Today is October 29 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself to stay hungry?” Comedian, actor, and author Sebastian Maniscalco published his autobiography Stay Hungry in November 2018. The book details the 20 years between the time he arrived in Los Angeles at 24 where he knew no one and had little money to 44 when he appeared on the Forbes’ list of highest earning comedians with an estimated worth of $25 million.
In a November 2021 interview Maniscalco said the past 23 years as a standup “has been a long road. I remember doing clubs in Atlanta on a Wednesday when there were 12 people in the audience. To reach this level, I never thought I’d do arenas. It was not something on my vision board.” Reflecting back on his journey Maniscalco said in an earlier interview back in 2019, for that first decade “It was 10 years of grinding, doing comedy shows and then meeting people afterwards to take pictures and make that connection. During this time, he waited tables at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, California and practiced his craft of standup at clubs at night.
He got his start in 1995 while he was in college where he did his first standup comedy routine but bombed. Even though his parents went to see him and he failed, he learned a valuable lesson and discovered standup comedy was what he wanted to do. After graduating college, he moved to Los Angeles in 1998 and worked at the Four Seasons until 2005. Along the way he was booed off stages; survived on tips and stolen food; got advice from mentors Andrew Dice Clay, Vince Vaughn, Tony Danza, and Jerry Seinfeld; fell in love; and stayed true to his Italian-immigrant roots.
In 2005, he began performing regularly at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood, California. Since then, he has done a half-hour for Comedy Central Presents and five hour-long specials. His first special, Sebastian Live, was released on June 2, 2009. His next three specials were aired on Showtime, with What's Wrong with People? released on January 5, 2012, Aren't You Embarrassed?, taped in Chicago, released on November 14, 2014, and Why Would You Do That?, taped in New York City and released in 2016.
The title of his book Stay Hungry, stems from a message his dad wrote him in a card. According to Maniscalco “I just got a card from my dad and in the first part he told me how proud he is of me. In the other part of the message, he wrote ‘you have to stay hungry’ as if I have nothing else going on.” This drive to stay hungry helped Maniscalco to become an actor, television host, and author. He does indeed stay hungry. In that 2019 interview he emphasized that “there is no substitute for dedication, hard work, and patience. I know I was going to make it but I just didn’t know to what extent. If you don’t believe in yourself then why are you here?”
The path Maniscalco traveled to navigate the chaos of being a standup comedian was long. As he said “I remember doing clubs in Atlanta on a Wednesday when there were 12 people in the audience. To reach this level, I never thought I’d do arenas (like New York City’s Madison Square Garden). It was not something on my vision board.” Even though he has ‘made it’ as a standup comedian, Maniscalco stays hungry.
To ensure his comedy stays fresh he continues to write new material focusing some of his routine on his marriage and two young children. Maniscalco said “I talk a lot now about being a new parent. It has definitely changed from 10 years ago. I don’t like to rest on my material or repeat them over and over. I get bored. And if someone is going to pay to come see me, I don’t want them complaining that they’ve heard the same jokes that they did the last time.”
Abigail Adams once wrote “These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life, and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”
Maniscalco discovered that standup comedy, ‘engaged his heart’ so over the course of 20 years he navigated the chaos by staying hungry while working in one club after another until he was able to make a living from his comedy. He was patient. He worked diligently putting in the daily grind over many years. And he believed he was going to ‘make it’ even though he had no idea what that was going to look like.
How often do you stay hungry?
How often are you patient when you are hungry?
How often are you putting in the daily grind for years while staying hungry?
How often can you work a day job to pay the bills while working on your craft at night and during the weekends?
Do you have people in your life who are supporting you while you are hungry?
What engages your heart?