Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Piscopo attended West Essex High School and was a member of the drama club "the Masquers". He developed a reputation for never playing a part the way it was written. When he was not clowning around he could usually be found lifting weights with his cousins Paul LaMagna and Bill Dolphin (Scarecrow). Although his mother wanted him to follow in his father's footsteps and become a lawyer, Joe ultimately went into stand-up comedy in the late 1970s, becoming a cast member of the short-lived sketch-comedy series Madhouse Brigade in 1978.
Saturday Night Live
In the summer of 1980, he was hired as a contract player for Saturday Night Live. The show had gone through major upheaval when all the writers, major producers, and cast members had left that spring. The all-new cast bombed with critics and fans with the exception of Piscopo and Eddie Murphy; they were also the only two cast members to be kept when Dick Ebersol took over the show the following spring.
Piscopo was best known for his impressions of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra. Piscopo left SNL in 1984, but unlike Eddie Murphy he did not find major success. He appeared in a few successful films such as Johnny Dangerously, Wise Guys and in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, he also had his own HBO comedy special, but was regarded more as a punch line to a bad joke about the doomed careers of most SNL alumni.
One of Piscopo's more successful bits on SNL included his sports commentary on the Weekend Update portion of the show (called "SNL Newsbreak" at that time), lead by a series of rhyming or otherwise associated words, rather than a sentence, leading up to his first story. One example surrounded one of Muhammad Ali's last bouts during the 1980s, with Eddie Murphy in Rick Baker makeup as Ali.
"The big story, Muhammad Ali! Last night...fight...drama...Bahama...LOST!"
"The big story! Baseball! Yankees! Billy Martin hired! The big question: When will he be fired?"
Piscopo's sports reports provided NBC network officials enough confidence to allow him to continue his persona on NBC's Sportsworld program in the early 1980s.
During his time on SNL, Piscopo recorded the single "The Honeymooners Rap" in which he impersonated Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners. (Also appearing on the single was an uncredited Eddie Murphy as Art Carney's character, Ed Norton). "The Honeymooners Rap" also appeared on Piscopo's 1985 comedy album New Jersey.
In the character of Paulie Herman, Piscopo lampooned Piscataway Township, New Jersey triggering an immediate outcry from officials of that Township and the character was dropped. Part of the reparte of the Paulie Herman character was a Piscopo catch phrase in response to other characters mentioning New Jersey: "You from Jersey? What Exit!!??"
In the 1980s, Piscopo starred in and made a series of Miller Beer commercials.
In 1986, Piscopo was in the "Lets Go Mets" music video.
In 1992, he provided the voice for Sheriff Terrorbull in the Saturday morning cartoon series Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.
He also did voices in the Canadian animated special The Real Story of Rain, Rain Go Away.
In the early 1990s, Piscopo became a subject of controversy after his newly buffed physique and appearances on fitness magazines led many to speculate he was using steroids. Piscopo has repeatedly denied the allegations and says he began a campaign to improve himself after battling thyroid cancer from 1981 to 1982. He has also appeared in anti-steroid public service announcements (PSAs). Piscopo lampooned the controversy in his HBO Special, wherein he appeared to have a drug test during the show.
In more recent years, Piscopo appeared in the long-running Broadway revival of Grease, guest-starred on major TV series such as Law & Order and toured with other SNL alumni such as Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson. Piscopo is often cast as a villain in comedies such as Sidekicks and Johnny Dangerously. He appeared as ladies man "Rocky" in the contemporary version of Herman Melville's Bartleby (2001). Some in his native New Jersey have urged Piscopo to run for state office, and Piscopo considers himself "a Democrat, but a little conservative".
Piscopo's second wife, Kimberly Driscoll, filed for divorce on July 10, 2006.
Piscopo is a big New Jersey Devils fan.
