Audience members: The laugh’s on you when Vincent Pastore brings a chosen few onstage this weekend at Penguins Comedy Club.
Fresh off his “Hawaii Five-0” stint as Danny’s uncle Vito, Pastore is best-known for playing Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, a cat burglar turned mob enforcer for his good friend Tony Soprano — who ended up having Sal whacked for selling him down the river.
Pastore’s getting the last laugh these days, slaying his fans during improv acting scenarios in gigs titled “Forgetaboutit Italian Comedy.” He shares the billing with former NFL player Goumba Johnny Sialiano, a comedian, actor and radio host who established Broadway Bodyguards when a neck injury ended his football days after first playing with the New York Jets, then the Giants.
“I don’t consider myself a stand-up comedian,” Pastore said from his home in City Island in the Bronx, N.Y. “I consider myself an entertainer,” ticking off his various projects, including his classic rock band Gangster Squad, acting on Broadway and in television, teaching and running clubs and a theater company in New York.
“I just try to do it all,” he said.
“What happens when I go on the road with Johnny, to me it’s almost like a reality show, because he books me in these places that I’ve never even heard of. And I go to these places and we do these venues and we have a really good time,” he said. “I do a lot of audience participation.”
In small venues like Penguins, he sets up a couple of chairs and brings a couple of people onstage to do a couple of skits. In larger venues, he creates more of a social club setting — which is something he knows a thing or two about. He’s been managing clubs since the disco days.
“I tie it to my acting,” he said of his comedy club routine. “It turns out to be funny, because I give people scenarios, and you’d be surprised what they said.”
His leap from clubs to stage sounds like a Cinderella story, but it came because of his own hard work and dedication to his new craft.
Acting brothers Kevin and Matt Dillon gave him the push he needed in the ’80s, while frequenting his bars in his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y., just north of the Bronx.
“They were sitting at the bar with me one night, and they recommended that I get into acting, but they didn’t actually give me a job,” he said. “ ... What I needed to do is, when I started at 42 years old, I needed to actually go back to acting school. I went to H.B. (Studio), where I’m a teacher now. I had to learn the craft, and I had to learn the business.
“Everybody comes up to me and they say, ‘Oh, I want to be an actor,’ but they need to understand there’s a discipline required. It’s no different from learning any other craft. You have to learn, and if you don’t learn the technique, you’re just going to wind up being an extra all your life,” he said.
“What happened with the Dillons is that they guided me in a direction that I wasn’t aware of. They sent me down to New York, then somebody sent me to New York University, NYU, and I started doing student films.
“They guided me, and I’m still gracious and friendly with the kids now. But it wasn’t like I was Lana Turner sitting on a stool in a coffee shop and somebody came and gave me a part in a movie. That didn’t happen.”
WHAT: “Forgetaboutit Italian Comedy” with former “Sopranos” star Vincent Pastore and former NFL player “Goumba Johnny” Sialiano
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (2/16) and Saturday (2/17)
TICKETS: $23 advance, $26 door, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; email@example.com