Pat Cooper ('How Dare You Say How Dare Me!)
'Analyze This, I Dare You! The Pat Cooper Story'
Comedian Pat Cooper has worked with big names from George Burns to Frank Sinatra, Martin Scorsese to Jerry Seinfeld, with an honest and irascible style that hasn’t always endeared him to egotistic performers. In this memoir foreworded by Jerry Lewis, Cooper details the root of his sense of humor.
He was born Pasquale Caputo to an immigrant Italian family. He recalls Depression-era memories of growing up in Brooklyn, where he was expected to follow the legacy of six generations of bricklayers. He recalls early family discord and an array of low-paying jobs, particularly driving a cab while starting a career as a comic in small clubs and theaters.
His big break came in 1963 with an appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show, when his brash style launched a career that would take him coast to coast, from Las Vegas to Atlantic City.
He is brutally frank about run-ins with the stars and his own efforts to shun the ego-game-playing that is a part of entertainment. Photographs enhance this funny and revealing look at a comic’s life.
Exclusive Magazine sat down with PAT COOPER, and we talked about his life as a comedian, his movie rolls, and about his new autobiography.
When did you first know in your life that you were funny? ”When I was born my father said, ‘Gee, he looks funny’! And so then, from there I realized I was always funny – because my father always said to me, ‘You know, you’re really funny – but not in a nice way!’ So, I just stuck with it, I didn’t get embarrassed and I went along with it. And, as they say, the rest is history.”
Who was more supportive of your choice to become a comedian - your mother or your father? ”Neither, because neither had a great sense of humor. A sense of humor was a great waste of time to them. They were too busy eating, supporting, and worrying seven days a week just to survive. There was no time for nonsense because comedy in the household at that time was nonsense. But, if you sang opera off key you were another Caruso.”
When you were growing up, who were some of your heroes? Did you have a favorite comedian - one who you looked up to more than the others? ”My favorite comedians were all the Jewish comedians because I didn’t go see non-Jewish comedians! Milton Berle, Red Buttons, people just like that – Fat Jack E. Leonard, Henny Youngman, George Burns, Joey Adams – all these kinds of guys were a very big help for me. Wonderful people. And then I realized that it wasn’t in their DNA, they just had a great natural flow. And then years later, as you know, other ethnic groups found out they could also be funny – and so I was one of the lucky ones.”
You were in your early thirties when you first hit it big with a performance on The Jackie Gleason Show in 1963? Did you always know that you were going to make it in comedy? ”No. I knew I was going to make a living at it, but I didn’t know I was gonna wind up on television. I didn’t know I was going to become a big name or a semi-name. I just wanted to get away from Brick White, driving a cab, being a furrier. I wanted to just make a living being funny because that made me happy. And I became a battle because people around me didn’t think I could make it. But, I proved them wrong and they never talked to me after that!”
Was there one moment in your formative years as a comedian when you knew that you had discovered your own unique voice? ”Yes, on the Mike Douglas Show I realized that I had a natural ability, a natural flow that no matter what they asked me I had an answer. And so I knew I was a naturally funny man. I was not a mechanic. And so from that moment on when I did talk shows, I didn’t even want to give them a hint of what I wanted to talk about. I wanted them to trust me and ask me any question and then I would take it from there – knowing that even if I fell on my butt, it was honest. And so that’s what I wanted to do and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
What, above all else, do you think was the one thing that kept you going as a comedian when things hadn't yet gone your way? ”My confidence. I made negative positive. Because I wouldn’t allow negative to eat me up. So if there was something negative about me, or something negative around me I made fun of the situation. Even if it was a put down to myself. I think all comics should do that – to never be afraid to overcome their negativity. Just don’t listen to nobody and always do what you know is right for you.”
How much of a difference, if any, is there between "Pat Cooper" and "Pasquale Caputo"? Did you find it easier early in your career to get work with the more American-sounding name . . . or did the name switch allow you to project a different kind of persona? ”I could not get a job as Pasquale Caputo back in the early ‘50s. People said you can’t work with that name so I became Pat Cooper! But the best thing was when I became Pat Cooper I changed my whole life and became this whole other guy! I didn’t socialize backwards. I went forward. I told everyone I changed the name. Because I had to otherwise the Internal Revenue would be still looking today for Pasquale Caputo and Pat Cooper! So I’ll be one person, Pat Cooper, but my family didn’t like it. They always thought I’d done it to hurt them – which was a lie.”
Tell us about some of the best experiences you've had in show business, and some of the worst? ”Some of the best moments I’ve ever had in show business were with Sergio Franchi. He became like a brother to me. We had such charisma working together. We were a team. I could not wait to work with this man. It was just wonderful. Then some of the ones I didn’t like working with were Paul Anka, Steve and Eydie – they just were not nice. They didn’t treat me like I was an equal. Not so much within show business, but as a human being. Jerry Vale – if I had a bottle of whiskey in my room he’d think I’d gotten it from the boss and he’d get angry with me! What he didn’t know was that I went out and bought it, in case anybody came to my room I would give them a drink.”
