Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘My first time onstage was in front of 220 people. It was an instant high when I got my first laugh. I’ve been hooked ever since!’

West Babylon

“Being a chef and a stand-up comedian are similar because both food and jokes make people happy, and if you don’t deliver, the people will let you know it!

“I started out as a dishwasher when I was 15 and worked my way up to chef. For 18 years, I’ve been the chef at The Regency Assisted Living facility in Glen Cove. I like being a chef because I get to eat all day! I make cooking videos and give demonstrations. In June, I will be on the Food Network competing in ‘Supermarket Stakeout.’

“I got into stand-up comedy back in 2014. I thought it would help me with my public speaking, help me with my cooking videos. My first time onstage was in front of 220 people. It was an instant high when I got my first laugh. I’ve been hooked ever since!

In the kitchen and onstage, I’ve been very lucky!

“I’ve performed all over, including the Friars Club. I play Ralph Kramden in a ‘Honeymooners’ show every year. I’ve been on ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ four times. They liked my hyena laugh so much they bought it and used it with other videos.

“Movies? I was a mobster in ‘Me Familia 2’ and an extra in ‘Analyze That’ with Billy Crystal. But here’s my favorite story: I took a ride with my friend to Tribeca, where Robert De Niro’s office is. He heard that they were casting for the movie, ‘A Bronx Tale,’ which was De Niro’s directorial debut. So we get there, and my friend goes in, and they say casting is over. My friend says he’s not leaving, he’s waiting for De Niro.

“We wait an hour, my friend spots De Niro, asks him for a role. De Niro smiles, and then he spots me. He starts pointing at me. Suddenly, I say to him, in lines from ‘Taxi Driver’: ‘You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You must be talkin’ to me because there ain’t nobody else around!’ He says, ‘You! Come to my office for an interview!’

“At the interview, I’m nervous like Ralph Kramden, and he says to me, ‘What’s the matter? You in shock?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m in my favorite actor’s office for an interview,’ and he laughed. We talked a bit and he said, ‘You’re hired!’ De Niro, a great guy!

“In the kitchen and onstage, I’ve been very lucky!”

Interviewed by Saul Schachter