November 2, 2009, 12:17 pm
Her Jokes Are From Morris Park, Not on It
By Corey Kilgannon
Adrienne IapalucciCorey Kilgannon/The New York Times “My whole family lived
here — I felt like I knew everybody,” Adrienne Iapalucci said of Morris
Park, her neighborhood in the Bronx. “In Manhattan, you don’t even know who
lives in your building.”
Adrienne Iapalucci, 31, grew up in the Morris Park section of the Bronx,
one of the few Italian neighborhoods in New York City that hasn’t changed
all that much.
There are still plenty of pizzerias and bakeries, and the parking meter
posts are painted the red, green and white of the Italian flag, as are
sections of Morris Park Avenue, where the annual Bronx Columbus Day Parade
It still has a tightknit family feel that although mere minutes away from
bustling Manhattan by car or subway, remained a world apart. It was never
the tough South Bronx, but you had to hold your own and show a bit of moxie
— Regis Philbin hails from here — and Ms. Iapalucci, an up-and-coming
stand-up comedian, has that in spades.
“Growing up here made me who I am — you had to have a sense of humor to fit
in,” Ms. Iapalucci said, walking the neighborhood the other day, where she
still lives in a basement apartment in her mother’s house on Haight Avenue.
“My mother taught me how to fight, physically fight, because I didn’t know
Ms. Iapalucci recently took first in a nationwide contest, based on online
voting, winning the opportunity to open for a headlining performer at the
New York Comedy Festival, which opens in locations throughout the city on
Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
Caroline Hirsch, owner of Caroline’s comedy club in Midtown Manhattan, and
founder and producer of the New York Comedy Festival, now in its sixth
year, said Ms. Iapalucc “was picked out of hundreds of contestants.”
“This kid has that tone and edginess in her humor, and she draws on her
life experiences,” Ms. Hirsch said. “She’s out every night at the small
clubs in town, and this is a big opportunity for her.”
The Comedy Festival includes more than 150 comedians, including Stephen
Colbert, Dane Cook, Tracy Morgan and Bill Maher, with a musical appearance
by Bruce Springsteen. She will attend the 2010 People’s Choice Awards in
In addition, Ms. Iapaulucci was a semifinalist in New York’s Funniest
Stand-Up contest, also part of the New York Comedy Festival, and was
recently a runner-up in the New York Underground Comedy Festival’s Best of
the Boroughs contest.
Her comedy taps into that certain energy of living in a so-called “outer
borough” — so close to the frightening abyss of possibilities in Manhattan,
yet buffered by the insular nature of the neighborhood you were born into.
She was always the class clown, but she was smart, too, and her goal was to
either go to law school or try to get on “Saturday Night Live.”
Six years ago, she began indulging her dream, trying to book herself at as
many stand-up engagements as she could. These days, she drives into
Manhattan nearly every night for stand-up appearances, mostly for the
“I tell people I live in the Bronx, they’re like, ‘Really? Do you ever get
shot at?’ ” she said. Ms. Iapalucci bases much of her comedy on her life
growing up in the Bronx life, cutting up in Catholic school, having a black
boyfriend, working as a nanny in Westchester, working at Emilio’s Pizzeria
on the corner.
Ms. Iapaulucci walked along Radcliff Avenue, just off Morris Park Avenue
and stopped at the apartment building she grew up in: 1823 Radcliff, with
both sets of in-laws living on the block.
She stood on the block, with its well-kept tiny front yards, and she
described her old neighborhood: Twenty kids out on the block every evening;
old ladies in nightgowns and hair curlers yelling from windows; men parking
their Cadillacs in “their spot” on the street.
Up through college, she lived her entire life in this square-mile
neighborhood of one and two-family homes and small apartment buildings. She
hardly ever ventured into Manhattan, despite living minutes away.
“My whole family lived here — I felt like I knew everybody,” she said. “In
Manhattan, you don’t even know who lives in your building.”
She drives a 1996 Honda Civic with roughly 200,000 miles on it and works as
a secretary at a law firm in New Rochelle.
“The people at the firm are supporting me,” she said. “They say, ‘Hopefully
you’ll win so we can hire a real legal secretary.’ ”
Ms. Iapalucci said she said she worked for a while at the Bronx district
“I was a crime victim’s advocate, but I quit after one of my clients stole
Her mother, who has also worked as a comedian, now answers listings to make
money by renting their dogs and cars for movie shoots.
“My dog has been on “The Sopranos,” and my car was in that 50 Cent movie,”
she said. “I tell people that my car and my dog have better résumés than I
Her father, a Bronx mailman who organized the local softball league, died
of cancer a few years back, and Ms. Iapalucci was involved in a car
accident. She became depressed and gained 100 pounds. But she has lost the
weight and found a good antidepressant and works her life’s stumbles into
She mentioned suicide to her mother, she said, “But my mother said, ‘Don’t
do it — I co-signed your student loans.’ ”
Across the street, an old woman in a nightgown in curlers stared at us from
her window. The street sweeper passed, and an older man carefully parked
his Cadillac by the curb and sat inside, protecting his spot.
“I mean, there are probably things here you don’t see in most places,” she
said. “Little things, like I remember at my sister’s graduation, there were
two Italian mothers fighting over whose seat it was, literally
Now she was walking along Morris Park Avenue, past Scaglione Brothers’
bakery where her father used to send her to buy bread, past an unmarked
hair salon whose 1970s-era décor has remained unchanged
“They used this salon in Spike Lee’s ‘Summer of Sam’ — and they didn’t even
have to redecorate the place,” she said.
“Most of my friends have moved to Long Island or Westchester and have
families — me, I’m sitting in traffic alone on the Cross Bronx in a car
that has 200,00 miles on it,” she said. “But I’m not going to quit till I