Our elementary school Young Authors Contest winner for this issue is Caterina Rosa Arena-Saia, a fourth-grade student at Our Lady of Peace Elementary School. Caterina had the opportunity to sit down with Montreal-based stand-up comedian, Franco Taddeo, for a one-on-one interview.

Q: How are you so funny? When I try, it doesn’t work!
A: When I was growing up, I wasn’t the funniest guy in class. As I got older, I started to be a bit funnier, but I wasn’t always funny. Always funny looking, but not always funny talking.

Q: I come from a family of five. I have a younger brother and sister. How about you? Do you have brother(s) and\or sister(s)?
A: I’m an only child. And I think that’s why I perform. It’s because I got so much attention at home, and when I was out in the world, I was like “Why aren’t people paying attention to me—my mom and dad always paid attention to me.” I had to find something special to do; and that’s why I do comedy.

Q: Do you make your family laugh?
A: I annoy them more than I make them laugh. I think they put up with me more than I entertain them. Sometimes I make them laugh, but it’s rare. Usually they laugh at me, not with me.

Q: I heard you worked at the McGill Library. Do you like to read books and what kind of books?
A: That’s right. People ask me, “Seriously?” I started comedy when I already had two sons. My sons didn’t ask for their dad to be a struggling artist. So, I have a university degree and I had a job at McGill, which made it easier for me to pay my bills while chasing my dream of trying to be a stand-up comic, and if it didn’t work, I always had that education to fall back on. It took a long time before I could make money just telling jokes.
I do like to read books. I will read newspapers, especially when I go to different cities.

Q: Were you a class clown at school?
A: No, not really. People tell me I was, but I don’t think so. I did watch the class clowns, listening to what would get a laugh and what wouldn’t.

Q: What makes you unique about being an Italian-Canadian comedian?
A: I think what makes me unique is that I bring different experiences to the stage. I understand the culture that we came from and I understand the culture we live in. The ability to combine those two worlds makes a unique performance.

Q: Why did you want to be a comedian? Did you ever want to be something else?
A: When I was a little kid I wanted to be an astronaut, but then I found out you have to do physics and I was like nah, I’ll be a comedian. When I was in college I wanted to do a business degree and I didn’t really like it, so I did an Arts degree. Then I got a job working in a library and I also wanted to do comedy. I didn’t always want to be a comic, but it was always something in the back of my mind.

Q: Who was your favorite comedian growing up?
A: One of my favorite comedians growing up was Eddie Murphy. I also really liked Chris Rock. I think it’s easy to make anybody laugh, but if you could make them laugh and think, then I think you’re providing a service to society.

Q: Which comedians influenced you the most?
A: Lenny Bruce.

Q: How long have you been doing comedy for?
A: So, I’ve been doing comedy professionally for 18 years, but as my mom and wife would tell you, I’ve only been making money for the past five or six years.

Q: What do you do when your jokes don’t make someone laugh?
A: It happens less when you’re better at it, but it’s important to know the audience is on your side. If a joke doesn’t go well, all you do is acknowledge it and what that does is it makes the audience know, “Ok, he doesn’t get it either.”

Q: Do you stress before a show?
A: I always have butterflies, but the more you perform, the less you stress.

Q: What’s the biggest show you preformed in?
A: I have a TV special that was on CBC, improv in Miami, and I’ve done festivals, but the biggest one is probably the TV special.

Q: What’s your favorite Italian food and dessert?
A: PIZZA! And sfogliatella and gelato.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for jokes from?
A: From life. My wife, my kids, or my family.

Q: What’s your moto for living life?
I know one thing that I tell my kids is, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Q: Which do you prefer, Pacman or Super Mario Brothers?
Pacman because he can eat it ALL.

Q: Who was the first stand-up comedian you ever saw on TV, and who was the first stand-up comedian you ever saw in person?
The first stand-up comedian I ever saw on TV was…I don’t even remember his name anymore, but the first stand-up comedian I ever saw live was Tim Allen.

Q: Besides stand-up comedy and the library, what other jobs have you had?
In high school, I worked at a car wash, in college I worked at a chemical factory, and once I worked selling shoes at Aldo.

Q: How much could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
1.3 kilograms exactly.