HBO Comedy Hour: Joe Piscopo in Concert

The grade below is usually applied sparingly, as the ultimate warning to avoid a show at all costs. This time, however, I’m not sure that you shouldn’t sit through at least some of Joe Piscopo in Concert: As a display of staggering, egotistic badness, it is truly astonishing.

Piscopo is the former Saturday Night Live cast member who left the show in 1984 to make a string of flop films and a bunch of boorish beer commercials. Amazingly enough, though, he thinks he’s a star. Without a trace of irony — or a sense of humor — he shows us his arrival at UCLA’s Royce Hall for this performance. He’s fitted out with macho-man accoutrements: a black leather jacket on his back, a big motorcycle between his legs, a model-beautiful blond woman snuggled against him.

Many of his trite routines are about his bodybuilding hobby (”I work out for my head — for my sanity, not my vanity”). There are also two rap-music parodies. In one, he doesn’t even rap — he just stands there, in a tall wig that spoofs the hairstyle of Kid in the rap duo Kid ‘N Play, while a bunch of rappers perform. Making fun of a black musical style in front of a bunch of cheering, jeering, mostly white college students is in questionable taste. Later, making fun of the high voice of Roland Gift, lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals, Piscopo yells, with thinly veiled homophobia, ”He doesn’t sound like a man!”

The only time I laughed was when Piscopo halted the proceedings to tell us that he and his ex-wife were fighting over custody of their son, and that the court battle was causing the child great distress. He then sang Bruce Springsteen’s ”No Surrender,” dedicating it ”to you, Joey — I’m so proud of ya, son!” I laughed — it was more a nauseated snicker, actually — because if I didn’t, I might have kicked in the TV screen. This insufferable muscle-head was using his son (whom we later see on film walking in the country with Joe) to coax sympathy and applause out of an audience? I wonder what this boy will think when he sees his dad nuzzling his new girlfriend (”Here’s my lady, Kimberly Driscoll?”); I’m sure Piscopo’s sleazy condescension toward this woman will cause his son no pain or embarrassment, right? If I were the former Mrs. Piscopo, I’d take a cassette of this show, head off to my lawyer, and renegotiate the settlement. F

HBO Comedy Hour: Joe Piscopo in Concert
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