Comedian Tony Tripoli is leaving L.A. behind for the Windy City this month. Reality shows have been his home with appearances on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? He's a staff writer for Fashion Police and was previously on The Dish for the Style Network.
His stand-up act finally arrives with a little help from his friends Amy Armstrong and The Cabaret Project, who will be performing all together in two shows at Circuit Nightclub.
Windy City Times rang Tripoli to hear directly from the funnyman about his life.
Windy City Times: Hi, Tony. You are finally performing here in Chicago.
Tony Tripoli: I can't believe how long it has taken.
WCT: You are an L.A. guy?
Tony Tripoli: Yes, I have lived here 25 years.
WCT: What was it like growing up gay in Arizona?
Tony Tripoli: You know Arizona is such a red state. I grew up in Phoenix and my family owned a flower shop. I went to school with every kind of ethnicity. My high school was only 40-percent white if that so I didn't grow up being aware of any racism or any of that. I was teased for being a sissy but I was a sissy. I was the girliest little faggot boy ever! I'm a lumberjack today compared to how I started.
Phoenix is a really great place to grow up in. I did community theater. While I had a horrible experience with my peers I got to do shows at night and be a precocious kid. I got plenty of praise and positivity.
WCT: How did you become involved in the entertainment business in the first place?
Tony Tripoli: My mom says we went to the laundromat and I would get up on the machines and sing for people. Apparently I have been obnoxious since the get go!
I always made my living as a singer, or an actor. One of the great things about me is I have an opinion about everything no matter how little information I might have. That leaked naturally into stand up. All stand up comics think that we are right and everyone else is wrong and needs to be told why.
It's a great job. I get to go onstage and complain for an hour and theoretically get paid for it!
WCT: What topics will you cover in this show?
Tony Tripoli: I have the coolest boss in the world. I work for Miss Joan Rivers. There's a lot dish there. It will definitely be about Joan and what the experience of being the gay guy next to her is like. The things I encounter crossing 40 years old as a gay man that I wasn't prepared for and possibly some bad gigs I have had in the past.
It will be a really fun night. I hope there will be a nice variety in the audience and not just a room full of gay guys. I want there to be straight people, lesbians, and all kinds of stuff. Let's get sloppy!
WCT: Tell me how Joan had been doing recently and the big news with the walkout of an interview with the CNN reporter [Fredricka Whitfield].
Tony Tripoli: Joan is amazing. She's an icon and a legend. You never once for a moment forget you are in the presence of an icon yet there is no arrogance. She is just a really cool Jewish grandmother. She hugs, kisses me, bosses me and tries to run my life. She doesn't understand why I am not dating my orthodontist. She really is that person. She's 81 years oldwell, most of her!
When we do Fashion Police, we work on jokes the night before so I normally leave her around 11 at night; then I meet her at 3:30 in the morning at the E! building, and we shoot Fashion Police. Then we do either the reality show or four episodes of In Bed With Joan, her online talk show, until nine o'clock at night; then she gets on the redeye and flies back home to New York. That is a day for Joan Rivers.
You can't complain about being tired or run down when an 81-year-old is kicking and going strong! She is really an inspiring person to be around.
WCT: She is. I've interviewed her many times, so I was surprised when she walked out of that interview.
Tony Tripoli: I wasn't there so it is not my story to tell, but I did see her the next day because I opened for her in Provincetown the day that story broke. What some people may not understand is there is a pre-interview with a producer when a person goes on a televised show. They go over the questions and plan out an outline of the conversation. Joan is out on a book tour and is there to discuss a book. She is not there to talk about a situation in Israel or global warming.
The line of questioning changed dramatically and became serious and issue-oriented. She was on satellite so she couldn't see the interviewer. She could only hear her voice in her earpiece. If you watch that clip and just listen to the audio, you can understand why Joan felt like [the interviewer] was being rather confrontational with her. At one point she just said to herself, "I am 81 years old. I have been in the business 50 years I don't need this shit, life is too short [and] I'm out of here!"
As soon as she left, she was worried that she may have hurt the interviewer's feelings and [if] should she have done it. It got such attention. Overwhelmingly, the comments I have read on Facebook about it have been supportive of Joan. You have got to hand it to the woman. She has turned it into the biggest story of this week.
One of the great things about being in Joan's universe is when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. She never stops and really is a wonder.
WCT: On the Joan & Melissa reality show, are you really fighting with [comedian] Lynne Koplitz?
Tony Tripoli: One of the things that Joan and Melissa were very adamant about when making the show was that it has to be the truth. They didn't want to do a sitcom, or they would have done one. They allowed the cameras to be around all the time. The show really is about the incredible relationship mothers and daughters have.
Lynne and I didn't know each other when we became involved with the show. Lynne was in New York and I was in L.A., so we had very little contact. As you can see in the show certain people in life don't communicate well with each other. We certainly bug each other a lot. I think part of it is we both work for Joan Rivers and we both want her to think we are really funny. It does create a competition.
WCT: Would you ever do Last Comic Standing, like Lynne did?
Tony Tripoli: I have watched every single season. I don't know if it's something I would do. Right now I am so busy being the head writer for Fashion Police and opening for Joan plus working for her projects, [so] I don't really have the time to be sequestered for a taping.
I would like to think as a gay guy I would do well on the show. I am a huge fan. I would love to do it.
WCT: Do you work out? You look fit from meeting you in person.
Tony Tripoli: I appreciate you saying that. Being from Los Angeles, you live in a "Through the Looking-Glass" sort-of world where people are treated [like] they are morbidly obese when they wear something besides a size medium. As gay guys, we want to be attractive and sexually viable. My, Godyou cross 40 and shit starts falling apart! I go to the gym now to plug the holes in the rowboat to keep from sinking. I am no longer trying to turn into a luxury yacht! I am just sailing the waters these days as quickly as I can.
I am endlessly surprised how cruel gay men can be to one another for sport. Thank God I am a comedian and I can go onstage and talk about it otherwise it would be debilitating. We are horrible to each other but, geez, there are really funny stories to hear so come check it out!
Don't miss Tripoli Friday, July 25, with shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Circuit Nightclub, 3641 N. Halsted St. For ticket information, visit cabaretproject.org .