Comedian Steve Mingolla began his career more than 20 years ago as a doorman at the world-famous Comedy Store in Hollywood.
He has gone on to perform across the country on television and at a variety of venues from comedy clubs and cruise ships to corporate events, theaters, civic auditoriums and for the U.S. military.
Billed as “The Nice Guy,” Mingolla’s act is always “clean and never mean.” Savannah audiences will get a chance to see Mingolla, along with Vinnie Coppola, when he returns to the Coastal Empire for the Savannah Comedy Revue at 8 p.m. April 13 at Bay Street Theatre.
Do Savannah interviewed Mingolla during his latest tour to talk about his return to Savannah, his nice guy image, and why he’s living the dream.
Do: Have you ever been to Savannah? Will you have time to do anything while you're here? Looking forward to seeing anything or eating some place?
“Yes, I’ve been to Savannah many times. Not to give away my age, but back in the '90s, I used to work at a comedy club called The Comedy House for many years. I’ve also performed at the Historic Savannah Theatre opening for The Funniest Man in America, James Gregory. I love Savannah. I always look forward to going there.
“I’ll visit some sights if I have time, especially after the show. I’m planning on grabbing some late-night pizza at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s.”
You’re billed as the "nice guy." Is your performance as "clean" a choice from the beginning or did it naturally evolve as you found your audience or material?
“Being a clean comedian never occurred to me for the first 10 years of my career. Almost every comic I knew liked dropping the ‘F’ bomb every now and then. The decision to perform clean came much later as I matured as a comic.
“The Nice Guy title just naturally came about, I suppose. Other comedians and MCs would always refer to me and introduce me as a ‘really nice guy.’ And then one time I was working at the Punchline in Atlanta and the newspaper article mentioned me by saying, ‘Steve Mingolla has been dubbed the Nice Guy of Comedy.’
“I liked it and it just stuck with me. They say working clean is harder. And it should be. It pays more. Ask Jerry Seinfeld.”
Do you consider yourself a joke teller or a storyteller?
“I am definitely a storyteller who tells jokes. I love jokes as well as stories, but it’s always the punchline that makes either one work.
“I just talk about life. Life is too funny to not laugh at something that happens all the time to everyone, from marriage to kids to dogs to traveling to growing up. As a comedian, it’s my job to point that out. It is an endless well of ridiculousness.
“And, I like doing voices during my show which adds to the characters in my stories. And quite often, I’ll laugh at my own jokes even if no one else does.”
What can the Savannah audience expect?
“This show is going to be completely hysterical. I’ll be working with an old friend of mine named Vinnie Coppola, a.k.a. ‘The Hit Man of Comedy,’ a.k.a. ‘Vinnie the Pooh.’
“Between the two of us, you’re looking at over 50 years of standup comedy experience.”
Do you like to meet fans after a show? What are "interesting" interactions you've had with people after they see your show for the first time?
“Yes, I always like to visit with the fans after a show. I’ll be out there selling T-shirts anyway.
“Anyone who is a fan of comedy knows how to enjoy life. Almost every person I meet is kind and welcoming.
“It’s always been funny to me that the No. 1 things people say to me after a show is, ‘How come I’ve never heard of you before?’ I’ve been doing standup comedy for over 30 years, and nobody knows who I am. I am living the dream.”
Would you like to add anything else?
“They say talking in front of an audience is the No. 1 fear of all humans. You know what No. 2 is? Death.
“I’ve met all kinds of people from all over the world. And if there’s anything that is certain to me, it’s that we’re all the same. Everyone wants to be loved and everyone wants to be happy. And to make others laugh — that’s just beautiful.”