Photography by Mandee Johnson
For nearly forty years now, comedian and actor Eddie Pepitone has been the heart and soul of underground comedy. Uncompromising, steadfast and determined to get at the thing itself, Pepitone says like it is. When comedy opts for truth instead of distraction it is a potent weapon. In the rebellious tradition of George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Rick Shapiro and others, Eddie proves that comics are just as easily poets and painters, capable of bringing whole cosmos crashing together in a room, laughter helps the medicine go down.
"We're comedians, let's fucking tell the truth. Not enough comedians tell the truth, they get on stage and they talk about "Oh, the inside of pizza is filled with cheese" who gives a fuck! Wall Street is fucking us! Shadows flickering on the cave, that's what television is, shadows flickering on our fucking cave!" Eddie once said on WTF with Marc Maron. Known for heckling himself, a brilliant routine in which Eddie goes out into the audience and heckles his inner conscious, "Why are you reading medical journals at 2 in the morning!" Pepitone's stand up is a force of nature. His wit is spellbinding but incredibly grounded in the real world. "Suffering will find you" Eddie says, you can't hide from it. Eventually we have to find "something more meaningful then a Netflix queue."
Beginning in New York City’s improv/sketch scene (where he quickly became a regular face), and continuing on to recurring roles on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Eddie has also appeared on numerous comedy TV shows, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Sarah Silverman Program, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Comic Standing, Community, 2 Broke Girls, Whitney, The King of Queens and Chappelle’s Show. Most recently he can be seen in the Netflix original show, Love. His comedy special, In Ruins, is also on Netflix. And he has his very own documentary, The Bitter Buddha.
AHC: What year did you start out in comedy and who were some of the comedians you felt most in tune with at that time?
Eddie: I started out in 1976 or 1978. I loved Steve Martin back then, George Carlin, Don Rickles, and I loved Jackie Gleason (even though he wasn't a stand-up).
AHC: Have you always been as politically aware as you are now, or is it something that came about later for you?
Eddie: Well I always had a bent that way as my dad was a union leader for the Teachers Union in NYC and he gave me a book that I considered my bible for a long time and it turned me on to left-wing politics: THE RICH AND THE SUPER RICH by Ferdinand Lundberg. I'll never forget a line from that book that I remember to this day: " as the poor make more the rich are robbing them blind".
AHC: Who are your go to political thinkers, and what books have blown the lid off things the most for you?
Eddie: Well the guy who really articulates EVERYTHING BEAUTIFULLY for me is Chris Hedges. His books THE DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS, EMPIRE OF ILLUSION AND WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES OUR LIVES MEANING (to name a few), and his column every Monday in Truthdig.com are awesome.
Noam Chomsky of course. Lately Thomas Frank: Listen Liberal is great.
AHC: What are your thoughts on Trump and the whole election and the bizarre through-the-looking-glass world we're in now?
Eddie: It's a true horror show. We have a reality TV star as president. A two-bit con man who has failed upward. It is truly unreal the filth he has surronded himself with (Sessions, Bannon, Tillerson, Mnuchen, et al) and he did it with a complicit media who couldn't get enough of him. It is like a nightmare that we have to live every day. Unreal that the dispossessed chose him over Bernie. The fact that Trump billed himself as an outsider is hilarious.
AHC: What are your thoughts on social movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter? Is it heartening to see people taking a more direct and active approach to making social change happen?
Eddie: It's our only hope in my opinion. These movements , are the only hope because the elected officials have largely been elected by monied interests obviously. The only good thing about Trump is he has mobilized people into giving a shit, getting them out of their comfort zone.
AHC: A lot of your social media commentary is geared towards pointing out contradictions and social absurdities. Do you think there is any way to roll back our rampant obsessions with empty fame and useless consumption or does it seem like we're on a maglev train headed straight for a wall?
Eddie: I don't know. I think the only way is to build community between people, to give them something more meaningful then a Netflix queue. And unfortunately that community may have to come together through hardship, shared experiences. It's tough because it seems so many people have retreated to their online havens. They are demoralized from not having lots of opportunities in the real world and live with their parents in their basements.
AHC: What are your words of advice or criticism for young people who think politics has nothing to do with them, who can't look up from their phones long enough to be bothered by the suffering of the world that surrounds them?
Eddie: My advice is that the world will find them, that suffering will find them , so the sooner they get out of their phones the better, because you can run but you can't hide from suffering. Also it's so rewarding to connect with your brethren and isolation is a killer!
AHC: Any new projects in the works you'd like to mention?
Eddie: I'm very excited that I'm working on a show that I'll be pitching to some of the hipper networks out here in Hollyweird. It's a show that focuses on me and my crazy inner life with a strong bent toward all the political stuff I love to skewer in a scathing way. I can't say more about it though. Also will be taping a new special for Netflix this fall.
For more visit eddiepepitone.com/
Mandee Johnson photography www.mandeejohnson.com/
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