Mario DiGiorgio: When Passions Collide

March 2, 2019


Lara Smith


Lara Smith


While I love explor­ing com­e­dy with peo­ple, and inter­view­ing them to share with the world, occa­sion­al­ly, I will meet some­one that – regard­less of record­ing – I just want to talk to them and hear their sto­ries. Last year I found myself in con­ver­sa­tion with Mario DiGior­gio after a show at The Velv. I should add that he was there as a spec­ta­tor, as this fol­lowed the chang­ing of the guard to its new man­ag­er, Pat Dean. Based on that con­ver­sa­tion, I knew I want­ed to sit down and hear more from Mario DiGior­gio, on or off the record. Lucky for you, he recent­ly agreed to the former.

DiGior­gio had recent­ly returned to the stage for sea­son 22 of Punch after a long hia­tus from stand up. His set instant­ly grabbed me. His style hit me in the core of the influ­ences that I had always loved, even from child­hood. With­in min­utes of sit­ting down with DiGior­gio and his adorable dog Lemon (recov­er­ing grace­ful­ly from heart surgery), I was bounc­ing up and down like a child, as he rat­tled off a lot of his ear­ly mem­o­ries of com­e­dy and influ­ences. DiGior­gio ref­er­ences Rich Hall’s Sniglets and the famil­iar­i­ty I had been feel­ing imme­di­ate­ly makes sense. Our sense of humor comes from the same well of greats”.

DiGior­gio’s beau­ti­ful dog, Lemon

Born and raised in New Jer­sey, DiGior­gio grew up in a fam­i­ly filled with humor. The men had dry wit and absur­di­ty, and the women geared their humor to a more goofy style. Add to that a grand­fa­ther with a love and flair for puns and you can see the for­mu­la for Mario DiGiorgio’s comedic style. DiGior­gio speaks fond­ly of his par­ents and his child­hood. He remem­bers being extro­vert­ed as a young child, with a big cir­cle of friends.

How­ev­er, in a per­fect storm of ado­les­cence, DiGior­gio recalls in sixth grade his nose got big­ger” and his fam­i­ly moved about 30 min­utes away. Being the new kid” at such an awk­ward age turned DiGior­gio into an instant intro­vert. That change was last­ing, despite get­ting into stand up. As DiGior­gio puts it, I didn’t get on stage because I want­ed to be the cen­ter of atten­tion, I want­ed to get on stage to see if peo­ple laughed at the shit that I wrote.” DiGior­gio orig­i­nal­ly moved to Austin to write screen­plays, but got pulled into stand up by his pal, Justin Sanders.

I didn’t get on stage because I want­ed to be the cen­ter of atten­tion, I want­ed to get on stage to see if peo­ple laughed at the shit that I wrote.” Mario DiGior­gio

Mario DiGior­gio describes his stand up begin­ning as hav­ing been shot out of a can­non and then plateaued.” His first open mics went well, he won Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin after only eight months in com­e­dy, and was on a Mon­tréal show­case less than two years into his career. He moved to New York quick­ly; too fast”, as he puts it. DiGior­gio does feel that his inex­pe­ri­ence did have its advan­tages adding, I was bet­ter when I was naïve, you know, when I did­n’t have too much to com­pare myself to.” DiGior­gio was get­ting passed at big clubs before he even knew what the term meant.

DiGior­gio spent a few years in New York, but each time he returned to Austin he won­dered why he left. In 2003, he final­ly moved back to Austin and made it his base. He became a road com­ic for nine years. He and his beloved dog, Oscar, toured the coun­try and worked with greats like Maria Bam­ford and Jim­my Pardo.

As writ­ing was his first love, DiGior­gio also self-pub­lished a book, A Cynic’s Guide to a Rich and Full Life, which was lat­er pub­lished by Last Gasp. It sold well and excerpts played well to audi­ences. Lam­poon­ing the inspi­ra­tional quote books one might find in your mother’s bath­room, it was a per­fect addi­tion to a library that includ­ed Sniglets or Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy.

After so many years on the road, DiGior­gio returned to Austin and soon took over The Velv. He put his touch into the venue, over­see­ing updates in the design and aes­thet­ic of the room. The Velv was able to mar­ry so many of DiGiorgio’s per­son­al­i­ties togeth­er: com­e­dy, the ser­vice indus­try, design, and t‑shirts. That’s right…we haven’t even got­ten to t‑shirt design yet. 

Mock Band tees from OK Tees

Short­ly after DiGior­gio moved back to Austin he start­ed OK Tees (One Kolor Tees). This busi­ness has allowed DiGior­gio the abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue to write com­e­dy, design, and mar­ket humor in a wear­able form. Parts and Labour on South Con­gress quick­ly took to his style and have been car­ry­ing OK Tees ever since open­ing in 2004

With DiGior­gio leav­ing The Velv after four years at the helm, he has graced the stage a hand­ful of times, but the pas­sion to return to stand up just doesn’t seem to be there right now. DiGiorgio’s lat­est project of Mock Band Tees seems to be what brings him the most cre­ative joy these days. Com­bin­ing band homages with puns, clever plays on words, and over­all kick­ass designs, DiGior­gio seems rein­vig­o­rat­ed to cre­ate this as his new chap­ter. One can only imag­ine what the next cre­ative chap­ter will bring.

Mario DiGiorgio