Courtesy of Rolanda Copley
John Pinette might be best known for his jokes about food, but the comedian has broadened his horizons for his latest stand-up gig.
“If you’re going to survive in stand-up comedy, you have to evolve,” Pinette told The Lantern. “This is some of the latest things that I have to say. I’m very happy with the way the act has grown.”
Pinette is slated to perform at Capitol Theatre on Saturday at 8 p.m., and he said the show will be a “nice mixture of old and new.”
Getting his start in comedy more than 20 years ago, Pinette has covered many aspects of comedy from stand-up, to television, to cinema and even Broadway. He has also starred in multiple comedy specials, the most recent being “Still Hungry” in 2011.
Rolanda Copley, a publicist for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, said Pinette has been very successful at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Columbus, which led to him booking this theater show. Copley said Pinette is different from other comedians that perform in CAPA shows.
“He’s one of very few comedians that performs a ‘clean’ act,” Copley said in an email.
Comedy wasn’t always Pinette’s career goal. While theater had always been an interest of his, Pinette felt a more “normal” job would be more practical.
“I basically found myself at 18 years old and I had my older sisters and brothers saying ‘get some marketable skills,’ which means ‘If you become an actor, you can’t sleep on our couch,'” Pinette said.
Pinette worked as an accountant for three months before quitting his job and pursuing a career in comedy.
Many of Pinette’s stand-up acts, including “Show Me the Buffet” in 1998 and “I’m Starvin'” in 2006, fall under the category of “self-deprecating” and are centered around his love of food.
“I’ve always been a big guy. As a kid that’s certainly a defense mechanism. You’re either an athlete, or you’re with the cool kids, or you’re funny,” Pinette said. “You always try to be something to fit in and I used my comedy to kind of fit in and be self-deprecating.”
Wanting to keep his comedy clean and appropriate for all ages, Pinette turned to his love of food as a platform for his stand-up.
“It became about food because I wanted to work pretty clean. There are comics that do some pretty adult humor, some pretty graphic humor, and there are some pretty funny comics that do that,” Pinette said. “Food is a common ground. Everybody eats, everybody has an opinion. It was a way for me to work a little bit cleaner.”
Pinette took a break from comedy when he joined the cast of “Hairspray” on Broadway from 2004 to 2006, where he played Edna Turnblad, Tracy Turnblad’s mother who runs a home-based laundry business.
“‘Hairspray’ was at a time in my life when I knew that every second I was at that theater, how fortunate I was to be there,” Pinette said.
Pinette performed eight shows a week while in the production of “Hairspray,” and said that his daily routine started to get repetitive.
“After a while, it got to be like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” Pinette said. “(I would think) ‘I wonder what I’m going to do today. Probably get up and go to the theater and do the exact same show. I wonder what I’m going to do tomorrow. Probably get up and go to the theater and do the exact same show.'”
Missing the comfort and familiarity of performing stand-up, Pinette said goodbye to theater and returned to his first love of comedy.
“I really missed stand-up,” Pinette said. “It’s the kind of thing that calls to you.”
Collin Gossel, a second-year in music composition and aspiring stand-up comedian, said he enjoys Pinette’s stand-up and thinks he is different from other comedians.
“I think what really sets him apart is his character, the way he holds himself on stage,” Gossel said. “He’s very relatable and self-deprecating, but he also comes off as confident and he knows what he’s doing. He’s obviously in control when he takes the stage.”
Over the past few years, Pinette said he has grown more comfortable doing stand-up comedy.
“On stage is often the most comfortable that I am. I’ve just grown to be very comfortable doing it,” Pinette said. “I really enjoy the confidence I have and the joy that I have being able to make people laugh.”
While Pinette might be far from where he started as an accountant, he said he is fortunate for having a successful career in comedy.
“I’m really happy to have a job that I love, and I do it well,” Pinette said. “I tried interpretive dance but it just didn’t work out for me. I was a yoga instructor for a while, but there were complaints.”
Tickets range from $38 to $48 through Ticketmaster or at the CAPA Ticket Office at 39 E. State St.