John Pinette is probably best known for his guest appearance on the final episode of Seinfeld - he was the big guy who got car-jacked. But comedy aficionados know him from his hilarious stand-up act, which wowed last year's Just For Laughs crowd so much that he's been dubbed the "most requested stand-up" in the festival's history.
He brings his show I Say Nay Nay - which details his ongoing battle with the bulge and his experiences as Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of Hairspray - to the Winter Garden tomorrow (Friday, October 20). See Comedy Listings, page 74, for details.
You trained to be an accountant. How did you know that job wasn't for you?
I lasted about six months. I didn't do a lot of work. My job was to make the auditors laugh and distract them. I'm told a lot of bad stuff happened after I left. "Not my problem!"
Your big break came when you opened for Frank Sinatra. What did you learn from the man?
If I didn't know how to order in an Italian restaurant before, I sure did after I worked with him. One time in Vegas, he walked offstage and said, "Take me to a saloon." I thought that was really cool. He said basically he was a saloon singer. I always use that and say I tell jokes in saloons.
How did you survive the eight-shows-a-week slog of doing Hairspray?
I did 500 performances. After about 450, it's like the movie Groundhog Day. "It's gonna be the same thing today!" In the middle of a show, you can't start going from Oklahoma! They don't like that shit. You get notes when you do that. Monday is your day off, and really the only thing you can do is sit in a chair.
One of your earlier CDs was called Show Me The Buffet. What's your buffet strategy?
I try not to go to too many buffets any more. But if I go, and you're near the mashed potatoes, the pasta or any of the meat stations, you should probably move along.
Is it true you were banned from some buffets?
In my early days there was a Chinese buffet that had my picture with a slash through it.
You lost a lot of weight in 2001. How'd you do that?
I had a gastric bypass, so instead of a stomach I have a pouch. Which means I'm part marsupial. I'm actually protected by the World Wildlife Federation. If you hit me, you'll do federal time. It's like clubbing a seal.
Is there any performer you model yourself after?
Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Seriously, my comedy mentors are Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby as storytellers, Richard Pryor as far as his being able to bring his life to the stage, and Jackie Gleason. When I lose my cherub-like demeanour onstage, it's Gleasonesque.
You're a regular on The View. What do think about Rosie's entrance?
I haven't been on with Rosie yet. Actually, John Waters said I look like her brother. But I think I'm prettier than her. I mean, I run a comb through my hair.