When talking about TV personalities, can you forget Jay Leno, or Jimmy Kimmel? Well, aside from the fact that they are witty, spontaneous, and smart, there is another thread which binds them: they have an Italian heritage.
Yes, while names like Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel don’t sound particularly Italian,they have Italian blood. Jay Leno was born James Douglas Muir Leno and Jimmy Kimmel was born James Christian Kimmel. Leno is noted for his amazing comic timing as a standup comedian and talk show host, and Kimmel is also a comedian and the host of his own talk show.
The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show is one of the most watched shows on television, and Jay Leno was instrumental in changing it into a cult show of sorts. Johnny Carson hosted the show from 1962 – 1992, and Leno often co-hosted as well as substituted for Carson on a regular basis. Leno often appeared doing standup when he wasn’t hosting and he was a very popular guest. One of his talents is a knack of combining humor with satire and public digs at prominent figures. Take for example this quote wherein he reportedly said, “According to New York publishers, Bill Clinton will get more money for his book than Hillary Clinton got for hers. Well, duh. At least his book has some sex in it.”
Throughout his career, Leno has taken on most of the biggies when it comes to entertainment, especially talk shows. David Letterman was the heir apparent for The Tonight Show, but NBC felt Leno was a better choice, despite the media leaks and disputed statements Leno made to the press before Carson retired. Letterman’s show, Late Night with David Letterman, was right after The Tonight Show slot but after Leno took over The Tonight Show, CBS offered Letterman an 11:30 slot directly competing with Leno. Letterman took it. The rift has never quite been mended.
Another bit of unwanted media attention for Leno happened during his feud with Arsenio Hall whose show, The Arsenio Hall Show, made its debut during 1989 and became a hit almost instantly. Hall’s show immediately resonated with the hipper urban crowd which comprised a much younger demographic than The Tonight Show viewers. When it was announced that Leno would be taking The Tonight Show helm, Hall made a remark that he would easily outdo Leno if it came to that. However, people started drifting toward Leno and Letterman, both of whom tailored their shows toward a younger demographic. Hall’s show was cancelled during 1994 and he eventually mended the rift with Leno and appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show.
Recent happenings include Leno’s leaving The Tonight Show to start his own TV show which debuted well but did not pan out. He returned as host of The Tonight Show early in 2010, replacing Conan O’Brien, enjoying continuous success until 2014, when he left in favor of Jimmy Fallon.
Jimmy Kimmel Show
Jimmy Kimmel is another popular television talk show host who has Italian and German roots. He was born in the Brooklyn area and attended classes at Arizona State University but did not finish his degree. Kimmel, in addition to being a talk show host, has a tremendous interest in music and plays bass clarinet. His first break to showcase his talent came in the form of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, where he played bass clarinet on their famous song “The impression that I get.” Kimmel has openly said that he is a narcoleptic.
He began his career on the radio and then transitioned into comedy via television in the game show titled Win Ben Stein’s Money, where he was Ben Stein’s counterpart. It was during January of 2003 that Kimmel finally got his own talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, which aired on ABC. Kimmel ends most of his shows with the line: “My apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time.” This alludes to a particular show where he was supposed to interview Matt Damon and after a couple of seconds he said they were out of time. Of course, it was a joke and it was all staged with Matt appearing to be angry. During the spring of 1996 Kimmel started making appearances as ‘Jimmy the Fox Guy’ during promos across Fox Network.
Adam Carolla Podcast
Adam Carolla is an actor and television host as well as comedian. He is the host of the Adam Carolla Podcast and he is best known as the co-host of the radio show Loveline. This show ran between 1995 and 2005 and there was also the MTV reincarnation of the same between 1996 and 2000. Carolla has also been co-host of the program The Man Show, as well as performer and co-creator on the TV program Crank Yankers. Carolla was notorious for his bad grades through junior high and graduated with a GPA of just 1.75, but he was always funny in class and was made captain of the football team in school.
Carolla dabbled in many different jobs, from carpet cleaner to boxing instructor and carpenter, but finally decided his niche lay in comedy. He began writing comedy in his spare time and even did a bit of sketch comedy along with M.D. Sweeney for a couple of years. In fact, Sweeney would go on to become Carolla’s partner in his restaurant business later on. Carolla’s first foray into television came with The Man Show where he worked with friend and partner Jimmy Kimmel. He eventually left the show once Jimmy left, and became a writer as well as regular guest on Jimmy Kimmel’s shows. Between August and November 2005, Carolla hosted the show Too Late With Adam Carolla. His Adam Carolla Show podcasts entered the Guiness World record as the most downloaded podcast ever in 2011.
