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OBITUARIES | Joe Restivo

Stand-up comic found the laughter in everyday life

December 01, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Joe Restivo, a comedian and character actor who performed on the national comedy club circuit for many years with a stand-up routine that reveled in the absurdities of everyday life, has died. He was 60.

Restivo, who was a resident of Valley Village, died Monday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank after a long battle with cancer, said his wife, Maryanne.

His comedy was filled with what has been described as middle-class angst.

"I just talk about people being trapped by the world -- their stress, their anger, their reaction to being trapped," Restivo told The Times in 1990.

One of his jokes went like this: "You drive by a house and it has a 'for sale by owner' sign. Well, who else would sell your house?"

He started out writing jokes for Rodney Dangerfield, Freddie Prinze and Joan Rivers. By the late 1970s, Restivo had struck out on his own and was featured in the syndicated TV show "The Comedy Shop" along with Jay Leno, Howie Mandel and others.

In addition to "Late Night With David Letterman," Restivo appeared in more than 15 television shows, including "Seinfeld" and "Hill Street Blues," and a number of films.

For several years, he reviewed films for radio stations on his syndicated show called "Vinny Goes to the Movies."

Over the last decade, Restivo regularly performed overseas with other comedians in USO shows staged for U.S. troops.

Last year, the comedian initially found humor in the sympathy calls he began fielding after the death of another Joe Restivo, a comedian and actor who had owned Vitello's restaurant in Studio City.

"By day four or five, it was not funny anymore," Restivo told the Associated Press after he learned that he had been replaced in a movie because the film crew thought he was dead.

A Chicago native, Restivo launched his entertainment career at 15 by winning a talent contest, which led him to record "Summer Love" and other songs in the early 1960s under the name Joey Richards.

The son of a doctor, he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy of religion at Bradley University in Illinois. He also received a master's degree from the American Graduate School of International Management and a master's in religious philosophy from New York University.

While working in marketing for Chesebrough-Ponds in New York City, Restivo caught his first live stand-up show at the New York Improv, and he told The Times in 1990: "I felt like I was home."

In addition to his wife, Restivo is survived by sons Chris, Brian and Greg; mother Lorraine; and sister Patricia Lauer.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. Charles Catholic Church, 10850 Moorpark St., North Hollywood.

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