“My girl takes care of a lot of things I’m not really good at.”
The differences between men and women are infinite. If only someone wrote a book about this phenomenon. Oh wait, John Gray did all the way back in 1992 called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Now if only someone would adapt that book into a play. Oh wait! Eric Coble adapted the book into a one-man play in 2007. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza brought the show to St. Louis last year and, seeing how well received it was, is giving us another chance for love with a repeat performance.
I recently got to chat with the hilarious Amadeo Fusca—the one man in this one-man show—and learned all about his impressive comedy career, how he got the opportunity to roast Dennis Rodman, and his experiences with Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus – LIVE! Seriously, folks, check out Fusca’s videos on YouTube; his roast work is legendary.
OK, I am going to cut though the foreplay and get right to the big guns. How did a boy from Pittsburgh become the winner of So You Think You Can Roast, beating out 55 other comedians?
It was kind of a Cinderella story. I have two older brothers and a really good writer/collaborator partner in Pittsburgh whom I grew up with and we were huge fans of the roast. We always did comedic stuff in high school together, and we still go back and forth to this day collaborating and actually wrote for some Friar Club events afterward. When I saw there was a breakdown for it backstage, like, Hey, there’s this competition the Friars club is having, they started off doing auditions and I remember I sent my audition off to them immediately. I kept going further and further in this competition and went in to every one more and more fearless. People were going up there and roasting where I was roasting, and I was putting more of my character work, like my background acting, into it. Like the Dennis Rodman roast was after he came back from North Korea where he visited Kim Jong-un and I came out as Kim Jong-un. It was couple of different rounds: They started out with 55 comedians and gave you a two-minute audition. They whittled it down to 12 people, where you had two live roasts with the actual people. Then they had a final round of six of us, where the winner got to be a part of this huge panel at the Jack Black roast. I was sitting next to Amy Schumer, Jeff Ross, Bob Saget. This was a few years ago; I was really fresh, kind of new in the comedy world.
Roasting is a rare skill set. How did you develop your quick wit and razor-sharp intellect?
Thank you for that! There’s been a lot of times where I’ve surprised myself with responding to something in the moment. I’ve worked as a bus tour guide in NYC for about six years—they wanted a more comedic approach to the tour—we point out where TV shows and movies are filmed. I’ve been doing crowd work and joking with a bus full of 40 or 50 people for years as my day job, not to mention I’ve studied at Upright Citizens Brigade. I’ve gone through their improv training program and I’m on one of their sketch comedy teams. It’s an accumulation of all that which has sparked this natural kind of ability to handle myself in the moment.
You are part of the Upright Citizens Brigade Maude House Sketch Comedy Team, Arch Nemesis. How did you get involved with that group?
Basically, UCB is where you go through their training program. It’s very competitive; they have improv comedy teams and they have sketch comedy teams. You keep auditioning, you keep taking classes. I’m on the sketch side of it; I did the improv program, but I never hardcore tried to train on the improve teams as much as I have on the sketch comedy teams. I’ve been on the sketch comedy team for two-and-a-half years now. UCB gets about 500 submissions, then they get about 150 to audition, then they whittle that down to about 80 callbacks, and then they put 20 or 24 people on a team of like actors. It’s a pretty gruesome process, but it’s very rewarding. You’re working with great writers, great actors, great directors: you are at one of the best comedy theaters in the world. I’ve gotten a lot of auditions just from being on a team there.
Were you always a funny kid growing up?
Yeah, I was kind of obnoxious in class. I would often get kicked out of class; I wasn’t necessarily a mean guy, I was just always making jokes and I was ADD-ish. The teachers eventually liked me because I started doing musicals and plays. Growing up, I was always the guy who would make people laugh, and I would get put I the hall for it.
Is there anything you won’t make fun of? Is there anything off limits?
