Comedy Q&A: Joey Diaz

By Columbus Alive
From the May 17, 2012 edition

Joey Diaz has had a crazy life. He got in trouble a lot when he was growing up in New Jersey, and now those stories have turned into a No. 1 comedy album on iTunes. The craziest part is he never intended for it to be a comedy album.

He spoke with me about his album and how being a storyteller made him a better comedian.

How does it feel to have a No. 1 comedy album on iTunes?

When I did the album, it wasn’t even intended for sale. It was for ringtones … They wanted me to say s--- so they could take pieces and make ringtones. The guy called me back and asked if I’d listened to it. I said, “No, I don’t listen to anything. I can’t stand my voice.” He said I should take a listen; it was a CD.

What made you start telling your stories about your life?

I’m 49 years old, and I never even thought about talking about this until I was 45. I’d talk about them after shows, and they’d say I had to say it on stage. I was against it. Now, I can’t go on stage without telling a story.

You tell great stories on your podcast, “Beauty and da Beast” with Felicia Michaels.

Felicia lives like eight minutes from my house, so I can always make it no matter what. I had listened to podcasts and listened to the radio and I always thought there was something missing. I always thought that people were trying to be funny.

I wanted to do a show where people get something out of it. For years I was ashamed of my stories of growing up in New Jersey — mugging a hooker and lighting her wig on fire. Living in Jersey and Colorado with crazy people with guns and whatnot, and eventually going to prison and coming out and getting into comedy.

Can you tell me a good story?

I almost drowned at the YMCA. After I did “The Longest Yard,” and being around all those guys, I wanted to get in shape. I jumped in the pool and thought I could be an Olympic swimmer because I swam for years.

Everybody thought I was Vito Spatafore from “The Sopranos.” They kept asking me if I was the guy from “The Sopranos,” and I said no. They kept saying they knew me from somewhere. After I almost drown this kid runs up to me and says, ‘I know who you are; you’re the guy from “The Longest Yard!’” No, I’m the guy from “The Sopranos.”