by Andrew Wantuck
This week I had the chance to talk to one of the most popular comedians touring the country today. John Pinette was named Stand-Up Comedian of the Year by the American Comedy Awards. He has appeared on The Tonight Show, the final episode of Seinfeld, and sells out theaters all across the US, Canada, and now even Scotland. We spoke about starting his career as an accountant, competing with John Travolta, and how he dealt with being 451 pounds.
Andrew: Your first job was as an accountant. That seems to be on the opposite side of the spectrum from com- edy; how did you make that transition?
Pinette: I was never meant to be an accountant. I wouldn’t trust me as an accountant; nobody should trust me as an accountant. I was one for about six months but the entire time I wanted to be a comic. I got the degree because it was the most marketable of all the business degrees. Then it was a scene out of a movie, I put my two weeks notice in and then on that day ran out of the building, moved to Boston, and started a career in stand up.
Andrew: You were in the cast of “Hairspray” on Broadway. What was that experience like?
Pinette: Well, as you know, I started in “River Dance.”
Pinette: It was once my dream to be Lord of the Dance. I was an under- study and I would ask every day: ‘Am I on today?’ And they would say ‘No, not yet; if there is a bus crash, get your shoes.’ It was an amazing leap of faith for me and the more you challenge yourself in life the better performer you become. I found that musical the- ater is a great way to live life because you can’t stop. If you make a mistake, you have to find a way to deal with it and do the best you can. Isn’t that a great way to live your life? In stages I got very comfortable with the part and really entered a new phase of perform- ing. When I was in the traveling show in Orlando, John Travolta came to see the performance and that was interest- ing because he ended up playing my same part in the movie version. I just think that’s weird because John and I read for a lot of the same stuff.
Pinette: I remember the Pulp Fiction auditions. I was like “your gunna get this John, and he was like no your gunna get it.”
Andrew: (laughs) While on the road how did you avoid all the addictions and other pit falls that a lot of comedi- ans fall into?
Pinette: I realized quite a while ago that heavy comics who party too much have a very poor track record. I couldn’t do it if I beat myself up. I’ll be 45 on March 23, and so with age comes wisdom.
Andrew: How are you doing with your constant struggle to control your weight?
Pinette: I’m much lighter than I used to be. At my heaviest I was 451 pounds. I’m much less than that now, by 100 pounds. My whole family has this struggle. If you were to show up at a Pinette family reunion and you saw a skinny person, you would ask who they are married to.
Pinette: My family at Disney World looks like March of the Penguins.
Pinette: It’s true! We are very heavy people. We all struggle. It’s another reason that I am moving to LA. I feel like I get out here more and exercise more. That being said, my heart has been checked and I don’t have a sugar issue so I have been pretty well. I am going to make another run at losing a lot of weight and then I proba- bly will get a tummy tuck. My brother- in-law is going to do it. He’s a plumber, but he said he read all the books.
Andrew: (laughs) What do you want your legacy to be as a comedian?
Pinette: That I made people laugh a lot, that I was kind and considerate, and that I never forgot where I came from.