New York based ItalianJewish stand-up comedian Gianmarco Soresi has arrived in town for the JFL festival 2023. To many, he is known for his hilarious comedy special Shelf Life, his original podcast The Downside and his appearance on many TV shows and series, including but not limited to his late night debut on The Late Late Show with James Corden. His charismatic and witty jokes always charm the crowd; he IS the definition of funny. Graduating with a degree in Theatre, Gianmarco started off as an actor and a play producer. All those experiences he gained lead him to become who he is today. I had the opportunity to arrange an interview to meet him in person during his two-week stay here. Below are Gianmarco’s responses to my questions.
Paipai: Is it your first time here? In Montreal?
Gianmarco Soresi: Second time. I did something called the New Face last year. Ya, New Face is a big step for a comedian, it was a big deal since the ’90s, so I am happy to be back. [The New Face team] told me it usually doesn’t happen the next year. But ya I am happy to be back.
Paipai: So this year you are back for Just For the Culture, right…
Gianmarco Soresi: Just For the Culture, Atlantic Shows, a live podcast, a Gala, so it has been busy.
Paipai: In the past, you were only touring in the US, what brings you to Canada? To Montreal?
Gianmarco Soresi: Just people wanting to see me. You know, I’d go anywhere if people want to see me. I think, with social media, and just these videos spreading, you post your clips and you look at the metrics, then you think “OMG, 8%, for example, of the people following me live in Canada?! From Italy… from Wuhan!” You know, believe in me if there are enough people following me in Wuhan, I will tell my agent and be like we got to get on the plane.
Paipai: So you would go anywhere basically!
Gianmarco Soresi: I mean I do a bit of research, but I don’t know the rules about standup in China. I would Google before I go, but it would be amazing. I watch some social media channels that post about standup comedy in China. It’s quite interesting because it’s like a new art form. So I see the jokes(from Chinese stand-up comedians) and they are more comparable to the jokes here from the ’50s and ’60s. In fact, in all countries, they have different levels of acceptance, well I feel like stand-up has been around for so long, and we(North America) are just further in the evolution of it. But for sure all the other countries will catch up. Some jokes might not fit into the modern standards, but it’s cool to see stand-ups in other countries evolve at their own pace.
Paipai: This time, why Montreal?
Gianmarco Soresi: [JFL[ is just a big deal. So [the JFL team] asked me, and this is considered the biggest comedy festival. This week and next, you know, all those industries come here, I don’t think there’s anywhere where so many different companies all gather at one place, people from Netflix, Comedy Club bookers, international bookers, agents, managers, TV producers, they ALL come to this event.
Paipai: But you know Montreal is a bilingual city, how do you feel about that as a performer?
Gianmarco Soresi: I think it’s fun, so many people from other places also come here. My friend, Geoffery Asmus who is a comedian, also here for the festival, he has been talking about how it’s a bit weird that the biggest English language festival is in one of the only city that speaks French… But I mean I think it’s fine, I was just at New Orleans in US and there is French influence too. And both places are beautiful, the art work and the performers in the street, they all feel European. It’s really nice, and every time I go to a coffee shop, they say “Bonjour” and I took eight years of French. I say “Bonjour” back but then they ask something and I go blank. All I remember is “Bonjour” “Merci” and that’s all.
But you know, if I could perform in French…that would be fantastic. But I am bad with language, horrible with language, but those comedians who can, they have a huge fan base, so, I mean I love being here, New York has been… It’s a mess, the corporates, the smoke from you guys (laughs) It was ORANGE. Here the sky is beautiful. They sent me here to get revenge (laughs).
Paipai By the way, what’s your view on promoting yourself on social media and do you see the downside of it?
