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Nick Di Paolo talks comedy and his love of UMaine

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Boston-based comedian, actor, radio/podcast host (and UMaine alum) Nick Di Paolo has just released a wickedly funny and cutting comedy album, “Inflammatory,” which, like his best work, is a no-holds-barred affair. 

Featuring content seen on his recent Seeso TV comedy special, “Inflammatory” was iTunes’ most-downloaded comedy album last month.

Starting May 15, Di Paolo will be hosting a new show on Sirius XM satellite radio’s “Faction Talk,” (channel 103) airing weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Listeners can expect plenty of laughs, Di Paolo’s take on current events and a severe lack of political correctness – his nemesis.

TME: What years were you at the University of Maine in Orono?

Di Paolo: Uh, 1880 to 1906. Actually it was 1980 to ‘84. I cheated my way through with a 2.3 in marketing (laughs). I played a little football up there. My brother was there too, a year behind me. He did play-by-play for the Black Bears hockey team with Gary Thorne. The best years of my life were at UMaine. I didn’t learn a thing but man, did I have fun.

TME: Do you ever attend Bumstock?

Di Paolo. Bumstock? What did it consist of?

TME: It was basically a day-long party with a lot of different bands, lots of kegs and a lot of people. The school sort of kept an eye on things to make sure it didn’t get too out of control. I remember seeing a Grateful Dead cover band at Bumstock around the time the real Grateful Dead played the Alfond. It was a fun time.

Di Paolo. I remember that now! I belonged to Sigma Nu (fraternity) and I hate the Grateful Dead so I chased a couple of hippies off the front lawn of our house.

TME: (laughing). We live in weird times. Everyone has different escapes – for some, it’s music. For others, it might be food, books, movies, you name it. When things become too crazy, how do you escape? 

Di Paolo: Oxycontin and classical music (laughing). No, actually comedy is my release. During the day, I watch the news and I get crazy. My wife says “Don’t you have to go into the city and do a couple of sets?” And I do. It’s cathartic. I blow off steam, I yell at people in the audience and then I go home and sleep like a baby.

TME: You’ve done all of the late-night shows, from Letterman to Leno to Kimmel to Conan. Which was the most gratifying for you personally?

Di Paolo: Letterman was the one coming up even before I was a comedian. I remember watching the morning show (1980) he had on NBC. I watched them all, including Johnny Carson. Letterman was the one. If you got on that show, it showed you had arrived as a comic. Jay was a hero of mine too and it was amazing to be on The Tonight Show with him. A lot of people don’t realize how funny a comic he was and he’s from my neck of the woods down here in the Boston area.

I remember my first Letterman. I was living in New York. I didn’t even have a steady girlfriend. The day before, I went out and bought a nice suit and shoes on my own. I did Letterman and felt great about it. But then I went out and celebrated by having a steak and a beer all by myself (laughing). There was nobody to share it with.

TME:  Did you have backup plan in case comedy didn’t work out?  

Di Paolo: This is all I know how to do so there was no other plan. Wait – I was a door-to-door salesman before I got into comedy. I sold meat and seafood out of the back of my Isuzu pickup truck (laughing). You’re laughing, but it’s true! It shows you what that Maine education did for me (laughs). It was great. I met a few housewives. I should write a book, man.

That job was fun and I was pretty good at it, but I got burned out after about two years and stand-up comedy was booming in Boston. A couple of my friends almost physically threatened me. One said “If you don’t go to an open-mic night somewhere, you’re wasting your life,” stuff like that. And the kid who actually threatened me was from Augusta. I had met him at UMaine. He’s now an eye doctor in my hometown in Massachusetts. He’s the one who pushed me into comedy.

TME: This area has grown a lot since you’ve been here. I hope you come back at some point.

Di Paolo: Yes, I’ll be doing a set at Pat’s Pizza (laughs). Actually, about five years after I started doing comedy, I did a show in Orono at the Damn Yankee, which was above the student union. I don’t do many college gigs but it was great to come back to my old stomping ground.

Maine people are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I would love to get back there. I think I developed my sense of humor during those four years I was in college. It would be a thrill to come back.  

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