Comedian Mark Riccadonna recently did a standup gig at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City. Crowd members included musicians Roger McGuinn of the Byrds and Bruce Hornsby of the Grateful Dead and actor and director Terry Gilliam of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
“I was just in awe, looking around, ‘Oh, my God,’” he said. “I don’t think of it as, ‘I made it,” I think of it as, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here!’ I still have that hometown mentality.”
That hometown is Brookfield and Riccadonna will return home for a show May 11 at Brookfield High School, a fundraiser for the Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
“It’s funny, the teachers that are putting together the alumni thing, Miss Warren (now known as Superintendent Velina To Taylor), Miss (Diane) Riefstahl and Mr. (Bob) Kozar, they were kind of a lot of my influence to go for it,” said Riccadonna, now living in Philadelphia.
By going for it, he meant moving to New York City right after graduation in 1999 to pursue acting training. A lot of his career has been built on going for it, he said. There hasn’t been much reasoned plotting about what he wants to do and how to do it. For instance, he did not plan to become a standup comic, but circumstances were presented that he decided to follow.
While he was studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Art and accumulating acting and voiceover credits, “I decided to get a day job working at a comedy club and started hanging out more and more with comedians,” Riccadonna said.
“Next thing you know, I went up and gave it a try. I didn’t really think about it as a career. I was just like, ‘This is gonna be a lot of fun while I’m waiting for acting work.’ Next thing you know, I started to get paid. I couldn’t believe I was making money doing it. I thought about it a little bit and I said, ‘I think, if I take this serious, I can make a run at it.’ I started to really work and, next thing you know, I was getting paid and now supporting my family. I can’t even believe it. It still blows my mind every time I get a check.”
Riccadonna described himself as a “typical comic” when he started, doing blue and self-deprecating humor.
For two seasons, he submitted political and topical jokes to the “Weekend Update” segment of “Saturday Night Live,” and he has toured military bases around the world with Armed Forces Entertainment.
“It wasn’t until later I started talking about my real life,” Riccadonna said. “When I got married, that’s when something really happened where it was like, ‘Oh, I can talk about this.’ It’s relatable. All of a sudden, I found a groove and now it’s talking about real life, it’s talking about my kids, it’s talking about situations with them and doing things with them. Family is just such a well of subjects to talk about. Everyday is a new thing that you discover; ‘Oh my God, I gotta talk about that.’ When it really starts grooving, I don’t do much material. I can just actually talk to a crowd, and it seems to go really well.”
His sons, who are ages 3 and 4, don’t really know what he does, he said. They’re just happy to see him return from his travels. His wife, Angeline, however, is well aware that she can be the butt of his jokes. And, she likes it!
“Half the time, she wrote the joke,” Riccadonna said. “She has a great sense of humor. If I’m working on something, I’ll go over it with her. She’s a teacher, so she’ll sit with me and go over everything and we’ll talk it over. We both like dark humor, and we both like being silly. I try to do a little of each. It’s like the sweet and sour.”
Riccadonna recently released a recording, “It’s All Downhill From Here” which is available for streaming. He wrote and directed a television pilot for a show called “Radio Gods,” and is writing another script. And, he stars in the podcast “Jokes, Drinks and Storytelling.”
“I tend to have a couple cocktails with my comedian friends and we record each other telling street jokes. We actually had Dr. Oz on, and he told a dirty joke.”
While Riccadonna now treasures his time at home, and has backed off work to spend more time with his family, he reminds himself all the time that he’s got a pretty good gig.
“This summer, I’m doing a ton of resorts,” he said. “People save up all year to go to these places and I get paid to go there. I really try to appreciate it. I try to realize I’m living a pretty good life, that I go to work where other people go to play. I try to appreciate it, and I try to not let myself get jaded about the fact that I’m working when everybody else is playing.”
Photographs contributed by Mark Riccadonna
“An Evening of Comedy” starring Mark Riccadonna and Jay Black will be held at 8 p.m. May 11 in the Brookfield school auditorium, 614 Bedford Road.
The show, a fundraiser for the Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, is open to people aged 16 and older.
Advance tickets are available for $15 and $10 each. Specify number of tickets and send checks care of Brookfield Distinguished Alumni HOF to Bob Kozar, 266 W. Park Ave., Hubbard, OH 44425. Tickets can be picked up at the box office the night of the show.
Tickets also will be sold at the door for $20 and $15 each.
In addition to the show, there will be a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle.