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A CYNIC AND HIS LAUGH CLINIC : DiPaolo Verbalizes What Few Dare Say

April 01, 1993|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER: Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who regularly writes about comedy for OC Live!

As do many stand-up comics, Nick DiPaolo talks about life on theroad. But the Boston native puts his own spin on that overdone subject. Which means a heavy dose of urban attitude as he talks about having to eat in fast-food joints, pizza parlors, submarine sandwich shops and delis, where dirty silverware comes with the menu.

"I always get that butter knife that looks like it was used in a homicide that afternoon--with dry blood and hair on it," he says. "I'm trying to finish my meal and Quincy's roping off the nonsmoking section."

DiPaolo--who's headlining at the Irvine Improv through Sunday--also has a problem with hair in the food: "I went to a restaurant last week; two hairs in my soup, two in my lettuce. The waitress comes up, 'Can I get you anything else?' Yeah, how about a comb for the salad? . . . What's the house dressing, minoxidil? I ordered Romaine, not Rogaine."

Possessing a strong stage presence with dark Italian good looks, DiPaolo describes his act as "kind of like a guy who got up on the wrong side of the bed."

His cynical take on life comes naturally.

"Boston is very, very cynical. Everybody is a wise-(guy), from my mother to my youngest sister to everybody I grew up with," he said by phone from Venice, where he moved last year and where he's still adjusting to paying $700 a month for one-room studio apartment that "is so small you couldn't raise veal in here."

DiPaolo, 31, majored in marketing at the University of Maine--"$30,000 down the tubes"--and has been doing stand-up since 1987. And before that?

"I was selling steak and seafood door to door," he said, explaining that he traveled throughout New England in a Toyota truck with "a small freezer in the back and a block of dry ice--kind of like the Three Stooges selling fish out of a truck."

"People get a kick out of that," he said. "They can't believe people buy food from a stranger at the door. It was kind of good practice for what I'm doing. I sort of learned to dance on my feet, so to speak."

DiPaolo said he had always been something of a wise guy in high school and his friends would tell him he should try stand-up comedy. But while he always wanted to try it, he said, "I didn't have the (guts) to actually do it."

The first time he performed at an open-mike night at a comedy club in Boston in his mid-20s, DiPaolo had just come from a family cookout.

"I had about 22 beers in me," he recalled, "and like a smart guy, I drove my car into Boston."

He did five minutes on stage at a club called Stitches and didn't fare too badly. But because of his "meat and seafood obligation" he had to move to Rhode Island and didn't get back on stage until returning to Boston eight months later.

"I really fell in love with it the second time I did it," he said.

His stand-up style hasn't changed much since then. If anything, he said, it's gotten more edgy.

The best way to describe his act, he said, is to look at the character Michael Douglas plays in the hit movie "Falling Down": The urban man who finally goes berserk "over these little every-day injustices."

"I thought this guy has summed up my six years of stand-up in two hours, but that's me," said DiPaolo. "I was born with absolutely no patience. You can see that when I'm on stage.

"I think what I'm saying on stage is what a lot of people say behind closed doors but not in public. I like to air it out on stage. And I think the audience enjoys it. It's stuff people are thinking but don't have the (guts) to say it."

DiPaolo's act includes language and some jokes that are not suitable for a family newspaper.

"There are no boundaries (in comedy). As a comic, I don't do stuff to shock; I'm not a Dice Clay. I like to say something with my comedy."

Such as his bit on using animals for medical research:

"We do experiments with animals for a reason, folks--to prolong our life," he says. "If hooking a monkey's brain up to a car battery is going to save somebody from dying from AIDS in 10 years, I got two things to say: The red is positive and the black is negative."

Obviously, DiPaolo is not worried about being politically correct. "It's screwing up stand-up because you can't make fun of anybody or anything without somebody getting offended. But that's what comedy is, you know what I mean?"

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