New York comedian Joey Rinaldi performs at Rogue Fest


Rinaldi performed at the Spectrum Art Gallery during Rogue Fest. (Courtesy of Joey Rinaldi)

By Dylan Gonzales, Reporter

During a 4-hour car ride to Vermont, Joey Rinaldi remembered his older brother Frank describing to him what a comedian does. Rinaldi was 5 years old at the time, but it was that moment when he knew making people laugh was something in his future.

Rinaldi, 27, is now a comedian based in New York and started his career when he was just 21.

Rinaldi performed at the Spectrum Art Gallery in Fresno during Rogue Fest from March 3-5 and capped off his show on March 9.

Rinaldi grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he never felt like he truly belonged.

Growing up as an Italian American, Rinaldi said his family “stuck out like sore thumbs” in Greenwich.

Even to some of his cousins living in New York, Rinaldi was seen as an outcast since he lived in “country club Connecticut.”

Rinaldi said he used his experience to start his career in comedy.

“Being a misfit kind of shaped my personality and I think it helped lead me into the route of comedy. When you stick out, being funny works as a good self-defense mechanism,” Rinaldi told The Collegian.

Even though Rinaldi originally attended Franklin & Marshall, a fraternity college in Pennsylvania, and had goals to become an English teacher, his passion for comedy never wavered.

While a student at Franklin & Marshall, Rinaldi would frequently go to dive bars where he would do open mic nights. It got to the point where Rinaldi was enjoying stand-up so much that his friends, George, Andrew and Stefan persuaded him to transfer to a college where there was a bigger comedy scene for him to grow his career.

With the help of his parents, Rinaldi transferred to New York University where he majored in creative writing.

During this time, Rinaldi seldom focused on school.

“Since I was living in New York I basically majored in stand-up comedy. I stopped caring about school and hung out in comedy clubs every night,” Rinaldi said.

As Rinaldi got more involved in the stand-up scene, he began idolizing comics such as Dave Chappelle, Chris Farley, Mike Meyers and Adam Sandler. He idolized comedic legends, especially Chappelle, so much that he attempted to incorporate his style during his performances before realizing that he wasn’t being true to himself.

Rinaldi’s favorite comedian is Jim Jeffries, even though the two have very different styles. Jeffries goes for a raunchy approach to comedy while Rinaldi is more storytelling and describing embarrassing moments.

“I can never perform like that on stage because that’s not me. What’s true for me is I feel embarrassed all day long. I can’t order a cup of tea at a cafe without embarrassing myself,” Rinaldi said.

While searching for comedians to model his performances after, Rinaldi talked to a Reddit user who told him to look into Mike Birbiglia and his comedy album “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.” Rinaldi hadn’t heard of Birbiglia before, but he was immediately hooked and felt a connection to what Birbiglia was saying.

“For the first time ever in my life I found a comedian that reminded me of myself,” Rinaldi said.

Birbiglia was also Italian American and grew up in New England. Unlike traditional comedians, who emphasize telling traditional jokes, Birbiglia focused on telling long stories about embarrassing moments that have happened to him over his life.

“Hearing his jokes and stories inspired me to start sharing my personal stories and I have not looked back since,” Rinaldi said.

In Rinaldi’s “Too Many Stories,” he presents the audience with a board that has 16 cards that are each about an embarrassing story that Rinaldi has gone through. In total, Rinaldi has 25 stories that he rotates through.

Some of these stories include, “Opening for a Hypnotist,” “Broke my Penis,” “GunPoint Robbery in Mexico,” “High School Stalker” and several others.

Rinaldi believes that these types of shows where the audience is highly involved serve as “group therapy.”

“I really believe my dumb stories are therapeutic since my stories are so cringey and painful that everybody should walk off my show feeling better about themselves since they can at least say, ‘Well, my life is definitely better than that loser,’” Rinaldi said jokingly.

Another motivation for Rinaldi to do these types of shows came from the pandemic. Much like people all over the world, comedians were also impacted by all of the shutdowns. During this time, Rinaldi began streaming on Twitch. Rinaldi and fellow comedian Jay Jones would host comedy shows where comedians could share stories with themselves and the viewers.

Even through the rough patches during the pandemic, Rinaldi’s family has been a consistent source of love and support. Even though they laughed at the idea of him becoming a comedian during their trip to Vermont several years ago, his siblings have been his biggest supporters.

When his older brothers Anthony and Frank turned 21, they always made an effort to sneak Rinaldi into comedy clubs, while his sister Rose would always make sure he was up to date on all of the comedy shows, movies and specials released.

They also held Rinaldi accountable and made sure he always kept focused on his dream of being a comedian.

“All three of them are hard-working, driven people and they taught me that I had to take my dreams of being a silly joke teller seriously,” Rinaldi said.

Rinaldi has faced several ups and downs throughout his life. He has persevered through it all. From having to use a catheter for six months to being robbed at gunpoint by the cartel on a trip to Mexico, Rinaldi is dedicated to being true to himself by sharing his stories and connecting with crowds of all ages.

“As much as I wish my life was a vulgar dude who speaks his raunchy mind, I’m unfortunately just an insecure guy who luckily knows how to make it funny,” Rinaldi said.

Being a comedian can lead to long nights of coming up with content and formulating stories that can make sense for audiences. Through all the struggles and hardships faced, Rinaldi is living his dream as, “A person whose job is to be funny.”