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SQEEZE PLAYS : Joe Restivo Thinks You Love to Watch Him Squirm

November 15, 1990|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

A television producer once described comedian Joe Restivo's humor as "middle-class Angst ."

"If I had to categorize myself, I guess I'd say that," said the Chicago-born comic, who prefers not to define his own brand of comedy. "I'm asked that question a zillion times. All I can tell you is I do a character study and a lot of the character is me, in an exaggerated form."

Restivo, who is at the Laff Stop in Newport Beach through Sunday, said he loves "the idea of the man trapped by the world--by his own inabilities, his own dreams, his own expectations, his own inadequacies--and he has to make a moral judgment. I love that guy.

"To me, that's very funny watching somebody have the squeeze put on, even it it's in their own head. And the idea is I think that my show is very uplifting. I talk about negative things, but ultimately I think that we can survive the Angst .

"But you have to be aware it's there first. When you realize what it is, then you can dump it."

Restivo, who has appeared a handful of times on "Late Night with David Letterman," not only writes all his own material--"every comma, semicolon and period"--but writes TV and movie scripts. He also has acted in more than 80 television shows, mostly dramas. On Nov. 25, he'll appear in an ABC TV-movie, "I'll Take Romance," starring Linda Evans and Tom Skerritt.

Restivo, who has master's degrees in both business and philosophy, wrote jokes for Freddie Prinze, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield and other comics before starting his own stand-up comedy act in New York 10 years ago.

But he said he doesn't understand comics who stand on stage for 45 minutes and just tell jokes. "I don't know what the point is, even if the audience applauds."

And what does he hope audiences take away from watching him on stage?

"I want them full," he said, adding with a laugh, "I want to be dinner and desert."

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