Who is Joe Matarese and what has he done in his career?

Joe Matarese grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey - just minutes outside of Philadelphia and just off of Exit 4 of the NJ Turnpike. At an early age, Joe was addicted to standup comedy, mainlining comedy albums into his brain for medicinal purposes. Whenever things got dicey in his life (as things do in those adolescence years), Joe would go into his bedroom and shut the door, or hide in his parents’ basement alone, and listen to all his favorites. Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Steve Martin were his favorites. They took him to a place in his mind where his anxieties fell to the wayside and were replaced with smiles and laughter. The job of standup comedian was a dream.

The suburbs of Cherry Hill in the 80’s seemed to have nothing to offer a teenager with the dream of becoming a standup comic. So it wasn’t until Joe was 19 years old and met a classmate at Camden County Community College in Blackwood, NJ, that he learned about open mic nights in Philadelphia clubs, just 15 minutes away (The Comedy Works and The Comedy Factory Outlet). All you had to do was cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, sign up, and you got 5 minutes on stage. Once Joe went, he was hooked, and he went two straight years performing at both open mics in one night - he never missed a week. Joe quickly realized the standup stage was the place where he could be his complete self and be rewarded with laughter for his honesty. He also realized it’s where he could use performances like therapy sessions, venting his struggles.

The laughter Joe got from being vulnerable and sharing his truth was like medicine. He couldn’t get enough of it and sought stage time anywhere and everywhere he could find it. Joe was a hustler in his new found journey, and he never again felt “lazy” - what his school teachers and parents had always called him. His relentless hard work made him a paid touring comedian within 2 years. Joe got his first road gig opening for one of his inspirations, comedian Bill Hicks at the Cleveland Improv for a whole week. Joe learned more about comedy in that week than any other week in his 30-year career. After 4 years of performing mostly in the Philadelphia comedy scene as his home base, he realized he’d have to move to NYC and tackle the big apple.

Once Joe moved to NYC, things started happening pretty fast for him. He became a paid regular at all the NYC comedy clubs and started honing his craft at a rapid pace by performing multiple times a night, 7 nights a week. His first big comedy audition was for a standup show called “Shut Up And Laugh” on MTV with Norm MacDonald slated to host and comedians Jim Breuer, Margaret Cho, and Andy Dick booked to perform stand-up sets on the show. Joe really stood out at the audition by handling the difficult situation of performing while the wait staff put out bills causing the audience to lose focus and break into full discussions. Joe took a big chance at the top of his set by bribing everyone in the audience to please be quiet - saying he’d buy them all drinks if they helped him book this television show. It got huge laughs and focused the loud crowd - Joe went on to be the standout performer of the night and booked the final spot on this show that was filmed during Spring Break in Panama City, Florida. This show really skyrocketed Joe’s career. It aired every day 3 times a day for about 2 straight months. This was a time when everyone was watching these shows.

Joe parlayed that show into being selected for “The New Faces” at The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, a development deal with VH1, Standup on MTV’s Carson Daily Show, and MTV’s Jim Breuer Show. Then Joe made the big leap and moved to Los Angeles when he received a 6 figure development deal with NBC and Will Smith’s Production Company, Overbrook Entertainment, for Joe to star in his own network sitcom. While living in LA, Joe performed on his first late-night television show, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn on CBS. CBS took a liking to Joe’s standup and during his short time living in LA, he did standup on the show 3 times. Also during Joe’s time in LA, he found out that his show idea “The B Side,” which he wrote with “The Hughley’s” creator, Matt Wickline, about a guy searching for a wife and career happiness ultimately wasn’t being selected by NBC to air. Joe realized pretty fast he just couldn’t make LA his permanent home. He hated living in a place that seemed to put normal life values to the wayside, prioritizing showbiz and nothing else. Joe wanted more than a huge comedy career, he wanted a family of his own and wanted to live closer to his family along with having career success. Joe wasn’t meeting anyone he even came close to clicking with in LA, so against his LA comedian friends’ advice to stay in LA and keep plowing, Joe packed up and moved back east to NY - well Hoboken, NJ, which is just outside the Lincoln Tunnel from NYC. Joe listened to his bossy younger brother and bought an apartment there with the money he had left over from the NBC deal. Buying that apartment ended up being a great move for 2 reasons.

  1. It turned out that comedian Artie Lange lived across the street from this new apartment and soon after the move Joe and Artie became good friends. Artie was newly hired on The Howard Stern Show as Howard’s sidekick and his career was on fire. Artie started bringing Joe all over the country to open for him in amazing venues including the famous Beacon Theater in NYC, and Carnegie Hall. Joe’s star began to rise even higher as he got a chance to be on The Howard Stern Show as a guest, which was definitely a career highlight for Joe. Soon after this, Joe’s career gets hot again as he went on to get booked to do standup for the 2nd time at The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, but now it’s in “The Masters” category, which was a huge opportunity for a comedian. Joe scored big and had an amazing set and soon after the festival, he was booked to do his own 1/2 hour special on Comedy Central called Comedy Central Presents Joe Matarese and on The Late Show With David Letterman, which was another huge career goal for Joe.
  2. That move back east also lead to Joe meeting Stephanie, his current wife of 13 years, who was finishing her Ph.D. in Philadelphia at Drexel. To this day, Joe thinks that being a homeowner made him look a lot better on paper, and had something to do with the fact that a community college dropout from NJ, who makes drunk people laugh, got a beautiful girl with a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology to fall in love with him and eventually marry him. Another one of Joe’s dreams fulfilled. Back then, Joe was a negative thinker. Truthfully, he did more than make drunk people laugh. His impressive comedy career began at age 19, and with tremendous work ethic, he has made appearances on the most sought after TV and radio shows including The Late Show with David Letterman twice, America’s Got Talent (where he received a standing ovation from all 4 celebrity judges and the 2000 person crowd), Chelsea Lately, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and Craig Ferguson 5 times, Comedy Central Presents (his very own 1/2 hour special), The Howard Stern Show, 1st place winner of $20,000 on Bravo’s reality series Better Half, The Montreal Comedy Festival 4 times, and two development deals with major television networks. Joe was also the creator and star of a 13-episode web series funded by Official Comedy, “Fixing Joe”, a scripted comedy based on Joe’s first podcast of seven years with the same name, as well as 7 Standup Comedy Albums, Quiet Please, Fixing Joe, Disconnected, When A Comedian Attacks, Medicated, The Poster’s Wrong, and Completely Present, and 2 One-Hour Specials on Amazon Prime entitled Medicated and The Poster’s Wrong.


The National Italian American Foundation

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