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You can’t get high around kids

The rise of comedian Michael Zampino

Michael Zampino

Greg Bollinger

Great standup requires not just great material, but a confident command of the stage. Tulsa comic Michael Zampino inhabits the middle ground of the “be funny” and “don’t give a shit” venn diagram. I attribute his approach to standup to both the amount of weed he smokes and just how long he’s been doing this. 

I caught Zampino at the Comedy Parlor, where emcee Cian Baker introduced him as “the funniest man in Tulsa” before adding, “well, at least he was four years ago. That shit expires.”

Zampino is aware of the fickle nature of local notoriety, though he seems to have his renewal fees set to auto-draft. 

His jokes center on his love for the green stuff and his Rubenesque physique. He also discusses the trials of being both a father to a newborn and stepfather to an 11 year-old, and how the golden rule to step-parenting is just “don’t let that kid see your dick.” 

“You can’t get high around kids ‘cause they ask a ton of questions,” he tells crowds. “Then you gotta get them high, and hope they forget what they saw. Then your sister gets pissed that your nephew’s high, but you remember you don’t have a sister or a nephew and you’re like ‘hey, who’s kid did we just get high? We may wanna get outta here. Besides, this Incredible Pizza is lame.’”

Before Zampino was crowned “Funniest Person in Tulsa” at a Loony Bin contest in 2013, he said he spent three years “eating shit at open mics.”

Childhood cartoons like “Bobby’s World” and “Life with Louie,” and the comedy of their creators, Howie Mandel and Louie Anderson, were Zamipno’s intro to standup. He carried his love of the art into adulthood, but like George Costanza with women, he would find tiny excuses to keep his distance from the stage. 

“I’d justify it with little things, like, ‘how will you keep writing material?’” 

Zampino’s friends finally convinced him to test the waters of Tulsa’s burgeoning comedy scene in 2010. Open mics led to feature shows, features led to the “Funniest Person” title, and the good fortune continued to roll in.

He’s also enjoyed watching Tulsa’s comedy scene blossom into its current form.

“There was a period of infighting, and people popping up and moving, but I think the greatest difference over even the last six or seven months is this sense of togetherness and camaraderie,” he said.

That camaraderie can be seen in Channel Four and a Half, a production company Zampino maintains with local comics Landry Miller, Ryan Green, and Andrew Deacon. The crew books feature gigs for touring comics in addition to producing a series of web shows and podcasts. Zampino currently records and edits the podcasts “Lost Sock” and “Pillow Fight,” and hosts his own called “Opinions Like A-Holes” with Hilton Price.

For more from Mitch, read his article on the closing of Holy Mountain Records, and two new record stores coming to town.