Two words for you - Howard Stern. What thoughts come to mind? ”Well, that, I think was a great move for me. And every one that heard me on Howard Stern; those that like me, said ‘Get off, it’s not for you, he’s not a nice man.’ I disagreed. I said it’s show business I gotta do everything. My wife, God bless her said ‘Please don’t go on that show it’s not you. You’re a better person than that.' I said I got to, I just got to. You just can’t swim in a pool sometimes you got to swim in the ocean to prove you can swim in anything. I not only got along with him pretty good, I think I was his best guest. And I’ll go to my grave saying that."
You had the opportunity to appear with the great actor Robert DeNiro two times in the Harold Ramis comedies ANALYZE THIS and the sequel ANALYZE THAT. What was it like working with him? ”The first time I met him I walked over and I said, ‘Bobby, you got to thank God that I’m doing this movie with you, because I’m very fussy about who I work with!’ He just stared at me, like is this guy nuts! But I became the guy that kept all the actors up. Those that were waiting an hour or two hours to do their lines, I told old stories to. I even went to Bobby and Billy Crystal and started kidding around with them."
"I was just disappointed that they didn’t keep some of the outtakes. Because some of the outtakes that I did with Bobby and Billy were funny, funny, funny. And no disrespect to Billy Crystal but funnier than his outtakes! And that really bothered me because it’s so difficult to turn around, when you know you did some great things and they just squash it.”
Our audience is dying to know why you turned down the great filmmaker Martin Scorsese when he offered you a part in his 1996 Vegas gangster film CASINO . . . what happened?! ”I would like to say about that, that if you really want to know I would advise you to buy the book. It is a great story and I don’t want to do it now ‘cause it’s too long. Buy the book and you’re gonna read a lot of things that a lot of people still say ‘I can’t believe you said those things!’ Buy the book and I guarantee you you’re gonna go on a tremendous ride!”
Where can folks purchase your book? ”If you want to buy my book go to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, PatCooper.com – and I think ANY book store; big, medium or smaller! You ask for my book, I guarantee they’ll get it for you!”
Would you accept a part on Larry David's hilarious HBO series CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM? ”Any time. It’s one of the funniest shows on television. It’s really down to earth comedy. It’s everyday life. And you know something else, and I say this with love in my heart, I think it’s 99% Jewish on that show – which makes it so great! The charisma is there, the feeling is there, but those that turn around and say it’s only Jewish people … well, you gotta use people whether they’re Jewish, frickin’ American or Italian. He is so right ‘cause he got everybody on that show that has a great comedic flow. I love Larry David, I love everybody on that show. I will buy it, I will store it and every time I get down in the dumps I’m gonna play it. It’s just great natural comedy, natural fun, from the streets to the highest escsalon of comedy.”
If you could wake up tomorrow and be anything else in the world rather than a comedian, what would you like to be? ”I have no desire to do anything but comedy, but I think it would probably be in the cooking field. I love to cook. It’s my hobby. I’m no chef, but I just repeat what I was learning in the kitchen of my parents.”
There's talk that your life story would make for a great movie. Is there any actor on the scene right now who you could see playing you in a film of your life . . . or would you rather go with a young unknown actor who is new to the business? ”An unknown actor! But he’s gotta turn around and listen to my albums, he’s gotta see me on the screen, and look at some of the talk shows. If he can get my flow, I think he would be great. But a great, great actor cannot truly cover what I feel. You need somebody who has a great sense of humor, somebody who really digs me! And wants to make it come out right. That’s the name of the game.”
What's the meaning of your book title, HOW DARE YOU SAY HOW DARE ME!? ”Well, rather than say, ‘What gives you the right to tell me I can’t stand up to you?’ because that’s just too long to put on the cover of a book! I’ve stood up to all the biggest stars that I’ve ever worked with if they put me down. You cannot take away my dignity. It’s the only thing I own. We should all say that. We got to keep our dignity. If you don’t you have no way to live decently.”
What was it like playing yourself in the classic Seinfeld episode "The Friar's Club"? Was your scene scripted or improvised? ”Well, Larry David I’d already met … and so I met Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander … and Larry said, ‘Pat, this is what we want from you.’ He told me what he wanted from me and so after ‘Action,’ I did it in one take. Larry said thank you, Jerry said thank you, Jason said thank you, I got back on the plane and went back to New York. I never expected to get that part, but I still thank them for giving me the shot. It was well worth it and they still play the repeat of my shot, which is great.”
'How Dare You Say How Dare Me!' Book Purchase Page
If you would like to win a SIGNED copy of 'HOW DARE YOU SAY HOW DARE ME!', just answer this easy question about the author, Pat Cooper: Cooper and singer Jimmy Roselli premiered in their two man show at Broadway's Palace Theatre, New York. But on what exact date and in what year?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these SIGNED books! Just send us an e:mail here before August 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: PAT COOPER SIGNED BOOKs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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