This article appears originally at: The Bergen Record
By: IAN SPELLING
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Rob Magnotti always got a kick out of mimicry, whether he heard friends imitating a teacher or saw Eddie Murphy or the late Frank Gorshin on TV. When he started to make others chuckle by doing it himself, Magnotti discovered his calling.
“It’s an innate ability,” Magnotti says. “I have an ear for it. I have an eye for it. And I can just re-create a person’s aura and persona. Also, I come from somewhat of a theater background, so my doing it could have something to do with that, that it’s in the roots of acting. When I was a kid, I’d mimic my favorite movie stars after seeing a movie and keep replaying scenes with my friends or my brother. It probably stems from that as well.”
Magnotti took it a step further while at Montclair State University, where he studied, among other things, broadcasting and acting. “I remember getting started there with open-mike nights in the Rathskeller,” he says. “My brother helped promote the events with all his friends on campus because he was a year ahead of me. Then I got on the club circuit, and I went back and performed at the big theater there a year later, when I [turned] professional. It was a great place to learn.”
These days, Magnotti is a master impressionist who can make audiences think they’re in the company of President Bush, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Dr. Phil and just about anyone from “The Sopranos.”
“I do stand-up bits about being single, being a dog owner, being part of a large Italian family,” Magnotti says by telephone from his home in Central New Jersey. “And I mix celebrity impressions in there. I also do original characters.”
Magnotti is one of the busiest guys on the stand-up circuit. He appears regularly at comedy clubs nationwide, in dedicated comedy venues and onstage at casino clubs. He opened for Dennis Miller at Caesars Palace in Atlantic City in September, is closing out a week of shows at the Borgata with appearances tonight through Sunday, and will pop up at Dangerfield’s in Manhattan.
“When I do my shows, I have a basic framework for my act, but I’m always a quarterback up there, reading the audience,” Magnotti says. “I get a view, a vibe, and you have to alter the game plan according to that, according to how the crowd is that night, what they’re responding to. You have to be flexible and go with their sensibilities.”
Dangerfield’s happens to be one of Magnotti’s favorite haunts. He grew up a fan of Rodney Dangerfield’s and was able to meet him before the elder comic passed away in 2004.
“It’s really a full-circle thing for me, playing Dangerfield’s,” Magnotti says. “The director of comedy club entertainment for the Borgata comedy club, Ray Garvey, saw me at Dangerfield’s, and he’s the one who brought me to the Borgata in A.C. So you never know, in any city club, who might show up and offer you something that might change the rest of your life or career.”
Beyond his stand-up appearances, Magnotti had a cameo in the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” appeared on TV in TV Land’s “Top Ten” and is a regular on the Sirius radio program “Jim Breuer Unleashed.” It’s clear he wouldn’t mind following in the footsteps of such comics-turned-multimedia stars as Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Kevin James.
“That’d be great,” Magnotti says. “I’m definitely pursuing acting, commercials, movie roles, voice-over work, sitcoms. I’m up for anything.”