Review: Sebastian Maniscalco Lights Up The Ryman Auditorium
Jason Kempin/Getty Images – Let There Be Laughter
Sebastian Maniscalco performs at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on June 12. The show was the first full-capacity show at the Ryman since the COVID-19 devastated the live industry, and was the comedian’s first time at the venue since 2005.
June 12, 7 p.m.
First show, first night. It’s a strange thing, the return to live. But it’s exactly the thing to feed what Sebastian Maniscalco does best: churn societal and cognitive dissonance into laughter.
The physical comic, whose facial expressions make Play-Dough seem like marble, has expanded from working the margins of straight-up working class Italian family standards to tackle the realities of America today. The irony being that some of the irony was lost on various members of the rampagingly reactive fan base.
A veteran of the service industry – he cited his first job at the Olive Garden at 14 – he also spent seven years at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, and a chunk of the show turned on the quality of people who are actually working. More apolitical than political, positing about the correlation of stimulus checks to horrible chain restaurant service, he not only created waves of knowing laughter, but he launched one gentleman, who kept leaping from his seat throwing his hands in the air like a touchdown had been scored.
Reckoning the realm of political correctness by marveling at the pregnant silence any time he’d mention any group or nationality, he showed, then teased about the tension caused by what should just be a detail. Having no doubt suffered the slagging that comes with being so overtly Italian, he’s not looking to judge, just to tease.
Looser than some of his specials, there was a departure in turning up the crowd work a touch. Beyond working in some local bits, he connected to various audience members – and riffed on who they were, including a reference to the 14-year boy who’d come with his parents.
Comparing the teenager’s Saturday night to his own, he slid in a reference to masturbation that cracked up the parents, the kid and the audience.
For the NY Times best-selling memoirist and stand-up veteran, it is that connection and recognition that makes him an act who can sell out LA’s Forum or Madison Square Garden. Without overt sexual material, mentioning a single politician or issue, he helps people see the humor in themselves and each other.
With “Nobody Does This,” he deepens the schools he draws from. As always working his own disbelief and confusion about how other people see the world, he creates a place where the average American can find a laugh at a time when we all could use one.