Recurring characters on Saturday Night Live
- Blaire, a homosexual hair stylist. Friends with Dion (played by Eddie Murphy)
- Doug Whiner, one half of the Whiner couple (Wendy Whiner was played by Robin Duke)
- Froggy from SNL's parody of The Little Rascals
- Harry Schliemer from Schliemer and Laub Songwriters
- Mr. Blunt
- Mr. Wonderful of the Interesting Four
- Paulie Herman, an annoying, high-voiced young man from New Jersey (This was Piscopo's only recurring character he did when he was a castmember for Jean Doumanian)
- Pudge, an elderly man who plays the piano in a run-down bar. He rambles about the good old days with his friend, Solomon (played by Eddie Murphy).
Pop culture references
- In the "Not Even Close... Encounters" episode of Psych, Shawn's dad says that Shawn believed Joe Piscopo had been abducted by aliens to which Shawn replies, "That remains my theory until someone can pinpoint the man's whereabouts."
- Piscopo is mentioned in four episodes of The Simpsons. In season four's "Brother From the Same Planet," Bart is seen watching "Tuesday Night Live," starring Krusty the Clown, and comments, "I Miss Joe Piscopo." In another season four episode, "Lisa's First Word", Marge prefaces a flashback to 1983 with the line "A young Joe Piscopo taught us how to laugh...". In season five's "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", Homer refers to 1985 and says "..and a maturing Joe Piscopo was leaving Saturday Night Live to conquer Hollywood." This was intended as a joke, referring to the fact that Piscopo's career didn't really flourish after he left SNL. In season twenty's Coming to Homerica, Marge Simpson, talking to her new nanny in front of her baby Maggie, references Piscopo's relationship with his former nanny Kimberly Driscoll and says "Maggie, you now have a nanny, just like the ones Joe Piscopo and Ethan Hawke left their wives for."
- In the Scrubs episode, My Mirror Image, Dr. Cox is interrupted during his workout, and asks the interns, "What does this outfit tell you?", to which Dr. Kelso responds, "You're entering a Joe Piscopo look-a-like contest?"
- On the Family Guy episode, Meet the Quagmires, Peter says that not taking Lois to the movies is worse than the time he gave Joe Piscopo a barbell set. It then shows Peter and Joe in a room with workout equipment. Peter says "Ok Joe, now don't get carried away with this." Joe replies "Don't worry Peter, I'll only work out in my down time."
- On the Star Trek the Next Generation episode "The Outrageous Okona", he appeared in the form of a holodeck comedian.
- He was mentioned in three episodes of Married With Children: once by Al Bundy to distract a security officer at a filming studio, a second time in the episode "A Tisket, A Tasket, Can Peggy Make a Basket?" where Al and Peggy recognize him (off screen) as an usher at a basketball game, and lastly in "Kelly Knows Something" where a sports trivia game show host tells Al that his popularity was classified as being "between Joe Piscopo and the fat kid who played on Head Of The Class". He is actually referenced a 3rd time, when Kelly, Bud, and Al are discussing names for the supposedly upcoming new arrival to the Bundy family. After hearing his kids'a suggestions, Al Bundy deadpans 'Piscopo'.
- A caricature of Piscopo appears very briefly in the animated made-for-TV movie, Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Near the end of the closing credits, one of the numerous "joke credits" reads "Our Only Regret: Joe Piscopo."
- He is mentioned in the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, Jammin' Me.
- The Nintendo 64 game Gex 64: Enter The Gecko tells the player to "Don't take career advice from Joe Piscopo".
- On the Viktor Vaughn album, Vaudeville Villain, Joe Piscopo is referenced in the song 'Saliva', with the lyrics: "Cock diesel and still tell a joke like Joe Piscopo".
- The Das Efx song, Mic Checka from 1992, features the line: "My Saturday nights are liver than Joe Piscopo".
- ↑ Staff. "On the Comeback Trail: John Kerry and...Joe Piscopo?", The left coaster, March 9, 2005. Accessed June 11, 2009.
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