From the Dailyrecord.com April 23, 2004
Joe Piscopo's charity efforts have earned him the nickname Joey Benefit
By Ellen Wilkowe, Daily Record
For entertainer Joe Piscopo, New Jersey represents jokes or a state of mind - each exit a portal to opportunity, such as his upcoming benefit show Thursday at the Community Theatre in Morristown.
"New Jersey's a great place," he said in an interview while sitting in Route 287 traffic. "But why don't they put signs in this state? It's a joke by the Transportation Department. Everybody's got signs."
Bubbling with enthusiasm over his return to Morristown, Piscopo is bringing his Sinatra-influenced instrumental-based entourage to benefit Employment Horizons, a Hanover Township-based nonprofit agency that provides employment to individuals with disabilities and other work challenges.
"I am Joey Benefit," he said. "Everyone's always busting my chops because I'm always doing charity work, but somebody's got to do it."
Elevated to celebrity status via "Saturday Night Live," Piscopo became a household name in the early 1980s along with co-star Eddie Murphy and their famed Frank Sinatra comedy spoof, later turned tribute, an entertainment evolution brought on after Piscopo met "Mr. S."
"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this," he said. "I did Frank Sinatra (routines) as a joke - a comedy piece - and it really stuck. But then I met Mr. S., a great North Jersey Italian American. He was father-like. And I met his family. I have this utmost respect."
Piscopo, who drew more than 2,000 to his last Community Theatre appearance with former "SNL" colleague Victoria Jackson, will be joined by singer Tony DeSare, whom he likened to a young Harry Connick Jr. He also will have his oldest son Joey with him.
As for keeping in touch with former "SNL" brethren, such as Jackson, Murphy and Kevin Nealon, Piscopo says he occasionally runs into them at events or parties. "It's a fraternity or sorority thing," he said. "We all went through the same battle. It ('SNL') was a tough, dog of a show to do. There's a camaraderie there."
In keeping with his charitable reputation, Piscopo purchased a block of seats for patients at the Lyons Campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System. "Gotta bring the veterans in," he said.
Piscopo established the Positive Impact Foundation in Newark, which is dedicated to revitalizing Newark and helping area children. He is also active in supporting Big Brothers, Big Sisters and The Boys and Girls Club. He established a production company named Garden State Productions, with offices in Morristown.
An avid supporter of "smart growth" in the Garden State, his latest project involves redeveloping the arts district in downtown Rahway, "the Route 1 exit," where he was heading to a meeting Tuesday after his interview.
When he's not performing, networking or spending time with his younger children, Alexandra, 5, and Michael, 19 months, he's rooting for the Nets, specifically Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Brian Scalabrine, "the red-headed kid who's half Italian," or venting over the state's loss of them. "We've been outmaneuvered by New York," he said.
Also an avid Yankees fan, Piscopo reminisced over Aaron Boone's home run that won last year's playoffs.
But there's one singer, aside from Sinatra, whom he holds responsible for helping dispel New Jersey stereotypes: Bruce Springsteen. "He's one of the best entertainment acts around," Piscopo said. "He works really hard - playing for three hours."
In addition to touting home-grown talent, Piscopo boasts his Italian heritage, his most recent venture promoting his Ragu's Sloppy Joe recipe with other above-average Joes: Joe Theisman, Joe Fraizer and Joe Millionaire (Evan Marriott).
Who knows? The "Rich and Meaty" guy may even stop in at his favorite Morristown Italian eateries - Provesi's or LaCampagne - the South Street exit.