Bankrate: How did you find your way onstage?
Schirripa: Well, I was
never a standup comic, you know. Some of the comics
would put me in their little film things, their
HBO specials. They would give me little bits to
do in their little skits, and that's how I started
in the acting. It was just a joke at the time;
I mean, I did it completely as a hobby. I got
a thrill out of it. There was no pressure. I wasn't
trying to make a living at it. I was making a
fine living; I had a house, two kids, an acre
of land. I was doing just fine. I was making a
solid buck-and-a-half a year back then from '95
until I left. I had everything I wanted, I knew
everyone in town, and basically in Vegas you get
everything for nothing once you're there.
Bankrate: What was your relationship like with the mob on the Strip?
Schirripa: Well, by that
time, that was all gone. When I first got there,
there were guys. The (real) guy from "Casino"
-- the Joe Pesci character -- I knew him. He was
a very nice guy. I was a bouncer; they would come
into the club, a lot of those guys, in the '80s.
I'm not going to say there aren't any guys still
out there, but not like that anymore. Guys were
more out-and-about in those days. It was a much
smaller town, 350,000 people. You had two nightclubs,
a place called the Brewery and Paul Anka's club.
If anybody was going out, they'd wind up in those
two places. They had everything from mobsters
to pimps to drug dealers to Bob Hope. I mean,
everybody was there. Bill Cosby, Rich Little,
a lot of the fighters, O.J., in those days.
Bankrate: You hit the career lotto when you were cast as Bobby Baccalieri on "The Sopranos." Did creator David Chase recruit you?
No, no. I came to New York and I auditioned. I
didn't know David Chase; he didn't know me. I
came to New York for a wedding, I was just starting
out, I had done a couple of things, and I asked
a friend who was a writer on "Saturday Night
Live" if he could get me to read for that
show. It was right after the first season and
he got me an audition and they faxed me the sides
and I went uptown and auditioned for the casting
director. She said, "If I can get you in
front of David Chase, would you fly back from
Vegas?" and I said sure. And I really didn't
want to go originally. I told my wife, what am
I going to do, blow 500 bucks on plane fare and
putting myself up? What the hell, I'm not going
to get it. And she's the one who talked me into
it -- that I was working so hard -- "What
the hell are you doing?"