Dancing with the Starts: Kelly Monaco
Kelly Monaco is a famous TV personality who is also an actress, model, contestant and winner of the reality show Dancing With The Stars. Monaco was featured as Playboy Playmate of the Month during April of 1997 and has also been featured in various publications of the special edition Playboy series. Monaco has also appeared as the cover girl for various magazines like Maxim and FHM. She was the winner of the first season of Dancing With The Stars despite the severe criticism from Bruno Tonioli, a judge on the show. During February of 2009 Monaco explored the world of dancing with Peepshow, a Burlesque Act, directed by Jerry Mitchell, which dealt with the casino scene in Las Vegas. Monaco has worked on various television shows such as Baywatch, Punk’d, Hard Copy, Port Charles, Late Last Night, Spin City, and many others. Monaco’s parents Albert “Al” and Carmina Monaco are, of course, of Italian descent.
Queer Eye For The Straight Guy: Jai Rodriguez
Jai Rodriguez might strike you as an average guy, but this noted television personality has performed as a musician as well as an actor, and is most famous for his work on the program Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Rodriguez has also co-written a book along with the other hosts of the same show. Rodriguez is of Italian and Puerto Rican heritage.
He has acted in various stage plays such as the musical Zanna, Don’t, in which he played the title character, as well as in the musical Rent as Angel. He also performed, as well as created, a one-night stage show titled Jai Rodriguez: xPosed. The show attempted to reveal the story behind Rodriguez’s struggle to evolve from his religious familial beliefs, as well as show his overall career. His TV hosting career extended to becoming the culture guide at Queer Eye. He also hosted Ultimate Style, a weekly program covering beauty, celebrities, home, fashion, and other elements of style.
Beach Party Films: Annette Funicello
Annette Funicello, whose parents were both of Italian descent, was a staple of the Mickey Mouse Club and has always enjoyed the status of most popular member of the cast. In fact, she started her career in the Mickey Mouse Club and was chosen by Walt Disney himself as the last Mouseketeer. Once Funicello became a teenager, she moved away from Disney and went on to become a teen sensation, acting in many beach party films such as Pajama Party, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, Bikini Beach, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, etc. Funicello had a brilliant start to her career, however her health began failing her and she was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Funicello tried her hand at a collectible business where she launched her signature line of teddy bears for children as part of her company Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company. She passed away in 2013 from multiple sclerosis complications.
Growing Up Gotti
If you have ever watched the Growing Up Gotti series, which used to appear on A&E, you already know the entire cast of this show starting from Carmine Gotti Agnello to John Gotti Agnello, Victoria Gotti, and Frank Gotti Agnello. The show was all about Victoria Gotti, the daughter of mafia boss John Gotti and her three sons John Gotti Agnello, Carmine Agnello Jr., and Frank Gotti Agnello. The show came under criticism because it showed the family living an ultra luxury life, which was obviously from blood money because of the Mafia boss lineage of their grandfather. Many persons criticized the show because they thought it glorified organized crime. The show featured the family using plenty of foul language and showcased the dysfunctional aspect of the family as well as the tumultuous relationship between the mother and her sons.
As per the quote from Film.com on the show “Victoria Gotti has the warmth of an ice pick and her sons the charm of, well, thugs.”
Who’s The Boss?
Tony Danza is best known for his roles in the hit television series Who’s The Boss and Taxi. He was nominated for four Golden Globe awards and an Emmy award. In Taxi he plays the character of a part-time boxer and cab driver by the name of Tony Banta. In the series Who’s the Boss he played a single father and housekeeper by the name of Tony Micelli. He also had other roles in The Tony Danza Show as well as Hudson Street. Danza got his start playing a poker player in the movie National Lampoon’s Animal House where he had no dialog.
Does the name Giuliana DePandi ring a bell? No? How about Giuliana Rancic? She is the very popular face on E! News along with Ryan Seacrest. She is often seen at various red carpet events like the Academy Awards and Golden Globe. She has also been executive producer and creator of the show on MTV titled Celebrity Rap Superstar. Giuliana hails from a master tailor family, who owns a very high-end men’s clothing line called Bruno Cipriani in North Bethesda, Maryland.
They and many other Italian Americans help bring a taste of Italy to the United States, and we hope to continue to see such varied talent.