How Dare You: The Pat Cooper Interview

For nearly four decades Pat Cooper has appeared in comedy clubs and major theaters, on radio shows and late-night T.V. talk shows. He has worked with Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Paul Anka, and Frank Sinatra (and a score of others) and considered one of the true comedy greats. At 83 he’s still working as he and the hilarious Susie Essman will be stopping into Bergen Pac in Englewood, NJ on 9/13 and at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College on 9/14.

Opening this interview by reminding the venerable Mr. Cooper that I had literally run into him years ago at a Vic Damone concert, he spat: “He still thinks he’s Vic Damone. He had a concert in Florida recently and he showed!”

Howard Stern’s most high-strung guest, Cooper is as erasable now as ever and trying as I did to get some questions in, Cooper regaled me of his views about life, comedy and the how and why he does what he still does.

How is it for guys like you and Damone, all these many years later, still out there working?

No one remembers, my grandkids don’t know Sinatra. We had our time, yesterday was ours. Now it’s their time. That’s ok, that’s the way it should be.

As much as any other aspect of Pat Cooper’s comedy is his Italian heritage. There are some very specific popular ethnic markers in American comedy and I wanted to get Cooper’s-real name Pasquale Caputo-read on this.

Arguably the great comedic traditions in this country are African American, Jewish and Italian…which are your specific roots. What’s unique to Italian comedy, do you think?

Yes, I’m a stubborn Italian. To be funny is a gift but when I grew-up if you were funny you were considered disrespectful. If I was Jewish, had the DNA of the Jewish culture I’d have learned their comic flow, their rhythms; as it was I learned the Italian flow, if you don’t have flow you can’t be a comic. But years ago, we did impressions, we sang, we did everything, today if a comic has six minutes they got a series!

How is it that you are still chugging along at 83?

People say, ‘You look good for 83’ I’d rather be forty and look this age! My father used to say there’s no tomorrow, there was yesterday and that’s the only guarantee.

Now don’t ask me how, but we skirted round to politics, though Pat didn’t weigh in about Obama or Romney, other than admit to respecting the President no matter who was in that office. But he did give me his views on the controversial subject of gay rights…even when I hadn’t asked.

Comin’ out of the closet? We never had a closet; we hung clothes on the doorknob! If you say ‘I’m a gay man’ that’s fine, I agree, ok I say. I’m not against any gay community. Be happy, come to my house, have a dish of macaroni.

In the end it is about dignity for Pat Cooper, something he talks about as much in his book How Dare You Say You Dare Me? as in almost every appearance you will see him ranting and raving on.

What does dignity mean to you?

Dignity means taking care of yourself, being respectful of the people next to you, paying your taxes and minding your business.

To purchase tickets to Bergen PAC show, please visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/000048CEBDEECC74?artistid=702563&majorcatid=10001&minorcatid=1

To purchase tickets to the Purchase College show, please visit http://www.artscenter.org/tickets/reserve.aspx?performanceNumber=4344

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