Sebastian Maniscalco Says Work-Life Balance Is No Joke
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Sebastian Maniscalco Says Work-Life Balance Is No Joke

By Eric Grossman
Thu, Jun 29, 2023 8:27amGrey Clock 5 min

Comedian Sebastian Mansicalco says he’s made some changes to his work-life balance in the wake of a wildly successful 2022—one that saw him sit atop of Pollstar’s rankings of the highest-grossing comedy tours..

“I will always do standup … it is my first love,” he says. “However, I think I need a break from traveling, and I’d like to spend more time with my wife and kids.”

Known for his distinctive physical brand of comedy, Maniscalco is turning 50 next month, and as he puts it, has been working non-stop his whole life.

“I think a lot of times people get caught up in work-work-work and before you know it they’re 85 years old in a wheelchair and wondering what happened to their life,” he says. “I’ve determined that I have not been enjoying the fruits of my labor. I want to start experiencing what life has to offer and creating more memories with my family.”

As part of his approach to take a step back, Maniscalco has cut down on his successful touring career—in 2022 he was only one of three comedians, along with Kevin Hart and John Mulaney, to crack Billboard’s top 50 grossing tours overall—and is exclusively making only a handful of performances during his “Sebastian Maniscalco: Live from Las Vegas,” which is currently scheduled to run into early October at Wynn Las Vegas.

“I love performing in Las Vegas because you get a good cross-section of the globe when performing there,” he says. “Vegas is a great place for me to work while I am not on a major tour. It’s close to home and the Encore Theater is such an intimate setting. It almost feels like I’m performing in a comedy club.”

While taking a break from touring, Maniscalco has been shooting a new HBOMax series, “How to Be a Bookie,” while also devoting time to his two podcasts, “The Pete and Sebastian Show, with co-host Pete Correale, and Daddy vs Doctor.

Also taking up his time is the Tag You’re It! Foundation, which he started in 2016 with his wife, Lana Gomez, to support causes that speak to the couple’s personal experiences. These days, the fund, set up with California Community Foundation, supports causes relating to U.S. veterans, Alzheimer’s disease, and education.

“I 100% fund the foundation with my own personal earnings, as well as donations I win on game shows,” he explains. “My family had to deal with Alzheimer’s when my grandfather was diagnosed with it, my father is a veteran of the army, and I have two beautiful kids which inspires me to donate to children’s education.”

A proud second-generation Italian-American, Maniscalco’s career came full circle in May with his biggest movie role yet.

“I moved out to Los Angeles in 1998 from Arlington Heights, Ill., and my career has always been a slow burn. There wasn’t one thing that put me on the map in regards to a TV or film project,” he says. “I waited tables at the Four Seasons for seven years and during my time there waited on Robert De Niro in 2002 … fast forward 20 years, and here I am starring opposite him in a movie I co-wrote.”

Looking back, Maniscalco describes his experience making the movie–About My Father hit theaters on Memorial Day weekend—as one filled with anxiety.

“I could’ve never imagined starring in a movie with Robert De Niro loosely based on my life. The movie experience as a whole is laborious and slow,” he says. “I prefer live stand-up comedy because you know in the moment, whether or not you’re funny. When filming a movie, sometimes you’re unaware of how good or bad your performance is.”

Maniscalco, who resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children, recently spoke with Penta about his favourite things.

The best book I’ve read in the last year is…Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidera. I spent the early part of my life in the world of hospitality. I worked at fine dining restaurants and five-star hotels. I learned in my experience to always anticipate the guests’ needs. This book takes that philosophy above and beyond anywhere I could’ve imagined. I would recommend this book to anybody who owns a business, or for anybody who gets pleasure out of providing people with happiness and exceptional experiences.

Something I do to relax is… Cook…for me, the kitchen is my sanctuary. I love to get lost in a recipe. I love cooking steak. It sounds easy, however, it is an art form to cook a steak and achieve the same temperature throughout. I like to put it in the oven at 275 degrees for about 45 to 55 minutes depending on the thickness and then let it sit for 15 minutes and then sear it in a cast iron skillet for two minutes on each side. I then cut and serve immediately. There is nothing better to me than watching people enjoy the food you cook. I almost get as much pleasure cooking as I do stand-up comedy.

