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Interview: Chatting with Daniel Franzese on musical theatre and his new play 'Italian Mom Loves You!'

He recently visited Minnesota and checked out some wonderful local spots!

Interview: Chatting with Daniel Franzese on musical theatre and his new play 'Italian Mom Loves You!'

Best known for his role as Damian in Mean Girls, Daniel Franzese was also the lead of other indie cult classics, such as Bully & I Spit On Your Grave. He was most recently a series regular on Mark Gordon's ABC series, Conviction. Before that, he was a series regular on the Freeform series Recovery Road.

Originally from Brooklyn, Daniel has become a well-known proponent and speaker for the LGBT Community. He reached 8 million views on his YouTube video series Sh*t Italian Moms Say. A self-proclaimed momma's boy, his upbeat high-energy stand-up comedy act, 'Yass! You're Amazing! Comedy Tour' captures his amazing and quirky life in the entertainment industry, as well as hilarious stories about his New York parents.

We chat with Daniel about musical theatre!

How does it feel to have live audiences and theatre back?

Live audiences are a privilege at this current time in history. at the top of the pandemic, I watched all of my stand-up and appearances just dissipate from my tour schedule like sand in a broken hourglass until there was a blank calendar. It was horrific. Now that we are healing and shows are coming back each one is precious and I have such gratitude to hear a live audience laugh in unison. When an entertainer hears the roar of the crowd it reminds us why we do what we do. This has been a reflective year so far.

What inspired you to pursue a career in performing?

My grandfather had 13 siblings who all moved into the same block in Gravesend, Brooklyn. W 9th St. I was born in that very block so when I learned a song or a joke like let's say the ABC's I would perform them on every relative's coffee table which I now lovingly refer to at my beginnings on the "coffee table circuit" I learned early on that being funny and entertaining was a way to be seen and appreciated. Growing up I told jokes like a squid inks. It got me out of more than a few black and blue eyes. It was a great escape to be someone else when I didn't know who I was yet.

Who were your influences?

Sid Ceaser, Mel Brooks, Phil Silvers, Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason, Neil Simon, Pee Wee Herman, Phil Hartman, Bette Midler, Gallagher, Bugs Bunny, The State, SNL, and SCTV. I love to laugh.

What was the first professional theatre production you saw?

I saw Fiorello at a high school and I knew I wanted to sing and be funny and run around on stage in costumes. The first real professional tour I saw was The Pointer Sisters in Ain't Misbehavin' and my first Broadway show was $25 obstructed view standing room for RENT.

What is your favorite musical?

I do loooove RENT and Gypsy and Little Shop of Horrors and would see any production of those but I have a soft spot for all Aherns and Flaherty musicals, especially My Favorite Year.

What is your favorite musical song?

Rose's Turn from Gypsy

What is your favorite musical song to sing?

Mr. Cellophane from Chicago. Fred Silver was an old-time musical theater expert who wrote a book I studied called Auditioning for the Musical Theater. I heard he was retired in South Florida near my hometown so I tracked him down and begged him to teach me some songs. It took a bit of convincing but he did finally decide to give me special lessons and Mr. Cellophane was one of them. His teachings and affirmations gave me confidence early on in my career. He's no longer with us and to this day when I walk into certain places with certain piano players they know that's my go-to song. I always think of Mr. Fred Silver when I sing it.

What is another role you'd like to play?

I would love to play Pseudolus in Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. In every production of it, I've seen the performer gets to make it a little his own and it's so funny and delicious to play.

Tell us more about Italian Mom Loves You!

It's a love letter to Italian moms. To my mom to my friend's moms to all moms. Jacques LaMaare approached me about working on this together or was a no-brainer. Jacques has written for Varla Jean Merman and Coco Peru who is two of the most premier and world-renowned comedic drag performers and my absolute favorites I was quite frankly honored to develop this with him. In his play ' I love, I lost, I made spaghetti' the actress makes pasta from start to finish on the stage. He knew what would get my attention! This play is gonna make people laugh so hard and cry softly too.

Interview: Chatting with Daniel Franzese on musical theatre and his new play 'Italian Mom Loves You!'

You are all over with your stand-up tour and We hear you just made a trip to Minnesota?

Yes, I love the store Aribella's in Duluth. I appeared at the new opening they had and there were so many tributes to Mean Girls around the store it was really cute. I took my mom with me and we had a blast in Minneapolis the next day. We went to the Mall of America and got our nails done. Stopped by Surdyk's cheese shop for a haul we flew back to Florida with and devoured the next day for my nana's 91st bday which is actually what inspired the plot and timeline of my new Play called Italian Mom Loves You. Which takes place the hours before nanas 85th bday.

Do you have a favorite spot in Minneapolis, Minnesota?

Right before our flight, we all went to Flip Phone Events drag brunch with my friend the swap king Mr. Patrick Duffy a Minneopolitan friend of mine at this fabulous place called Crave. And I loved taking pics with my mom near the Mary Tyler Moore Statue

What else do you enjoy doing?

I love thrift shopping. Buying from local makers and artists. I love finding artists to make and augment clothing for me, I like buying gifts for my nieces and nephew. Whenever I'm in a new city I try and find the local queer owner bookstores restaurant and bars and I go in and patron them, post them, and tip really really well. Post the queens on my Snapchat. There are lots of queer communities in our country and I hope to visit them all.


I'm a low-key hobbyist theologian. I have a podcast called YASS Jesus. That gives a non-judgmental, sex-positive look at Christianity through the queer rainbow lens. My co-host Azariah Southworth was a televangelist on TBN but was fired when he came out. So many of God so-called followers want to tell people they have to choose between being gay and God. That's simply not true

Interview: Chatting with Daniel Franzese on musical theatre and his new play 'Italian Mom Loves You!'

And don't forget to catch the star of the smash hit movie Mean Girls and HBO's Looking, as he brings his wildly popular Italian Mom character to the stage in this world premiere comedy! It's the day of Nana's surprise birthday party and everybody's comin' ovah. While trying to pull together a proper Italian festa, Antoinette is also juggling her ex, drama with her kids, a real estate transaction, and spying on her neighbor. Co-written with Connecticut-based playwright Jacques Lamarre (I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti; Love & Spumoni), Franzese performs as his beloved YouTube and Instagram character live for the first time in this hilarious solo tour de force. With laughs and love galore, Italian Mom Loves You! is a tribute to Italian-Americans and mothers everywhere. It's going to be PHENOMENAL!

Thank you so much Daniel for your time!

Ticket link for "Italian Mom Loves You," coming soon! Be sure to check back here!

You can follow Daniel Franzese on social media @whatsupdanny

Photos courtesy of Daniel Franzese

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From This Author - Jared Fessler