Sebastian Maniscalco sells out theaters riffing on his tight-knit Italian American family. Earlier this year, in the movie “About My Father,” Robert De Niro played his hairstylist dad — who tutored the actor in the art of applying highlights. He even pitched a series centered on his life to the sitcom creator Chuck Lorre.
But Lorre had another idea. Would Maniscalco be game to portray a Los Angeles bookie adjusting his business plan as the legalization of sports gambling looms?
“I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds like an interesting world to live in,’” he recalled. The clincher: “I liked not playing me.”
“Bookie,” out Thursday on Max, caters to the antics that Maniscalco, with his elastic body and malleable face, excels in.
“I love not only telling a story, but kind of acting it out,” he said in a video interview from Atlantic City, N.J., where he was wrapping up a residency.
Onstage, Maniscalco is every bit the exasperated son, husband and father who finds even a trip to the grocery store a painful undertaking. But in real life, he revels in Sundays at the farmers’ market with his young daughter and son, admiring the art of his wife, Lana Gomez, and Whirley Pop movie nights with the whole family.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
I love massage, and I try to get one once a week. But when I’m on the road it’s hit or miss. And I like a really, really deep-tissue massage. So that’s what the Theragun provides for me.
It’s not necessarily shopping for fresh ingredients, but for me now with kids, to watch them walk around the farmers’ market and get excited about seeing that they’re making caramel corn, or you could feed the goat or the rabbits, or that there’s a whole pistachio stand. It’s a family tradition that we do on Sundays when I’m in town.
My Wife’s Art
My wife is unbelievably positive and cheerful, and her art reflects her personality. It’s abstract, it’s colorful, it’s happy. I wasn’t a big art guy prior to meeting my wife, but I have a different appreciation now about what goes into creating a piece of art. We have this huge piece in the living room that she just put up, and it’s different shades of green. It reminds me of her every time I see it.
I thought Pilates was on the floor. And then next thing you know, I’m strapped into a machine, and I’m doing these movements that I haven’t ever done before, and my body is becoming elongated. If you do it on a consistent basis, you really start to see the muscles that are being used.
Whirley Pop Movie Nights
We love making popcorn, and my wife turned me on to this machine, which has that crank on the side that stirs the kernels. Just canola oil and salt — that’s all you need. And we sit and watch movies. Now that the kids are getting older, they’re starting to get into movies that I grew up with, like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” My daughter is into doing all the songs from “Grease.”
They have lobsters in an aquarium where the kids can look, and they have big whole fish with the eyeballs. They have a little pasta station, and I ask them, “OK, pick out the pasta that you want Daddy to make you tonight.” I feel like they have more of an appreciation of the food because they’re invested in it. I also want to open up their palates to different sauces on the pasta other than butter and cheese.
Cooking to Relax, Sort Of
Some guys go golfing. I like cooking for people. It’s a little nerve-racking because something could go wrong and you’ve got 13 people over. The problem with me is I like to do too much. I like people to be full before they even start eating the entree.
Surprise Date Nights
Sometimes you become ships passing in the night, and you need that time together as a couple. So she picks a night and surprises me where we’re going to go. And then the next week I’ll pick a night and surprise her. I think it’s very important to have those date nights in a marriage that let you reconnect.
It is more of a comedy for me because I find myself laughing at a lot of the things they say, particularly Brian Cox, who was hysterical in this thing, and Kieran Culkin, the zingers that they throw out. I think I’ve got about four episodes left.
My Toughest Audience
There was nothing better for me than making a room full of strangers laugh — until I had kids. When they laugh, it blows away the feeling of 20,000 people. If I get my daughter rolling on a laugh, for me it’s gold. They’re my toughest audience, but the most rewarding.