First there were The Three Tenors. Soon to be followed by The Irish Tenors, The Canadian Tenors, The Texas Tenors, The Ten Tenors, Three Mo’ Tenors and countless other variations.
And now, there are The Three Tenors (Who Can’t Sing).
As there name implies, these tenors are not vocalists, but are comedians —Vic DiBitetto, Richie Minervini and Fred Rubino — who have banded together under this clever name. They are on their first tour together, and their lone Jersey show will be at the Mount Olive Performing Arts Center in Flanders, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. For information, visit mopacnj.com.
I spoke to DiBitetto, who lives in Manalapan (“No one ever heard of Manalapan, so I tell them Freehold; I tell them I live between Springsteen and Bon Jovi,” he says), by phone on Monday.
Q: Are you the person who came up with the concept for this show?
A: No, it was my manager, Russell Best. He was a big fan of the Blue Collar Comedy guys, with Jeff Foxworthy. And he came up with a different twist: Let’s get three goumbas from the Northeast. He gave it a title, “The Three Tenors (Who Can’t Sing),” which, once you hear that title, you’re gonna say, “Wow, what is this show all about?” This is his baby.
Q: Is the show structured any differently from a normal show?
A: No. We’re all headliners. We all go onstage one at a time, and do our acts, like 25 minutes apiece. And then I bring the other two guys out, and we interact with each other. Something like the Rat Pack.
Q: Have you known the other guys a long time?
A: Yeah. Richie Minervini I’ve known 30 years. He’s a legend, from New York. He used to own and run the East Side Comedy Club (in Huntington, Long Island). That’s where Jackie Martling started, Eddie Murphy, Kevin James. And Freddy, I know about 5 years. I was a judge for a comedy contest, and the other two judges, they trashed him. And I said, “Freddy, you’re great. Don’t listen to these two guys.” And he kept at it, kept at it. Now he’s a headliner.
We’re all friends, and it shows onstage: The chemistry, the camaraderie. It’s really a great show.
Q: You could obviously bring in other people at some point. It doesn’t have to be these three specific guys.
A: Yeah, like, say, Richie has to do a benefit … there’s other guys on deck. Russell has it all figured out.
Q: Do you think these days it’s really necessary to have a gimmick like that: Some kind of hook to get people interested?
A: Yeah, because when you go to a comedy show, it’s always the same format. The emcee goes on, and brings on the opening act, and then the headliner. All three of us are headliners: It’s a powerhouse show. And then we all come out together, at once. It’s never been done since the Blue Collar Comedy guys.
Q: Do you think now, for the comedy clubs in general, in the state, that it’s a good time? Or a rough time? How would you compare it to other times?
A: I think it’s a rough time. Between the economy — people getting laid off, losing their jobs — it’s just been oversaturated. And you get these weasel people who think they know how to book shows, they’re putting in crappy comics who are doing it for two years. Somebody goes to a show and sees this, they’re not going to come back. I mean, me, Richie and Freddy … I’m doing this 33 years, Richie’s doing this 35 years. We’re experienced. I just don’t get the whole … I went to Manhattan one night. There were five comics. I just stared at them. I didn’t even smile. I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old.
Q: Well, there are a lot of good people. It’s just that they have TV shows and that kind of thing. They’re not necessarily in the clubs anymore.
A: Exactly. But these sitcoms, most of these sitcoms, they last two weeks, and then they’re off the air. They get these guys who are doing comedy two years, they’ve got seven minutes of material.
That’s why Ray Romano, Kevin James … those shows lasted. Seinfeld. “Mike & Molly” … Billy Gardell’s another guy: he’s a seasoned comic. And that’s why they last longer.
Q: Louis C.K., too.
A: Louis C.K. There you go.
Q: Being in a presidential election time … does that effect your act? Do you do any political stuff?
A: Nah, I don’t touch it. I don’t touch politics, religion or sports — in my act, and on my social media — because people get crazy. I talk about being married, having kids. Universal stuff that people can relate to. Why go (the political) route? It’s just so much easier just to avoid that, and avoid the morons.
Q: Well, it works for some people.
A: Yeah, for some people. Like Stephen Colbert, he did it to his advantage: He’s a good political comic. But me, I get crazy when it comes to politics. And, you know, I’m a big Yankees fan, but if I post that I’m a big Yankees fan, and somebody writes “Yankees suck,” the Italian comes out in me. I want to kill somebody. So I just avoid it.