Gianmarco Soresi: Surely, I think you have to put out so much material, it kind of waters down the quality of the work itself if one is not careful. There was a time back in the day where comedians work extra hours to perfect their work, so the bar was high. Now with clips, you have more things to consider, like which part do I put up there, if I do, does my audience know where I am going, and suddenly you are just putting out something everyday. The bar for quality is way lower nowadays. I have seen a lot of great comedians start to become mediocre, because some jokes might be funny, but it’s not super funny, it’s not a deep observation, it could be a bit dark and all, but it’s not a joke that the audience will remember. I am trying to find a balance here, because if you are not active on social media, it’s impossible to sell tickets. You could’ve been on a TV show, but it doesn’t guarantee you sell tickets. So I am trying to build a little company, with a lot of half-time employees doing captioning, editing, all kinds of stuff, so that I have a chance to work on the art itself. It’s hard.
There were times where I was worried I allowed the algorithm, social media to dominate my life. So it is a worry. But again you see comedians who don’t participate on social media, their stock goes down. Lots of comedians in their fifties or sixties would come to me and ask me how Reels work on platforms. Technology has such a huge influence on stand-up, overall. Social media is necessary; it gives us autonomy, to control our own destiny. However, it negatively impacts the art of comedy. It’s more about quantity than quality. And you know, the balance between reels and live shows with live audiences who pay to see you, is hard to maintain. I think at some point, there will be a problem where the comedians are doing live shows just for the clips to post later on platforms. Unfortunately those who focus more on social media are getting rewarded with views and likes, and their tickets sell out.
So social media can be good for us. We all know it. But it could potentially create a toxic environment and affect our life. Social media is a devil. It could reward you with things faster than you ever should have, and it could get you in trouble in a snap. I am doing my best given the circumstances.
Paipai: What are your thoughts on comedians who got canceled by social media users?
Gianmarco Soresi: Sometimes comedians say things that may cross the line, but social media people make it sound worse than it actually is, and no one would forgive them. This incident will just stick with them for the rest of their life. There was a time when I was more paranoid about getting in trouble for a joke. I think if your intention is not evil, and you are just trying to write good comedy, you usually survive in these situations. I have jokes that I put out there, if I say the lines in the wrong order to the wrong crowd, I would get in big trouble. But you know, there are people who would pay to see you and they understand your jokes. It’s really about human nature, something we can’t change. The term cancel culture, really has become too much to the point where it practically means nothing. In general, for us, I think we just have to focus on the right thing, on comedy, and be true to ourselves to our roles. Even if I have a joke that may cross the line, I hope the majority of my work speaks volume.
Paipai: Let’s shift the topic a bit since we started off with some heavy questions. What led you into pursuing this career? You majored in Musical Theatre and you are an actor, you used to write plays as well. Why focus on stand-up?
Gianmarco Soresi: The bottom line is, if I have succeeded in any of that, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing. (laughs) I was working occasionally but something wasn’t clicking. I wasn’t advancing in what I was doing at the time. Before I wrote plays for myself when what I auditioned for didn’t cast me. You know, being an artist, you really need to keep your ears to the ground, and figure out what art form really makes me connect to people. I wrote a play for myself and I talked to the audience about it after. Everyone loved it . But they didn’t mention the acting part. So at some point, self awareness kicks in. This is crucial to personal growth and surviving as an artist. Sometimes, what we wanted to become may not end up being what we pursue in the long run. It’s really about what is clicking.
It’s hard making a transition to become a stand-up comedian. You are basically out there, all day all night. I made this big decision that instead of relaxing or doing something for myself at night, I would go out there and cheer people up with jokes. In return, the feedback is addicting. On stage, for stand-up, you can say every sentence as a joke, and figure out if they are good or not right away. I love stand-up, but I would say a lot is because of the feedback. It’s in the moment — whether you fail, you succeed, you feel it instantly. It’s almost like a drug. Although I am sarcastic and funny, I am a feedback monster, and stand-up is for that. I can’t just write, I need to write, perform, get feedback and then repeat. I like it, it gives me satisfaction, it makes me happy. Stand-up, some people describe it as chasing the high, chasing the drag. It makes sense because if I have a set that doesn’t go well, I feel withdrawn. For example, I was in Hampstead last Saturday and I was trying to do the dark jokes that I worked on for this festival, but the reaction I received was mediocre. I was devastated. All I wanted at that moment was to perform again and do well. I have some level of depression, and a good set is like a medicine for me. It brings my mood back up almost instantly. So, stand-up to me, is medication.