My idea of a perfect meal (and/or night out) is… Pizza at Lucali in Brooklyn with my wife. I have been to this restaurant twice and absolutely love the vibe. I feel like I’ve been transported back into the 50s eating at an old school pizzeria. The owner Mark is an amazing host, and you almost feel like you are dining at his home. The ingredients he uses are so simple yet so fresh. I would have to say it’s the best pizza I have ever had in my life. He also makes an outstanding calzone, and a penne vodka sauce that you want to take home for a late night snack.

A passion of mine that few people know about is… Throwing parties. My wife and I really like to go above and beyond people’s expectations when it comes to a party. For example, we had a Christmas party last year and decorated our backyard and covered patio to make it look like a chalet. We rented some real large, comfortable couches, hired a singer and piano player and served eggnog all night long.

My travel uniform is… Jeans and a sweater and a light jacket. Currently I’m really into the brand Celine particularly their jackets and shoes. They are extremely comfortable and I’m really liking what they’re doing with their colour patterns.

The first thing I do when I check into a hotel is… Shower and unpack. I like to have everything in order before I start my adventure in a new city. I am also a sucker for turndown service. A lot of people don’t tip on turndown service, but I tend to leave 10 to 20 bucks on the bed. Housekeeping does an exceptional job when you leave them a little money for turndown. All your toiletries are organised and the room is left immaculate.

My favourite comfort dish is… Pasta. I grew up eating my grandmother’s pasta every Sunday and it just makes me feel good. My wife and I just had pasta from Jon & Vinny’s last night here in Los Angeles, but if I’m going to go out for pasta, we prefer Madeo, which is an L.A. institution. My preference is penne pasta with a red sauce, but I’m also a sucker for spaghetti with a little olive oil and pecorino Romano cheese.

My go-to drink is… A bottle of Tignanello. For my wife and I there’s nothing better than putting the kids down, cracking open a bottle and sitting outside watching the sunset. I also love enjoying the wine with red meat. I fell in love with wine about 15 years ago when my father-in-law introduced me to a world of wine that I was completely unaware of. Every time we go to their house for the holidays or a visit he whips out an amazing assortment of wines from Napa to France.

The one trip I’ve taken that I would love to do again… I would love to re-create my honeymoon with my wife in Italy. We absolutely loved experiencing all the different cuisine in three regions: Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast and. The highlight was taking a boat to the island of Capri for the day and on the way back stopping off on a remote island to have a spaghetti lobster lunch. We got an opportunity to swim in the grotto and coming out of the water felt like we were dipped in a case of medicine. It was as if all our aches and pains went away and we had mental clarity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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What Your Friends Can Teach You About Money

Millennials and Gen Z are turning to peers instead of professionals for financial advice. They don’t trust banks, and they are tired of information overload.

Sun, Dec 10, 2023 5 min

Colin Saint-Vil got his money education at the dim sum cart, over a steamy plate of pork buns and turnip cake.

A friend offered to pick up the whole tab on her credit card, “for the points.” At the time, six years ago, “for the points” meant nothing to Saint-Vil, now a 30-year-old planning manager in Brooklyn, so he pressed for more details. They lingered over the dim sum meal as a larger conversation unfolded about annual percentage rates, credit-card debt, payment schedules and more.

Millennials and members of Gen Z prefer to seek financial advice from each other than from parents or from financial professionals. They don’t like overwhelming spreadsheets and marketing material written in seemingly foreign languages. They don’t trust big banks and institutions trying to sell them on investment strategies—as many were raised around the late 2000s financial-crisis. And, they are not wrong: There is a lot to be learned from comparing numbers with peers—from sharing salaries to talking out big decisions like home or car purchases.

Saint-Vil said when his father was his age, he had already begun investing in real estate, but with property prices now so high and mortgage rates only just beginning to fall, he said he couldn’t imagine being able to follow in his father’s footsteps. He, like many millennials and Gen Z-ers, describe their finances as “fairly good” these days, though they hold a negative picture of the greater economy, according to a new poll of 18 to 29-year-olds from the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.

Millennials are still reeling from the impact of back-to-back recessions, all while large bank closures and investing scams dominate the headlines. Younger people report a feeling of “financial avoidance” exacerbated by high inflation and the pandemic-era budgeting.

As of June 2023, Gallup polling revealed a historically low faith in U.S. institutions, with younger generations voicing high skepticism. According to Gallup, only 9% of respondents aged 18 to 34 expressed “a great deal” of confidence in banks; meanwhile, 47% and 28% said they have “some” or “very little,” respectively.

