The Untold Truth Of Sebastian Maniscalco

Starting August 12, you can watch popular comic Sebastian Maniscalco in a whole new way as he wanders to foodie destinations and experiences the best cuisine they have to offer in his new show for the Food Network, called "Well Done." Drawing on the talent's combined love for food and comedy, it promises to be an entertaining watch. As Courtney White, President of Food Network and Cooking Channel, says in a press release, "This is one of the funniest shows we've ever done — Sebastian is an inimitable talent and his signature sense of humor sets the tone for every episode. He has a lot of thoughts, questions, and opinions about food, and joining him to hilariously analyze the culinary world is a must-see."

Maniscalco adds in the announcement, "This series came out of my passion for cooking and comedy. I thought ... what better way to marry the two than a TV show centered around the culinary arts? ... Filming it was so exciting! I loved all the guests that we had, and I think we provide some really good information about food as well as some fantastic comedic moments." Those guests include his wife Lana and mom Rose as well as comedians Russell Peters and Fortune Feimster, among others. The press release teases the theme of the upcoming episodes with some centered around sushi, fishing adventures, and a meaty dinner party — and all served with a side of laughs.

The series, airing exclusively on Discovery+, will roll out with three episodes to start on the 12th and then continue with a new installment every Thursday for the next four weeks.

But who exactly is Sebastian Maniscalco? Turns out he may just be the perfect host for this kind of show.

He grew up with grandma's food

Sebastian Maniscalco was born in the early '70s to an Italian-American family on the outskirts of Chicago, a fact that he frequently works into his comedy material. In this bit uploaded to YouTube, he exclaims that his childhood house was constantly filled with food, thanks to a grandmother who lived in the basement and, as he says, did nothing but pump out never-ending trays of lasagna.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Maniscalco also credits the centrality of food within his family as a key influence on his later path in comedy: "If you've got a culture that doesn't have food, your family ain't talkin'. Because there's nothing to eat. Food brings out conversation, and at the dinner table, my first audience was my family. I would make them laugh while we ate." 

Incidentally, this also seems to be the focal point of his new series "Well Done."

Fame soon came calling after a move to Los Angeles

Sebastian Maniscalco decided to become a stand up comedian early on, and at the age of 24, he moved to Los Angeles where he spent years developing his now fruitful career. To make money in the beginning, he took a job as a waiter at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, as he explained to Haute Living, "In 1998 when I arrived ... I needed to eat and the only thing I knew how to do was wait tables." When he wasn't working, he was logging standup comedy nights at Hollywood's famed club The Comedy Store, per La Gazzetta Italiana.

After several years, he got his break when the infamous comic Andrew Dice Clay booked him for an opening gig at his show in Vegas and after being featured in "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 days and 30 Nights — Hollywood to Heartland," a 2008 tour and later documentary that set Maniscalco's career on the right path. 

"I worked [at the hotel for] seven-and-a-half years, waited on all of Hollywood. And now things are finally paying off," Maniscalco said in an appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" (via People). In a moment of kismet, one of the tables he waited on was for actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and later Maniscalco was cast alongside them in Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," in which he depicted "Crazy Joe" Gallo (as seen in this YouTube clip).

According to Variety, De Niro has also agreed to play the role of Maniscalco's father Salvo in the film loosely based on the comic's life called "About My Father."

Married life plays a role in Maniscalco's career too

With much of the basis of Maniscalco's comedy rooted in family dinners, it should come as no surprise to learn that married life has provided the comic with material as well. One example given by Romper is when he first celebrated a Passover dinner with his wife, painter Lana Gomez.

As he recalls in his Netflix special "Stay Hungry": "It's 7:30, we sit down and I'm starving," However, instead of food, he was given reading materials. "I'm like, 'What's going on?' She's like, 'Oh, we read for two hours.' 'Two hours?' I said, 'Listen, I'm Italian. As soon as I sit at a table, I have to have bread within 15 seconds of sitting down.'" 

According to Good Housekeeping, the couple's love of food is balanced with fitness. They met through a shared personal trainer. Eventually, Maniscalco asked if she'd "like to go out with this," gesturing at his body. She made a joke about not dating people with over 13% body fat, but said she would make an exception in this case. The couple has been married since 2013 and have two children, Serafina and Caruso.

Their natural back-and-forth quips should make Gomez's appearances on "Well Done" just as entertaining.

Maniscalco's 2019 appearance at MTV's VMAs didn't go so well

Sebastian Maniscalco has had a lot of career highs since he got his big break in the early 2000s. He's logged several specials for Showtime and Netflix and has been cast in additional movies like "The Green Book" (per Good Housekeeping) while also being hailed as one of Jerry Seinfeld's favorites, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2017, he also entered Forbes' list of the top-earning comedians. But things took a bit of a sour turn in 2019 when Maniscalco was tapped to host MTV's annual Video Music Awards (aka the VMAs). As Refinery 29 says, he went "full Boomer," choosing to make jokes for an audience who probably doesn't watch the VMAs with a monologue about trigger warnings and participation trophies.

The article further suggests this kind of humor is unusual for Maniscalco but commenters on Reddit have described him as someone whose routine is for people who matured in the '70s and '80s. That hasn't seemed to deter his career, though. As Forbes points out, he made a cool $15 million in one year alone and gets "eight-figure checks" from Netflix for his specials. A recent Pollstar cover story also notes how the comic can easily sell 4,000 tickets nightly to his standup shows. 

That kind of star wattage will surely only shine brighter as "Well Done" gets underway.

Maniscalco's pandemic-era virtual event may have been what inspired "Well Done"

In 2020, Sebastian Maniscaclo found himself (along with everyone else) bored while in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. After 90 or so days, he had enough. But, he wouldn't attempt to perform a livestreamed show from his home however. "Comedy, live comedy, is such a nuance that the timing and the energy of the audience is what the comedian feeds on, and that's what the audience feeds on too," he explained to PopCulture.com about his decision not to host that type of event. "To do it like [that] really doesn't work as far as an art form."  

But he had another idea. One that returned him to his childhood roots as he connected with friend and chef Dominick DiBartolomeo whose business Domenico's Food supplies Italian restaurants with goods and ingredients straight from Italy. Together, they created the one-off virtual event Sebastian's Sunday Supper. The idea was that guests could order the specialty food boxes and then prepare the meal (Eggplant parmesan with imported cheeses and Italian wine) and enjoy it alongside Maniscaclo and DiBartolomeo as they chatted, had guests on, and of course made jokes. 

"From candid conversations to walking you through a sensational meal from Dom's company, Domenico's Foods, join us while we swap stories over a delicious meal around the dinner table. From our kitchens to yours and from the comfort of your own home!" the program teased.

While there is no direct evidence, it seems likely that this event gave someone the idea for Maniscaclo to host a food program with all of the same elements, and thus "Well Done" was likely born. And if the success of that virtual event is any indication, we are all in for a real treat when the show debuts August 12.