Joe DeVito comes onstage with no gimmicks. He doesn't sing songs, wear funny clothes, or pretend to be anything other than what he is: a nerdy, clever New York Italian. We should all be so comfortable in our own skin.
DeVito offers himself, his upbringing, and cunning social observations as comedic sacrament. He looks so much like the guy on the Verizon commercials that his first joke is about how he can't use his cell phone in public because people harass him. Then he says there should be a "Nerd Mafia." They could shake up the Internet cafes. "Nice place ya got here," he growls, looking around and striking a pose that's a bizarre mixture of geek and tough guy. "It'd be a shame if you got a computer virus."
DeVito is good friends with Morgan Spurlock, who recruited him to help write the documentary Supersize Me. That's what's brought me to see him really. I loved the humor in that movie--precise, dry, and based on how bizarre reality is. Once there, I was relieved to see DeVito perform. His break from his corporate job is a bold step of faith. He's realized his higher purpose.
Thankfully, he's creative enough to poke fun at folks without being horribly offensive. In New York, he says, people can't smoke inside. They're only allowed to smoke outside. In ditches. While other people throw rocks at them. He also says that after hanging out with his vegetarian friends, he goes out and punches an animal. "Take that!" he announces triumphantly.
Like every good Italian, DeVito loves food. He says Angelina Jolie used to be his idea of a great dream but now--and here he closes his eyes and rubs his chest--he dreams about Betty Crocker.
After chatting for a bit with one woman in the audience, he suddenly exclaims, "Wow, you are knocked up! How did I not notice that?" He seems genuinely surprised and excited about her pregnancy, and then launches into a tirade
about how spoiled kids are today. "I know you shouldn't hit your kids," he says, "but what about other people's kids?"
Near the end of his gig, DeVito shows us a gigantic, foam-board-mounted blowup of his eighth-grade school picture. I won't spoil it by describing it to you in detail, but I will say it made me wonder, "What was he thinking?" Then I realized what a brilliant idea it is. We should all be carrying a giant version of our eighth-grade picture around, for those dark moments when life doesn't seem to make sense.
Joe DeVito returns to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase Thursday through Saturday, November 20-22.
[Originally published in November, 2008.]