Mike DeStefano performing at Stand Up New York
Mike DeStefano and new fans during a performance at Stand Up New York. (July 10th)
The old saying, “laughter is the best medicine” proved right for Bronx-born comedian, Mike DeStefano. After a roller coaster life filled with drugs, misery and depression, DeStefano turned his life around with the simplest antidote: ‘laughter.’
DeStefano grew up in the rough streets in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, and experienced drugs at the age of 12. Mike attended catholic school throughout his childhood, and grew up with three brothers in a tough neighborhood infested with peer-pressure, local mobsters and drugs. Growing up in such stressed parameters can leave you confused and mentally weak. You not only end up with street smarts, rough and brazen, but get unfortunate opportunity to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an easy reach. And this is exactly what young DeStefano did.
Aside from living in a home full of raging testosterone, and a neighborhood polluted with bad influences, the young trouble-maker, yet a calm Sagittarius says he was always funny, but crazy and rebellious. Mike was tough, but not as tough as one brother he hung out with. “I was the funny one, but my brother was tough as nails. Comedy always saved my ass,” said the bold comedian. The comic grew up playing all the fun street games, like stickball, “Johnny and the Pony”, wiffle-ball and throwing rocks at the neighborhood kids, eventually getting into rock fights.
As a teenager, DeStefano grew more confused, carried a bad attitude, despised authority and continued using drugs, which led to getting kicked out of St. Raymond’s Catholic High School in the Bronx. He hated people telling him what to do, therefore, catholic school was definitely no place for this tough guy.
At 18, DeStefano decided to clean his act by quitting drugs and drinking. He was free from drugs for a while, then relapsed, then got cleaned again. Later on and much older, during the mid 1990’s, the comic lived down in Florida, to end up severely depressed and near death, after the passing of his wife and father.
DeStefano lost his wife to A.I.D.S in 1995, and his father died months later. Prior to the death of his wife and father, Mike was sober. “I had to be sober. I was taking care of both of them,” said the comic. After the passing of his wife and father, Mike became distraught, and felt as if he had nothing to live for. Depression crept in; suicide thoughts swirled in his head. “I was so depressed. I just didn’t care about anything. I started losing my mind,” he said.
In rehab, the comedian found his calling. Slowly, but surely, the raw comic was getting himself cleaned. He was even counseling other drug users. One day at a “12 Step” Narcotics Anonymous convention, what was supposed to be an outdoor joyous gathering, was sidelined and rained out. The occasion turned sour, leaving the counselors, organizers and everybody at loose ends and upset, standing frustrated under a tent. Just 2-3 months clean and sober, DeStefano got the courage to ask the convention organizers if he can be allowed to entertain the crowd. The brave jokester lied and told the organizers he was a ‘comedian,’ and was able to work the crowd. “I didn’t care! I was a crazy drug addict”, said the slick comic. With his strong voice, the drug-user turned comedian eventually won the organizers and the crowd over. Everybody listened to DeStefano’s inspiring words, and more important, laughed at all his jokes. This moment led the self-taught comic to reorganize his life and start comedy.
Mike DeStefano will be 12 years sober this month, and is a “Top 10” contender on NBC’s hit comedy show, “Last Comic Standing.”
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Mike DeStefano can be seen in most New York City top comedy rooms, and outside the Big Apple, will perform at “The Ice House” in Pasadena, CA on Thursday, July 22nd, and at the “Improv” in Hollywood, CA, Saturday, July 24th. DeStefano will also perform at the “Stress Factory” in New Brunswick, NJ, August 18—21.