The brilliantly funny Paul Virzi is set to perform a five-show run here in Madison, WI, and will be in town from Thursday, Feb. 6 to Saturday, Feb. 8. Virzi has worked with the likes of Pete Davidson, Bill Burr and Judd Apatow. He has released a critically acclaimed stand-up special, his comedy album reached #1 on iTunes, and he is preparing to shoot a second hour-long stand-up special this summer — a new hour of material which will also be performed at his comedy shows this weekend in Madison.
Virzi’s genuine and honest nature resonates with fans in an impactful way, whether through his weekly Podcast, The Virzi Effect, or via his energetic stand-up gigs. He has a knack for presenting what is on his mind with a New York “tell it like it is” style which can’t help but make audience members laugh.
I had the honor of speaking with Paul Virzi as he talked about his experience in Wisconsin, performing his new hour and preparing for his stand-up special, his thoughts on "The Irishman," and more.
Have you ever performed in Madison before?
“I have not, but, and I’m not just saying this, I am so thrilled to be going to Comedy on State for the first time. [One of my favorite states] in America to perform in is Wisconsin. I’ve decided to shoot my next special in Wisconsin this year. Early summer I’ll be taping my special… I don’t know exactly where it’s going to land yet, but I want to do it in Wisconsin. I think the people there are incredible. I do, man, I love the people. I’m so excited to be going to Comedy on State.”
What have you learned from filming your first hour-long stand-up special that you want to change, focus on, or keep the same as you prepare to shoot you second hour-long special?
“I think now on this second special… I’m going to be a little more personal on this one. This one’s going to be a little more edgy and really how I feel about things where it’s less holding back. Not that I held back on the first one, I did everything that I wanted to on the first one, but as I evolve as a person and a comic, now I’m just going to go onstage and just say it, and as long as I mean it and I can defend it, I’m just going to be as honest and as edgy as can be because those are the thoughts that I have, and then just making that funny. People appreciate that, and I’ve found that as I travel the country with this new hour, that people are just like, ‘wow, this is hitting in a different way.’”
Did you find it difficult getting to a point where you could share a more intimate part of you, or does it feel good to finally let loose, and maybe a bit therapeutic to share this part of you with the world?
“I think that it’s the latter. I think it’s the fact that I can just let go now and just kind of say it. And I know that you just get to a point in your career where you just know that you’ve done it enough, that you’re funny enough to even make that real thought that you’re going to dive into funny. And that’s kind of where I’m at. I’m just going to say it and be honest and talk about it, and just let my natural instincts of [having done] this for a while and [my] experience just take over. But it’s therapeutic and it’s cool and I think the audience member appreciates it.”
Being a fan of "The Irishman," will you be rooting for the movie at the Oscars on Sunday?
“As far as Oscars, usually when I love a movie like that I don’t really care if it wins the Oscar, only because I know that it’s not ‘real’ if that makes sense. ‘Goodfellas’ lost to ‘Dances with Wolves’ in 1991 — that being the case I know sometimes it’s like a ‘who’s next in line’ for that award instead of really what it is.
I did like the movie. I thought the movie got a bad rap, people saying it’s too long. For me, I could sit and watch those actors for six hours. I don’t need cars exploding and craziness like that, I just like watching Pesci and Pacino and those guys do it one more time. But I wish them well [at the Oscars] for sure.”
What was it like getting to do a live interview with Domenick Lombardozzi from "The Irishman" on The Virzi Effect podcast?
“So, Dom and I met on the set of 'The King of Staten Island,' which is the new Pete Davidson [and] Judd Apatow movie. I was only [on set] for one day and I happened to be on the lot and Bill Burr saw me – Bill Burr is a dear friend and a mentor of mine and [he’s] in the movie too – and he said, ‘why don’t you come to my trailer.’ So, we’re just hanging out in the trailer, just shootin’ it back and forth, and somebody knocked on the door and it was Dom and we met there. And we just became friends, and long story short he came on the Podcast telling amazing stories about being on 'Entourage' and how he got the roll in 'A Bronx Tale' when he was fifteen years old and auditioning in front of De Niro… and all the way to working on 'The Irishman.' Dom was so gracious and great. We talked about acting, we talked about other things, it was really interesting.”
What was it like to work with Judd Apatow and on the set of 'The King of Staten Island'?
“Insanely amazing. To get the part in the movie, to audition for Judd and him picking me was awesome. The funny thing about that was that my lines changed the day that I was showing up. For like three months I have these lines memorized and I’m ready and I’m prepared, and on my way to the lot, I got a text message from — I think it was Pete Davidson — and he goes, ‘those lines, forget it, man. Forget those lines. We’re gonna re-do it’… And I’m just going like, ‘what!’ [But] that’s kind of how Judd works, he’s very loose… but he was so chill and so laid back and nice. He just took all this pressure off and he really gets the most out of the talent.”
Can you talk about your experience performing at the 'Patrice O’Neal Comedy Benefit'?
“It’s a great story, actually. Maureen Karen, who used to be a comedy manager for years… Maureen helped Tracy Morgan get on 'Saturday Night Live'. Maureen has helped a ton of comedians. She was a dear friend of Patrice’s. She’s a dear friend of Burr. Getting the nod this year [to do the benefit] was amazing because I knew that Maureen thought that it was my time to do it. Bill [Burr] said to me a couple years ago, ‘hey I don’t know if this one person can do it, hey Virzi if you want to do it, man, I can get you on it.’ And I remember going, ‘you know what, I don’t want to get on it because somebody dropped out, and I don’t want to get on it unless Maureen is like, ‘Paul has got to be on it.’’ And [Bill Burr] was like, ‘you know what, fair enough.’
Fast forward three years later, Maureen has seen me grow, she saw me at [Madison Square Garden] and she just said to me, ‘I’ve gotta get you on Patrice’s benefit next year, I definitely want you on.’ So, getting it the way that I got it was how I wanted to do it. But, dude, being there was insane. It reminded me of a Just for Laughs gala at the Montreal Comedy Festival where it’s just monster after monster after monster, but everybody’s nervous and wants to do good. And it was Cipha Sounds, Rich Vos, Sam Morrill, Judy Gold, Roy Wood Jr., Andrew Schulz, Ronny Chieng … everybody brought their A-game. Everybody was nervous for their turn but supportive of everybody else’s and it was just a surreal thing, man.”
Meeting Aaron Rodgers
“I performed in Green Bay … [I] opened for Burr in Green Bay, and Rodgers was cool, man. And Rodgers loves comedy. He was in the green room hanging out and he didn’t want to leave, I could tell, he just enjoyed being with comics. He was so cool. And I knew he was coming so I brought an Aaron Rodgers football card for him to sign for my boy, who was eight or nine at the time. So, I was like, ‘hey man will you sign this for my son, Lucas?’ And he was like, ‘yeah of course.’ He signed it, and we were talking… and I go, ‘I just [have to] thank you for that playoff win against the Cowboys where at the last second, you threw it out of bounds to set up a field goal in Dallas… and that place filed out like a funeral. And he goes, ‘yeah, I did it this year too.’ He did. The next year, in a regular season game, they went into Dallas and again, a last drive, he went in, he set something up, and they ended up beating them again. I’m a Giants fan, I can’t stand the Cowboys, I thanked him for that, and he just smiled.”