But when it comes to winning back young consumers, these same financial institutions haven’t quite given up, and are rolling out new outreach programs and robo advisors, some of which have helped bridge a connection with Gen Z and millennials, said Keith Niedermeier, clinical professor of marketing at Indiana University. But many young people still say they prefer do-it-yourself investing platforms like Robinhood and Acorns over traditional advisers at more established wealth-management firms.

Andrew Ragusa, a real-estate broker based on Long Island, blamed the twin problems of low housing inventory and high home prices for postponing younger buyers’ ownership. The median age of a first-time home buyer in the U.S. is 35-years old as of 2023, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. That is slightly down from an record high of 36 in 2022, but still two years older than the median age in 2021, which is representative of an ageing first-time buyer trend.

When he talks with younger clients now, he detects a gloomy sentiment. “They try to be optimistic, but the overall sentiment is ‘This is supposed to be the American dream: we get a house and we get some financial security and I just have to have faith it will all work out in the end.’ But they don’t have faith it will.”

Fear and shame around being able to buy or accomplish as much as one’s parents might have financially can crop up when millennials talk to elders about their financial frustrations, said Jodi Kaus, director of Kansas State University’s student financial planning centre, Powercat Financial. She’s found that lessons and advice from friends are often more constructive.

Kaus leads a peer-to-peer financial planning centre that pairs up students to work through financial issues. She works to pair people with similar backgrounds: graduate students with graduate students or international students with international students. Talking with someone only a few years removed from your current situation means you’re better able to internalize the messages and execute on their advice, Kaus said.

“Early on, parents even say ‘Are you sure students can help my child?’” she said. “And I say ‘I am more than confident that they can help each other.’

Sharing money tips and financial know-how with your friends doesn’t only benefit the asker, Kaus said. In the Kansas State University peer-to-peer group, the advice giver also learns a lot from their own position, because sharing their story and bonding with a peer helps them to build their own confidence and belief in their financial acumen.

Lindsay Clark, a 34-year-old director of external affairs in Washington, D.C., recalls one lesson she shared with a friend carrying student loans from pharmacy school. Clark works at Savi, a student loan platform, and she offered to cook her friend dinner while they sorted through his loan repayment options. Long after they’d cleaned their dinner plates, they sat together at Clark’s kitchen island, lingering over a plate of homemade hummus and chatting about everything from financial goals to Costco card benefits.

“Those conversations blossom from the transparency, and the visibility makes both people feel really good,” she said. “That creates better relationships overall.”

When you’re talking about money issues with friends, Clark said, you’re not artificially inflating your salary or pretending to know more than you do. And most important, you’re not worried about their ulterior motives.

“You feel safe in that conversation, knowing their intentions are good and they’re not trying to make money off of you,” she said. “And that’s going to lead to better results, because we’re working with the reality here.”

Skepticism of pronounced experts and criticism of established financial institutions is especially common among millennials and Gen Z, Neidermeier said. Studies show people across generations are much likelier to take a friend or colleague’s recommendation to heart over that of a faceless institution, he said; people who spend time on social media just have a greater opportunity to source those answers and field questions.

“What people say to each other over the picket fence is what is the most influential,” he said.

At a certain point, however, talking solely to friends and peers for your financial lessons can be very limiting, said Sarah Behr, founder of Simplify Financial Planning in San Francisco. Relying on your social circle can also put a strain on those relationships; no one wants to be responsible for your disappointment when a financial decision that worked out well for them doesn’t fit as well in your own life.

Behr recommends tuning into your own emotional reactions when assessing peer advice: does the road map they followed align with your own financial values? Does it put pressure on you to live outside your means or challenge your personal risk tolerance? If the answer doesn’t feel clear, that could be a time to outsource to a financial professional who has no emotional connection to you or your financial status.

“‘People have been telling me do this, but I just don’t know if it’s the right thing for me’—I get a lot of calls like that,” said Behr.

Saint-Vil said he and his friends share tips on what high-yield savings accounts offer the best rates, and when he did his credit card research, he chose a card recommended by a friend. When it comes time to work with a financial adviser or even one day a wealth manager, he’ll likely work with someone recommended through a peer. Behr said close to 90% of her business comes by way of client referrals.

Since that first conversation over dim sum, Saint-Vil has thrown his own card onto the table at meals and shared his knowledge with other pals who look confused.

“I have a real wide range of friends who are in many different financial places, but I would say a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said.

Julia Carpenter is the co-author, with Bourree Lam, of The Wall Street Journal’s “The New Rules of Money: A Playbook for Planning Your Financial Future,” a personal-finance workbook published this week by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.


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