It’s the show-biz equivalent of opening a time capsule.
When entertainer Joe Piscopo takes the stage of Caesars Atlantic City on Aug. 28, he’ll be wearing the face he’s kept in a jar by the door for three decades. Actually, multiple faces.
Using original costumes and make-up, Piscopo will re-create characters he first introduced on Saturday Night Live 30 years ago in a show titled That’s Life, which also stars actor Michael Longoria of Broadway’s Jersey Boys.
“This is the show I’ve always wanted to do, bringing to a live setting the characters that folks have seen on television,” Piscopo tells Atlantic City Weekly.
Although Piscopo has often included impressions of larger-than-life figures like Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen in his nightclub and concert act, the Caesars show will mark the first time he’s done the bits in full drag, just as he did on NBC’s late-night comedy series.
That’s Life will also include Piscopo’s send-up of gap-toothed, late-night TV host David Letterman and some comments from “The Sports Guy,” the annoyingly over-the-top sports anchor he first introduced on SNL’s “Weekend Update.”
That’s Life sounds like it could pass for a casino variety revue. Piscopo will also be performing his musical tribute to Sinatra and will show off his virtuosity as a musician by playing piano, guitar, sax, drums and flute.
Adding Longoria to the bill will give the show a shot of Broadway sophistication. In addition to performing Frankie Valli material, he’ll also showcase his versatility as a vocalist by including songs made popular by artists like Roy Orbison and Smokey Robinson.
“From the first time I saw Michael on stage, I knew I wanted to work with him,” Piscopo says. “Watching the audience’s love for this kid is just magnificent. Watching the audience respond to him is a second-to-none experience.”
Although some Saturday Night Live alumni tend to gloss over the importance the show played in the development of their careers, Piscopo has always embraced his SNL roots. He’s smart enough to know without that show on his resume, he might be sitting in the audience at Caesars Atlantic City on Aug. 28 instead of being up on the stage.
“I will always be incredibly grateful for the [SNL] experience,” he told me during an interview last year. “It opened so many doors for me and it was an incredible learning experience.”
Classic clip from SNL with Piscopo as Sinatra and Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder:
His success during four SNL seasons (1980-84) earned him a form of credibility that’s still paying dividends three decades later.
“I learned so much from doing that show,” he says. “It’s not an easy show to do. There’s so much you have to learn each week, and then it changes from one day to the next. I learned how to write on that show, and then how to fight to get my [sketches] on the air. Each week, Eddie [Murphy] and I had to go in there and fight to get our stuff on the air.”
Piscopo was doing stand-up comedy when he was signed as a contract player at NBC in the late 1970s. He landed the SNL gig in 1980 following a massive upheaval at the show that saw many of the show’s top producers, writers and virtually the entire cast depart in a mass exodus.
The new cast and crew bombed with both the public and critics, except for Piscopo and Murphy, who kept their jobs after producer Dick Ebersol came in and cleaned house.
When he and Murphy left SNL before the 1985 season, Murphy went on to have the bigger movie career. But Piscopo was hardly unemployed.
The versatile Dana Carvey, whose unforgettable characters include The Church Lady, Garth from the “Wayne’s World” sketches with Mike Myers, Hans from Hans and Franz with Nealon and President Bush junior and senior, took time out to chat with AC Weekly about this SNL mini reunion
“I’m reaching back before casinos and really even before I was born. Before gambling when every big star would make Atlantic City a stop. From Jerry Lewis to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra when he played the 500 Club. I’m reaching back to the Latin Casino — which was actually in Cherry Hill — but that style. We’re not a supper club per se, but that style of entertainment.”
Once again, greetings and salutations. Before getting to your questions, I want to thank the folks at Caesars, including boss man Don Marrandino, and Georges Perrier and Chris Scarduzio, who together run Mia Restaurant at Caesars, for the wonderful hospitality bestowed upon all of us who taped the Time-Life Malt Shop Memories show for PBS recently. Chris and Georges took time out to cook for every one of the stars of the show (held earlier this month at Caesars’ Circus Maximus Theater), including Frankie Avalon, Chris Montez, Bobby Rydell, and all the groups. We’ll let you know when it will be televised, and you can check geator.net for updates....