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Superstar standup comedian Sebastian Maniscalco couldn’t perform onstage during the pandemic — so he used that time to create his new comedy cooking series, “Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco.”
“I was looking to get into the cooking space for the last five-to-seven years. I have a passion for the culinary arts and was like, ‘What could we do?,” Maniscalco, 48, told The Post. “Nothing resonated with me until the pandemic; a buddy of mine, Dominic DeBartolomeo…his business was decimated. He provides meats and cheeses to local restaurants in LA and has his own line of Italian [food] products.”
Maniscalco and DeBartolomeo decided to throw a Sunday supper to raise money for charity and to expose DeBartolomeo’s business to Maniscalco’s huge fan base (he’s got 1.1 million followers on Instagram). “It worked out,” Maniscalco said. “It was a really big success and I thought, ‘This is really fun…let’s do a TV show combining my two passions, comedy and food. I wanted to do it around things that interest me in the culinary arts and it also comes from having two small kids [4-year-old Serafina and 2-year-old Caruso]. Being a father, I want to teach them things like how to make bread or take them fishing and show them how to bait the hook.”
“Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco,” premiering Thursday (Aug. 12) on discovery+, certainly checks all of those boxes. In the opening episode, Maniscalco, DeBartolomeo and chef Michael Cimarusti, who co-owns seafood restaurant Providence in LA, take a fishing expedition from Marina Del Rey — and Maniscalco gets violently ill shortly after their departure, excusing himself to go to the bathroom and emerging the worse for wear. “I knew that I get seasick and I was thinking that maybe this would be different,” he said. “It’s a bigger boat, a commercial boat, and within five minutes I was on the floor. I figured being a larger boat I wouldn’t have as much of a problem, but that thing was shaking. It was all real. So it made for good TV.”
The threesome catch several kinds of fish (including whitefish and sculpin) and, upon their return to the marina, Maniscalco learns how to properly gut and fillet a fish, not without some hiccups (“I did a complete hack job,” he says on-camera). Afterward, Cimarusti cooks the fish at his restaurant.
“One of my favorite shows is ‘Top Chef’ and I kind of loosely watch food shows, whether it be Giada [De Laurentiis] but those are more instructional,” Maniscalco said. “The reason I watch them, particularly ‘Top Chef,’ is to see who’s new and hot in the restaurant game. I don’t want to make this show very instructional — I just want to give some information and provide some entertainment as well.”
Maniscalco said there is a difference between performing standup and hosting a series, albeit one that includes a comedic element.
“Standup is a lot of pressure because of the immediate response — if you’re not funny doing standup then there’s gonna be a problem,” he said. “Here, there’s a different kind of pressure, you know you have to be funny…but, for me, the TV show wasn’t all about that. It was never forced. But this is a comedy cooking show and I was aware of that going in. A lot of the ‘talk to the camera’ stuff was written jokes, so we knew we had that…I knew [the laughs] would come out of the situation I put myself in.”
The seven-episode series will, in future installments, feature Maniscalco and comedian Russell Peters exploring the similarities between sushi and comedy; a “meat-centric” dinner party with guests including Bert Kreischer and Anjelah Johnson; and hunting for sandwiches with Rich Eisen, Fortune Feimster, Gillian Jacobs and Oscar Nunez. The premiere features three episodes, with one episode a week following every Thursday thereafter.
“You’re going to have a little smile on your face while you’re learning about a particular food or making a dish,” Maniscalco said. “People like to tune in and kind of forget their problems for 30 minutes, and this is similar to what I do with standup comedy — escape a little bit and have a little fun watching a cooking show and laughing at the same time.
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