BROOKLYN BUZZ: Bensonhurst comedian to headline Caroline’s

When lifetime Bensonhurst resident Rocco Deserto was growing up, the last thing he ever imagined he would be was a stand-up comedian.

“I never knew I could do comedy,” Deserto said. “I just thought I was a funny fat guy.”

That was before a six-week course at the famous Manhattan comedy club Caroline’s on Broadway, helped him realize his natural gift. Twenty performances later, Deserto is already a rising star in the stand-up circuit, earning a headlining spot at Caroline’s on Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the club’s Breakout Artist Comedy Series — a booking that continues to shock him.

“I’ve never been speechless in my life, but I was actually speechless,” Deserto said, recalling his initial reaction to the headlining offer. “When I got that email, I didn’t know what to do.”

Watching Deserto onstage, it’s not hard to understand why his ascent to headliner has been so rapid. His delivery is direct, but unforced, and he has a relaxed demeanor that subtly draws the viewer into his world. Although he appears to have no fear while performing, Deserto admits to being affected by the same nerves that plague all comedians.

“We’re all nervous onstage,” he said. “We just don’t let the audience know that.”

Deserto believes that if a comic’s selected subject matter is authentic, it is easier for him or her to execute it with an air of authority.

“If you know your material, and your material comes from an honest place, you’re always going to be confident,” he said.

And part of his own authenticity, he admits, comes from incorporating stories from the neighborhood.

“If I wasn’t from Bensonhurst – if I was from Saskatchewan – I probably wouldn’t be as funny,” Deserto said.

But when it comes to getting area residents to his shows, he says it hasn‘t been easy.

“A lot of people don’t want to support someone local – they’d rather support someone from Nebraska than someone from the neighborhood,” he explained.

It is a challenge that he blames on reality television.

“Ever since this “Jersey Shore” nonsense, everyone is afraid you’re going to embarrass the neighborhood,” Deserto said.

Yet, his standup routine focuses less on Bensonhurst and more on himself, particularly his struggles with his weight.

“You come to know when you’re fat, the sample guys at the food court get excited that you’re coming,” he quips in one stand-up routine.

But he says his material is more personal than just generic jokes about his weight.

“If your jokes really come from you, no one can steal them,” Deserto said. “You can put another fat guy up there and have him say my jokes, but it’s not going to come across the same.”

It would be unlikely that any such joke filcher would have the natural stage presence of the 25-year-old Deserto. And no one is more surprised about that fact than he is.

“What I always hear from people is I’m very likable on stage,” Deserto said. “When I see people [offstage] I think I have a ‘screw you’ face,” he said. “But onstage, I’m very likable.”

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