Comedian Eddie Pepitone talks comedy ahead of VisArt video show

Eddie Pepitone will be at VisArt Video on November 14. (Photo by Tore Sætre)

Asking comedian Eddie Pepitone to help promote anything, even if it’s his own upcoming show on VisArt Video, seems ironic.

After all, one of the funniest pieces of his last special stand-up For Masses, named the funniest special of 2020 by the New York Times, sees him perform a hypothetical commercial audition of Downy where he improvises, turning away from the typical ad model to ask his wife, “I don’t wanna know how you got it. [these shirts] fresh, I want to know why; why are you hiding your head in the fucking laundry while the whole world is falling apart ?! ”

Pepitone, who first arrived on the scene as a contestant in the first season of Last comic standing in 2003, excels in this kind of juxtaposition. He delivers his tracks in a calm-strong-silent performance style, like a comedic version of The Pixies.

But even though he’s not a supernatural pitchman – it looked like he was cleaning up dishes for the majority of our phone interview – his talent and relationship skills are starting to get all the publicity he needs. We talked about his concert on November 14 at VisArt Video, a place to say the least unusual; his recent rise to more mainstream popularity after a long cult following career; and other recent events prior to his arrival in Charlotte.

Eddie Pepitone
Eddie Pepitone performed in Oslo, Norway in 2017 (Photo by Tore Sætre)

Queen City Nerve: Charlotte’s Show takes place at VisArt Video, a video rental store with a small performance space, making it an exception in this tour schedule focused on larger, more traditional venues. How did this reservation come about?

Eddie Pepitone: Well I don’t make the reservations my tour mate JT does so I really can’t answer that question for you but one thing JT Habersaat and I love to do is play in different venues – or not. also large. I actually like it because the stand-up is so much fun and intimate so you know what I mean? There are also smaller and different places.

It’s always fun to play with the space of a different place. I played in a brewery in Pennsylvania the year before the pandemic, and I remember climbing a ladder to – you know, they use it to get to the vats that they brew beer in or whatever – and I went up and gave the whole performance from the top of the ladder, and it was so much fun.

In a video store, I’m already thinking who the hell is renting videos? Is it a facade? Literally even DVDs seem to be finished. So that’s already a funny thing that I kind of think about.

You’ve been on stand-up for a long time now, but your profile seems to be rising more and more as the collapse of the company worsens. Should this be taken as a coincidence, or are you just the right person at the right time?

You know, The Boston Globe actually made a story on me which was titled “Pepitone finally gets his due, all it took was the complete collapse of the company.” And I don’t – you know, it makes me feel two things.

One, how much could you profit from your success as the world crumbles? Because lately I’ve been reading supply chain articles and I’m like, ‘Wow how am I going to profit from this success if I can’t get my favorite chips’ you know what I mean ?

I’ve always been the type to talk about how society is, how our government, how our system is designed to kill us. And now it’s right on people’s faces and people said, I actually had friends who said, “Are you happy now, Pepitone?”

I am not happy. I didn’t think it would come so quickly! I didn’t see any viruses coming either. I wasn’t on this page, you know? So it’s good to feel that you’re successful and getting more recognition, but I don’t want to die in a wildfire.

No, that makes sense. So how surprised are you to come to this point where you are getting so much more attention from the general public?

Uh, I love it. Am I surprised? Yes, I am always amazed at any success I have. It’s just the way I’m built. Maybe that’s part of the reason I always focus on societal wrongdoing is that I find it hard to accept success. So, I’m still surprised. But I must tell you that it feels good.

The New York Times saying I had the funniest special of 2020 was kind of a big thing, and I don’t care about that on stage. I say, “And who knows comedy better than The New York Times?” Have you seen their coverage on Syria? It was a riot of laughter.

I don’t care that The Times said I had the funniest special, but it was – what’s the word? – redeem for me and validate for me. Of course it does.

We seem to be stepping into an era of less imaging and more honest vulnerability, as it’s hard for anyone to get across that everything is going perfectly in the midst of all the shit that is going on. Do you think that maybe it is also part of your job to find a larger audience? Because you have always been very vulnerable and open.

I think so. I think that’s a good analysis. Except, I have to say, that I watch comedians, and I watch a lot of them, they still are – a lot of them, not all – but a lot of comedians still pretend that everything is fine.

I swear to God, they pretend nothing has happened, and I understand. I get it because especially when I’m playing live and I’m at the back of the room waiting to continue, and I’m watching the show and some kind of comic is about something stupid and just doesn’t deal with the fact that the ecosystem is collapsing, or, you know, this half of America is in extreme poverty, and fascism maybe something that could happen soon, I just watch the audience sometimes and I’m like – they they just laugh. This is not a bad thing.

And so I go up and my goal is to make them laugh with silly stuff too, but then I always start talking about, “You know we’re at the end of days, don’t you? And we’re having a great time here tonight, but let’s face it, everything is falling apart around us. And mention the extinction of species; and it’s like a Saturday night, I will mention the extinction of species for these people who are on a date. I’ll just mention the fact that half the country is in dire straits, and then I stop and say, in that slow voice, “Thanks for coming to my show. “

So I kind of suck them up by being funny first, and also I’m pretty self-deprecating and I think it reads.

Eddie Pepitone
Eddie Pepitone is known for his explosive style of comedy. (Photo by Tore Sûtre)

Your Twitter account talks about it too, where you juxtapose dystopian reality with typical ad copy. Have you ever heard of this from a company or been contacted to do commercial work?

I was contacted to do commercial work, but years ago, and made a point of staying out of commercial work because of the sentiment you see on my Twitter feed. So I haven’t been contacted by any companies, but… Snickers, they did one thing where they completely ripped me off; where they said something like, “Your life is existential hell. You know you’re just waiting for death. How about a Snickers? “

A lot of my fans contacted me and said, “Is that you? Do you write for Snickers? ”

So I threatened Snickers, but you can’t threaten Snickers. Snickers seems to be in a world of their own, and I have neither the time nor the desire to pursue anyone.

We look at the companies, they are hilarious to me because when the massive Black Lives Matter protests started happening, all of a sudden you got, like, Chase Bank, commercials about the importance of life. blacks for them. It’s just really funny to me how companies are going to just co-opt any popular movement or trend.

It’s an interesting time to work on building a new hour, I imagine. You can do shows, but they’re limited in number and capacity I’m sure. Does this impact your ability to build a consistent hour?

I’m telling you, the way I work on the hour-long construction is very, quite unorthodox. I am not an unorganized person. My mind is everywhere.

Eddie Pepitone says he enjoys performing in smaller venues like VisArt Video. (Photo by Tore Sûtre)

With my latest special, director Steve Feinartz – who directed a movie about me called The Bitter Buddha, a documentary about me – he did all my specials… and I recorded all my sets… on the phone, and he asked for the tapes and he met some people and they chose themes and stuff, and that helped me a lot okay. I hope to be a little more organized this time around, but I haven’t really started to tackle it.

But I’m starting to think, okay, what would a new hour be like? Because I think things have gotten darker since my last stage, if that’s possible. The pandemic has not gone away, the economy is collapsing. Everything is, you know, things change a lot. Like the fact that people don’t go back to work. I do not know. It’s a very changing time right now.

It is certainly true. So, is there a message you would like to leave us that we could have left out?

No. You know, I think my message with this show I’m doing in Charlotte is that we should go back to watching videotapes. I mean, the Zapruder tape was something you could only watch on video, and you could get it on VisArt Video. Zapruder images are currently VisArt Video’s largest rental.

Catching Eddie Pepitone with fellow comedian JT Habersaat at VisArt Video on November 14th.

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