Standup comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, an Italian-immigrant raised, Chicago-born Roman Catholic, is married to Lana Gomez, who is Jewish.
Maniscalco draws a lot of comic material from their polar opposite families of origin. "My wife's side is really happy, and they encourage things. They do retreats as a family and they work on their inner selves-they do therapy," he explains in his act. His family? Not so much. "My family don't do any of this-no therapy, no bettering..." "This is it," he says imitating his father in a thick Italian accent. "'What are you going to do…change?'"
Young Jewish Chicagoans will get to hear more about Maniscalco and Gomez's marriage and family dynamics when they appear in conversation with each other at JUF Young Leadership Division's first-ever virtual Big Event Fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 23.
The 13th annual Big Event Fundraiser will help the Young Leadership Division kick off the 2021 JUF Annual Campaign. "As the future leaders, YLD has the opportunity and obligation to step up to make a difference," said Ali Karmin, 2021 YLD Campaign Chair. "The annual Big Event Fundraiser is a night for us to do just that-unify, socialize, and laugh, while raising money to help those in need."
There's no doubt that the event will look different this year-but it's for just that reason why it's more important than ever, said YLD Board President Marc Karlinsky.
"The pandemic has forced us to honor our traditions in creative ways, and the Big Event Fundraiser over the last 13 years has become an exciting winter ritual for thousands of Chicago's young Jewish professionals," he said. "While we'll miss the buzz of a crowded hotel ballroom, we can all be inspired to support JUF as it helps our community take on the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. Best of all, you can be a part of it this year without the schlep downtown-and maybe even while wearing sweatpants."
Past Big Event Fundraisers have featured top comedians from John Mulaney to Jimmy Fallon to Amy Schumer with big crowds in attendance. This year, it's Maniscalco's turn.
The outspoken comedian, whose physicality plays almost as central a role in his comedy as his jokes, moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1998 and would frequent bars and bowling alleys to play open mic nights.
He first made a name for himself at the city's famed Comedy Store in 2005 where he was constantly performing-scrambling to gigs from his job waiting tables at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
"I felt if I missed an opportunity to be on stage," he recalled, "I missed an opportunity for somebody being in the audience and seeing me."
That somebody was then-powerhouse comic Andrew Dice Clay, who took young Maniscalco on the road with him. Then, when Vince Vaughan recruited him for his popular Wild West Comedy Show, Maniscalco's career blew up.
Today, he has arrived.
He has created five standup comedy specials, including
Why Would You Do That?What's Wrong with People
Aren't You Embarrassed?
The comedian regularly makes the late-night talk show circuit, he has appeared on Jerry Seinfeld's popular
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
, and he has played supporting roles in Best Picture Oscar winner
and Martin Scorsese's
Maniscalco also penned the memoir
, the same name of his most recent national standup tour. Plus, he co-hosts a weekly comedy radio podcast alongside fellow comedian Pete Correale.
But, still, Maniscalco isn't slowing down. As he puts it: "There's a voice always in the back of my head saying, 'Don't rest!'"
Rather than standup comedy, the 13
Annual Big Event Fundraiser will feature Maniscalco and Gomez in dialogue with one another.
Check out juf.org/yld for event details coming soon!