Having a child can do wonders for your career.
Sure they take up a lot of your time, and sure they cost a small fortune, but there is something universally relatable about having a baby that makes conversations with colleagues, competitors and customers so much easier. Especially when you’re a proud father like myself — I love telling people about my five-month-old son Wesley, sharing pictures and occasionally bringing him along to concerts and festivals. People get sick of seeing my face but they love interacting with my baby.
Our children have a way of working their way into every part of our life and for comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, the birth of his daughter Serafina Simone means plenty of new material for his comedy show “Why Would You Do That?”
Maniscalco is a comedian’s comedian, boasting deep friendships with comedy legends like Jerry Seinfeld and Tony Danza. His “Why Would You Do That?” special on Showtime has been consistently ranked as one of the best comedy showcases of 2016 and Sebastian holds the record for most consecutive sellout shows at the Borgata in Atlantic City. Ahead of his seven sellout shows at the casino, July 6-9, I caught up with the comedian to talk about fatherhood and how growing up in a large Italian-American family has affected his outlook on parenting.
It’s been two months since your wife Lana gave birth to little Serafina Simone. Have you already starting working your daughter into your act?
Yeah, I mean it’s kinda what I’m seeing. I have a baby now, so you’re gonna start seeing baby stuff. You’re gonna start seeing me talking about my interactions with other parents. As my life kind of progresses, the act progresses. As I live my life, I kind of draw my material from my experiences — I’m not the type of comedian that just locks himself in the room and types something that’s funny.
Has anything surprised you about being a Dad?
Surprised me? Not really — I’m going to be 44 next month, so I kind of had a kid later on in life. All my buddies had their kids in their 20s and 30s so I just felt like it was the next chapter for my wife and I to have a baby, and the experience so far has been just great. I mean, yeah, they’re gonna cry, they need to be fed, you’re gonna have to change a diaper, it’s all part of the deal. It’s not like the baby shit the diaper and I was like, ‘Oh my god, what do we do?’
Yeah, ok, but there must have been things you weren’t ready for.
Like everything in life, you just get thrown into it and if you’re a responsible adult, you know how to react to whatever life gives you. So for my wife and I, it’s just been fun. Our relationship is based on humor and we’re always laughing, so we never take anything really too serious.
Has it been easy to work fatherhood into your routine without sounding corny or predictable?
I’m very, very new to this, which is kind of funny. I don’t want to be the comedian that goes up there and talks about his kid. I talk about my point of view and how the baby has affected our lives rather than, “You should see, my kid talks about this, that, and the other thing.” Because you know what, maybe 50 percent of the people in the audience don’t have a kid and might not be able to relate to that, so I like to keep it a little bit broad, but talk about parenting in a way where people who don’t have a kid maybe can relate to that.
What about childbirth? That has to be good for a ton of material.
Yeah, I talk about the experience in the hospital and how I wasn’t really happy with the customer service.
You have the baby, then they move you to the postpartum area where, you know, you got the nurses coming in and out of the room and they’re checking my baby’s hearing. I’m kind of like my father, not trusting anyone and always feeling like I’m getting scammed. So I’m looking at them do this test and wondering “is this part of the package, or is this an extra we gotta pay for?” I felt like I had to be on high alert of people trying to take advantage of me in the hospital and what they’re going to bill me.
Yeah and then they try and get you to do the pictures which are a total scam.
Yes! They want you to buy these portrait packages that start at $29.95. My wife’s nipples are bleeding and you’re showing me an 8×10?
The worst is that you start in a nice birthing room and then once the baby is born, you go to a hospital room that feels like a county jail cell.
It’s like we started in a beautiful room with a view, I’m looking at the Hollywood sign, next thing you know, it’s like a drunk tank.
So the other thing about having a kid is that everybody says ‘Well, it’s no longer about you. Your needs don’t come first?’ What’s your reaction to hearing that?
Well, I did a joke on my 2012 special about people saying “Oh, you know, when you have a kid, it’s not about you, it’s about them.” I’m like, “Why would I want to do that?” So now that I have a baby, of course, people give me shit about saying that. But yeah, it’s not about you now. I mean, everything you do now is geared towards keeping the baby alive and making sure the baby’s fed and changed and the whole thing. So you know, whatever you thought you were doing before you had a kid, that takes kind of takes a backseat, and now your responsibilities shift to making sure your daughter or son is raised with the kind of same values and morals that you were raised with. And a lot of people don’t look at it that way. That’s why you got people running around the country with no set of rules or standards that they live by because, in my eyes, they were not brought up properly.
So you think bad behavior as an adult is a result of bad parenting as a child?
It’s up there. It’s all about family. If the kid is behaving that way, I guarantee that the parents behave that way. It’s a lot of work, man. You know, I mean you’re five months into it so you know you get out what you put in, and some parents just don’t care.
Spending a lot of time with a baby also kind of messes with your head. My son is five months old and he’s fun, but he really doesn’t do too much. I often find myself and my wife just staring at him for long, silent stretches of time.
Yeah, but you’d be surprised what these kids are picking up and I mean, I’m talking to my baby like she’s 21 years old. I’m just talking and talking to her. Their brain is not highly developed yet, but I mean, we were just telling the baby to stick her tongue out, we were just mimicking and sticking our tongue out, and then the baby sticks her tongue out. It’s like, wow. It happens quickly.
That’s a big breakthrough moment.
They’re picking up on music and if you play music, they’ll react. You’re further along than I am, but I just started to see last week that the baby is kinda lighting up now and really reacting to what we’re saying.
Ok, gotta ask — this is your baby girl and you’re an Italian dad. Do you think you’ll be strict and chase the boys off with a shotgun?
Nah, nah, I mean listen, I don’t think I’m going to be that father. Hopefully, I’ll raise my child to know what’s right and wrong when dating.
Maybe not dating, but kids get in trouble, right?
Oh, of course. Of course. I’m not saying I’m going to raise a perfect kid, but yeah, you know, I had a sister growing up, so we didn’t really have a problem with her with guys. She kinda knew how to take care of herself when it came to that, so we didn’t experience that.
So now that you have a baby do you think you’ll take on more movie roles so you can stay close to home?
We will see I’m in a movie coming out this Friday called “The House” starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. And then August 30, I’ll be in an animated feature film called “The Nutjob.” I play a groundhog by the name of Johnny. And then I’m in an independent feature film called “Cruise,” which does not have a release date, but that’s starring Emily Ratajkowski and Spencer Boldman. And I’m currently writing a book that’s going to be out in April of 2018.
Movies are an easier payday than touring, right?
You know what, I would rather do stand-up comedy, that’s my bread and butter. That’s what I feel like I’m most passionate about. Movies are a lot of standing and waiting around. And stand-up comedy is like you go, you do an hour, and you leave. It actually gives me more time with the baby, and as you know, it’s not about me, it’s all about the baby.