder of the Feast of San Gennaro, in Hollywood. 

Since the tragedy of 9/11, I’ve been raising money for several groups, that helped to save lives.

Even if not explicitly stated, the institution of Indigenous People’s Day by the City of Los Angeles is putting at risk Columbus Day as city holiday. What’s your take on that?

Everybody in the East Coast doesn’t question the importance and relevance of the celebrations both on Columbus Day and the Italian Heritage month of October.

I don’t see why our only Italian-American holiday should be wiped off the calendar. I hope that Italian-Americans in Southern California will unite against this unfair provision.

We’ll celebrate Columbus Day - as God intended – with lots of laughs and a very good time together.

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