Like striking a match – Michael Rapaport can light up into a four-letter-laced rant that’ll leave you shocked, horrified, offended – or laughing your ass off.
The controversial comic brings his banter to Philly for a special, three-night event Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Helium Comedy Club.
We know him for appearing in more than 60 movies since the early 1990s, including “True Romance,” “Higher Learning,” “The Heat,” and for directing “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” where he documented the hip-hop group’s rise in popularity as well as the conflicts that drove them apart. He’s been a sports commentator, a podcaster, and now stars in Netflix’s “Atypical.”
The kind of guy unafraid to use the power of social media or the stage to get his message across, Rapaport doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who’s the next victim of his verbal venom. From Spike Lee to Kanye West to Laura Ingraham, it seems no one is safe from the next jab.
But – he says – a lot of what he does is done in good fun and for one reason – to rile you up. So, leading up to this weekend’s shows, we asked Rapaport a few questions.
JD: Your career started with stand-up comedy, then you started acting, sports commentary – now your podcast, “I Am Rapaport.” What’s your favorite thing to do?
MR: I like to perform. I don’t think that I’ve figured it out, that I have one thing that I like more than the other…I’m always gonna love acting. That’s always gonna be my first love. I’m always gonna want to act until I can’t think anymore, literally. I love podcasting because of the freedom of it. There’s little structure to it. I love stand-up comedy because similarly, there’s such freedom…I enjoy the expression of it. I resisted calling myself an artist for so long, but there is an artistic expression to what I do.
JD: I understand you’re a big “Rocky” fan. What’s your favorite scene in “Rocky,” or any of the installments, and how does it apply to your life?
MR: That movie changed my whole life. [I’ve had] a love affair with that movie and an interest in Philadelphia since I was a kid. I saw it when it came out. My parents took me – I was 6 years old. Something about the loneliness and the earnestness and the sadness of the character that resonated with me even as a kid. It’s weird because I was so young. I didn’t understand the scenes… but I adore that character, that movie, and the vulnerability and insecurities of a man trying to find his way in life. I also was simultaneously falling in love with basketball. Dr. J was my superhero. So, I don’t love Batman. I didn’t love Superman. I wasn’t into cartoons. I was into Dr. J. Those were [the people] that made me have a fondness for Philadelphia as a kid.
JD: Monday night, we watched the Eagles manage a comeback win over the Giants in overtime. How did you enjoy playing Philadelphia Phil in “Big Fan” – being from New York – and what do you really think of the Eagles?
MR: [Laughs] I loved doing that movie. It was a nice little independent film. I’m not gonna bullshit you – I’m a Giants fan. Historically, we don’t like each other, but it’s not personal in sports. I love the rivalry. I love the fans in Philadelphia. They’re nuts – just like the New York sports fans are nuts. I would have loved to see Eli [Manning] pull off that win, but I did not mind the Eagles beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl years ago. So, I ain’t a Philadelphia Eagles fan, but I respect them and I respect the fans a lot. They’re crazy.
JD: Your social media rants get plenty of attention. Athletes, celebrities, and politicians are all fair game. Who gets you most fired up?
MR: [Laughs] The one that gets me the most fired up is probably, you know, Trump. That’s probably the only time when I’m totally serious… It’s a tongue-in-cheek thing that happens. It’s an emotional reaction. It’s an emotional diary for me…But it’s a heightened version of myself. All the trash talk – it’s who I am, but it’s a part of who I am. I’m here to disrupt. I’m a functioning 49-year-old father and husband. I’m not an out-of-control goon. I know what I’m doing. Obviously, when you’re on stage or in front of a camera, it’s a performance. I just like that heightened reality. It’s a show. I’m in show business. I don’t try to get too sentimental with social media. I don’t try to get too sentimental with my performances. I get to be [that way] when I’m doing “Atypical.” For me, personally, when I’m getting to play the different tones, I’m happy.
JD: Last week, the President said that Americans are needing to flush their toilets as many as 10 or 15 times because of low-flow toilets. What’s your take?
MR: He’s talking about himself. Most Americans don’t eat Whoppers and KFC for breakfast, so, he was a projecting whatever kind of bowel movements he has and he needs to go see some kind of doctor – a gastrointestinal guy – if he’s flushing the toilet 15 times. That’s on him. I’m sure the White House can set him up with a good gastro guy.
JD: You play Sam’s father, Doug, in “Atypical” on Netflix. Tell me a little about this series, this role and what’s it like compared to your previous acting work?
MR: It’s different from some of the stuff I’ve played…It’s different than my online persona…But the show has resonated with a lot of people in an emotional way. It’s beyond, “Hey, it’s a good show,” “It’s a fun show,” or “It’s a smart show.” I really appreciate the show. I’m very proud of “Atypical” and I’m looking forward to hopefully doing another season.
Catch Michael Rapaport at Helium Comedy Club Dec. 12, 13 and 14. Tickets can be purchased here.