Paipai: Do you think this is what you want to do for life?
Gianmarco Soresi: I think so. When I say I am a feedback monster, I mean it. It is who I am. I need the feedback. Why would some people who have money and still want to put themselves out there to perform? It’s because of the satisfaction, regardless of your status or anything really. Stand-up fulfills the needs of many. All performers want to express themselves and get that intense reaction from the audience. That doesn’t go away no matter what happens in life. If someone cut out my tongue and I couldn’t speak, I’d still figure out a way to BE on stage. That is what I need.
Paipai: What’s the most memorable reaction you got from the audience
Gianmarco Soresi: I mean, when they laugh at the joke the first time, the joke that I spent years perfecting. Sometimes the jokes come naturally but sometimes you gotta work on it for a long time. And there are times when the audience is not reacting as I expected, but I believe the joke itself is funny. I have to stand my ground and keep believing in myself.
Paipai: Where do you find your inspirations from?
Gianmarco Soresi: I take them from life, you know. I keep a notebook on my phone so anytime an idea jumps in I could note it down. My girlfriend is a comic manager. I would tell her my jokes all the time and she would tell me if she doesn’t think a joke is funny. Not all jokes work, most of them don’t work. Sometimes she is right but there are times where I really believe in my joke although others don’t think it’s good.
Paipai: Do you still get nervous before going on stage?
Gianmarco Soresi: Yes for sure. For me it gives me nerves when the comedian who performs before me receives a huge reaction from the crowd because it could be embarrassing if you don’t get the same reaction with your jokes because now the audience knows how loud they can be. But I think the more you do stand-up comedy, the nerves would eventually go down, and you get used to it. I would also feel the urge to pee when I am nervous. It’s my thing. At the very beginning of my career, my hands would shake but it’s gone by now. Though when I was on The Late Late Show this year, I suddenly got anxious. My hands don’t shake anymore but I still have that feeling. Overall, the nerve is always there, but you know, as time goes by, you learn to manage it. In the beginning it could feel unmanageable and it would manifest itself on stage. But you get better, I get better.
Paipai: In a show, would you rather go first?
Gianmarco Soresi: No not really. The order doesn’t matter that much to me. I have been closing up for Just For the Culture for the past few days and it feels good to be the final one. But really, there’s no position that’s safe. For me, I have to fight the urge to always want the audience to laugh as hard as they can right off the gate, but you know, it doesn’t have to be like that. You should go on your own journey with your audience, keep it at your own pace. Stand-up comedy, it’s easy to make you feel so great at once and the next second you feel like the worst person on earth. It’s possible to feel both in one night.
Paipai: Do you think there’s a difference between your audience here in Montreal and in other places?
Gianmarco Soresi: I don’t know if it’s Montreal so much or JFL. Usually people who go to JFL are comedy fans, they understand comedy because they understand how to behave, for example being quiet for the set up and following the puns. Those people enjoy being edgy, they enjoy darker jokes. They are happy to be there and that YOU are there. Whereas when I perform in a comedy club, people are not necessarily there to see you, they may not understand comedy. They could be there for many other reasons than wanting to have a good time laughing.
Paipai: Would you come back again next year?
Gianmarco Soresi: Of course!! Are you kidding! This place is awesome! I would definitely revisit again even if I am not here for the shows!
Gianmarco Soresi is performing at Just For Laughs which continues until July 29. For details on all shows, click HERE. His own show takes place July 28, tickets HERE. He also appears in Just for the Culture on July 24, 25, and 26. Tickets HERE.