The unedited Joe Gaiter interview! HE contacted me for an interview knowing my work in "Sister Act 2".
What is your view on life right now?
If you want to create the dream that you see for yourself you need to block out all other distracting or disempowering influences. You will not make it unless you are vigilantly self-confident and keep one leg in the real world and the other leg in your dreams. Even constructive criticism can chip away at your belief in yourself and lessen your ability to affect the change you see possible in the world.
Where did you grow up? Tell me about your childhood.
I was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, but I grew up in Santa Clara, California. I was the only comedian in the microchip generation out of the Silicon Valley. All of my friends and family were computer programmers and I.T people and I was the class clown. I started entertaining at the age of six performing for family and friends of the family. I would dress up in a suit with glasses and a cane and try to do a Brittish accent and perform for classmates and family members. I started practicing magic and doing magic tricks to “amaze” my audiences.
Where did you spend most of your teenage years? High school?
Santa Clara High School was my school. I infected every department of performance with my hammy entertainment addiction. At one point I was the Entertainment Commissioner of the school, the Drum Major of the marching band, the assistant conductor of the orchestra, active in choir and Barbershop Quartet, as well as being the President of the Drama Club. My hunger for show business was insatiable and my work ethic unstoppable.
Where did you go after high school?
I attended one semester of Foothill College in the Bay Area, but my grades lacked and I needed to perform. I did one play in that semester before my college career came to an end.
When did you begin acting?
I did one community production before the age of fifteen, but I really jumped into acting at the age of fifteen. My friends convinced me I was well suited to acting because I was funny. I was cast in the school play, “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
Acting was different than what I had been doing because you had “lines” and a director. I did my best and received the award for “Most Improved Actor” (which is a polite way of saying I was inexperienced and got better as the production moved on.)
We all remember you on “Sister Act 2”. How did you get that role?
I was in the hospital for asthma. My mom found a flyer for a workshop to get an agent in San Francisco. I went to the workshop and the agent signed me. The second audition she sent me on was for “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit”. I went through a series of auditions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I was up for the part of “The White Guy Who Thinks He’s Black Because he can rap.” In L.A it came down to David Faustino (Married with Children), Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark and the Funky bunch- Boogie Nights- The Departed etc.) and me.
Instead of pitting us together in a fight to the death, the writers created a new role for me and my comedy background as the class nerd. I received a phone call telling me I got the job while my parents were away at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on vacation. By the time they called to see how I was doing I was living in a plush Hollywood community provided by Disney Pictures. We did everything during the filming. Singing on the soundtrack under the direction of Mervyn Warren of “Take 6” (the gospel group), filming throughout L.A, and taping the Disney Channel music video on the old Charlie Chaplin stage at AMG studios. It was a true honor. I made some great friends and had a fantastic time. More of the details will be in my upcoming book to be published later this year.
How long have you done stand-up comedy?
Right before “Sister Act 2” I studied stand-up with a great teacher Neil Lieberman in S.F. He got me started on my way and I followed up in Los Angeles at comedy clubs and under the teachings of Judy Carter, author of “The Stand Up Comedy Handbook”. I was honored to perform in the historic Bay Area “Holy City Zoo” as well as “The Improv” and “The Comedy Store” in Hollywood. My influences were Sam Kinison, Pee-Wee Herman, Bobcat Goldthwait, Robin Williams, Amazing Johnathan, Penn & Teller,and Andy Kaufman.
Tell us about your work with Cirque du Soleil.
To start this story I must transport us back in time. Back to 1991, when I was seventeen years old. My family took me to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Nouvelle Experience” in San Jose. The only thing I remember about seeing this show was it’s extravagant production and the funniest/harshest clown I had ever seen. He was so funny and provocative to his volunteers. Cut to fifteen years later (2006) and this same man, personally, hired me to be a clown in his Cirque du Soleil produced show, “KOOZA”. I co-created the two ten minute clown acts in the show and toured North America for four years performing with this incredible production.
What do you want your legacy to be?
The word “legacy” presupposes leaving an impression, and I will be lucky if I do. Mostly I am here to see my own vision of possibility to manifestation. If I can do that I will be very lucky. The journey of “The Clown” is one of varying degrees of enlightenment and he still clumsily messes everything up. I am honored to just be able to entertain every demographic of human existence in varying ways.
I am working to make people happy and informed and anything else is gravy. If I can continue to achieve this, I will be a very satisfied entertainer.
What are you working on currently?
I have created an entertainment company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and continue to teach workshops/Master Classes, and do variety performance all over the globe. My memoir will be published later this year, which traces some of the bizarre and hilarious stories of my life in entertainment and the spiritual path.
Joe Gaiter can be found at:
The scintillating life of Creative Director/ Variety Entertainer, Christian Fitzharris, and his never ending voyage to do everything in the world. ( at a respectful pace... of course)