I’ll be honest with you: At the roasts, you say a lot of horrible things, but in the end you say something really nice and positive where you clean your slate. I took that roast kind of humor into standup a bit, and different crowds respond differently to different kind of things. I will say there are some things you definitely kind of have to be mindful of with what’s happening in the world. Or you can go Daniel Tosh and go balls-to-the-wall and just say whatever you want, whenever you want with the confidence, the timing, and the right angle on the joke. I’ve had some experiences onstage where a joke didn’t go over well, probably because I didn’t have the right angle or spin on it intelligently. You have to earn those kinds of jokes onstage. I think the audience likes it more when you can open it up more.
You have some impressive small-screen credits to your name, shows like Boardwalk Empire, Daredevil, and my personal favorite, As the World Turns. How hard is it to make the transition from a live audience to working on a soundstage?
It’s relatively tricky. Growing up, I was always a theater kid, and I still do a lot of theater. You work hard to get the TV and film auditions, and when you go in the room, you’ve got to bring it way back. You can’t be the jumping around, yelling kind of guy. I will say when you book the role, it’s not that hard to transition, but you are still answering all the same questions: Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing? A lot of my TV credits are more serious, where I just have to concentrate on bringing it to the camera.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus – LIVE! compares and contrasts the differences between the sexes. What is the funniest thing about women?
That’s an interesting question. I guess their ability to multitask is pretty funny. The way their mind can be in a million places. It’s all in one place, but it’s like a million spider webs, with all the little webs going off in their own directions, but all on the same subject. That’s something in the show we explore quite often—you know, where she’s multitasking and everywhere and then she pulls it all back in.
I think it’s funny how clueless we are sometimes. In the show, we explore that, too, like we know, but we’re just like, Uh, we’ll just take care of that later. Little things we don’t really do, and how women pick up on it, like they know we will never do it so they will just do it. My girl takes care of a lot of the things I’m not really good at.
The show relies on sexual stereotypes. Do you find any of these stereotypes ring true in your own relationship?
hey are, and we do our best to bring out a fresher point of view and fresher jokes. We do hit stereotypes; people still identify with it, hardcore. Those moments are exaggerated in the show for comedic effect, but there are times in the show I see in my own relationship. Yeah, I’d say there’s a lot of stereotypes that I’ve found kind of make sense. With the show, I don’t just pick on women; I also pick on myself about what men do just as much. I try to even out the playing field.
Doing a one-man show is what I would consider one of life’s greatest fears. How do you find the energy and the courage to take this kind of endeavor on your shoulders?
Being an actor, we all are always looking for something meaty, something to sink our teeth into. With a two-hour one-man show, there is this monster script. When I first got the script, I was like, “How am I going to do this?” They hired me 18 days before my first show, in New Jersey at a 400-seat packed theater. The great thing about this script is it’s not set in stone. There are stories set in stone, but not necessarily the specifics, the humor of me bringing my own personal details in, my own flavor and who I am makes me really happy. I continue to collaborate with the tour manager with certain moments that I’m like ,this is kind of working, this isn’t working, or let’s change this joke around. We’re constantly improving moments that make me more identifiable and funnier for the audience. Going back to my first show to now—which will be my 136th show—I am having so much more fun. I always challenge myself to make it better and not get too complacent.
What’s next in line in your comedy arsenal? Where can your St. Louis fans get more Amadeo in the future?
I’ll be in St. Louis for three weeks, so they can get a lot of me there. The tour has been taking up a lot of my time. I come back to New York for a few days here and there, I have some TV and movie auditions, and I always have my UCB stuff going on. I will be working on an indie film this summer, in Pittsburgh with my brother; it’s called The Unsung. It’s a drama; I’ll be playing a detective. I also have a couple short films in the can that we have been editing for a while. Mars/Venus has been keeping me really busy, which is great. I’ve seen a lot of great cities, I’ve met a lot of great people, and the show is just getting better and better.
Take a break from all the sports-like activities going on in St. Louis and check out this very funny man in a hysterical take on relationships between men and women. Trust me: After I write that check to Uncle Sam, I am going to need a good laugh. | Jim Ryan
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus – LIVE! takes the stage at St. Louis’s Playhouse at Westport Plaza from April 19 through May 7. Tickets are available through MetroTix at www.metrotix.com or by calling 314-534-1111; all seats are $50. For more information, please visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.