Sports have always played a starring role in the life of comedian Dan LaMorte. It started with baseball where he became a dominant pitcher at the high school level in Manalapan, NJ. His success in high school led him to scholarship offers to play collegiate baseball at several universities. But as in many stories, there are many twists and turns and LaMorte’s story is not any different.
One of the many twists started with LaMorte’s college decision. As previously mentioned, he had several scholarship offers, including from schools out of state. At the time he was deciding on which school to attend, LaMorte was facing legal issues regarding an illegal substance (marijuana). Because of that, he decided to stay in-state and he attended Felician University.
The twists continued his freshman year when on opening day, LaMorte, a pitcher made an appearance in the game and tore his UCL and had to get Tommy John surgery. But it wasn’t all negative, during his recovery time, LaMorte first started to dabble in comedy and it was pretty clear to him that there was something there.
“I was very lucky, within the first few months I knew I had something special in comedy.”
At that point, LaMorte still believed he was going to return to the mound and play baseball but the recovery never came. He dropped out of Felician University and then went onto a top ranked junior college for baseball shortly after that. However, LaMorte quit baseball on the very first practice at the junior college, it simply wasn’t fun for him anymore.
“I made a promise to myself and to my parents when baseball stopped being a game and started to feel like work that I would quit because baseball was fun and that’s what it’s meant for in my life. The second I stopped having fun was the second I quit.”
During that time he continued to gain experience in the world of comedy. It became evident to him and others that he had a special talent.
“There was a comic who had met my parents at a show and he pulled them aside and he said listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but your son has something special and if he wants to drop out of college and pursue this I think you should let him because it could go in a very good direction.”
Inevitably, his parents let him drop out of college and pursue his dream of comedy. He started going on the road pretty quickly, his dad would even go out on the road with him.
His success has grown to the point that he is now about to head out on a headlining tour in 24 different cities, called the “Dunking Nuggets Tour”. On social media he has grown a following with over 35K followers on Twitter and he has the envious blue check mark (he is verified) on Twitter as well. He’s been to after parties for Dave Chappelle, had dinner with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler and performed sets at the likes of the Comedy Cellar in New York City and Zanies in Chicago.
To the people he grew up around including old teachers, aren’t surprised that the class clown who loved being the center of attention.
“I remember I was in a supermarket in my hometown, in Manalapan, NJ about four months ago and I ran into my guidance counselor from high school. And he said, “you’re a comic now right?” and I said yea. He goes, “all of us at the school knew that was going to happen,” he goes “none of us are surprised.”
“My whole life was led to be this, I was always the kid who dressed up as Santa and went around the neighborhood and gave out presents, in June. I literally would dress up as Santa in June. I always reveled in being the center of attention, it was never something I strayed away from.”
But what is most interesting is his honesty in his work. He talks about almost anything that someone may ask, particularly when it comes to mental health issues. LaMorte himself suffers from mental health issues and has gone to therapy for it many times. He even started a podcast called “Breaking the Fourth Wall” to discuss his week, anything on his mind and answer questions people may have. On one particular issue, he discusses a time when he planned on taking his life. Going into the details of the night and how his friends in comedy saved him from himself. It’s this honesty that has helped him personally and has brought meaning to what he does.
This is my new podcast. The logo is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen (thanks @james_halasy). If you guys could find it on iTunes and subscribe/leave it 5-Star reviews that would be amazing. It takes like 5 seconds. Also, I like the amount of chubby I am in this cartoon. It’s now my goal weight.
“When I started stand up, I was very scared to tell the truth. It was a quote that a famous comic had given to a friend, my friend had asked for help and then on a little note, the famous comic wrote down, “tell them the awful truth and make it funny and you’ll be successful forever.” I don’t know if that was something I really read into a lot but the amount of weight that I felt lift of my shoulders to not only share these things but be able to tell them to them with strangers and make them laugh about it. It helped me so much. Honesty is a big part of my brand as a comic. I very much, what you see in person is what you’re going to get on stage. I don’t put on an act.”
“I’m very open about my mental illness, about the accidents that I’ve been in, about the hardships life has handed me. As unique as it seems to me, there are ten million if not more people going through similar things. I think when I started I did it for myself but I think now I do it to let people find a home. So many times there are people who are looking for people like them. I try very hard to give them that opportunity. If you look at my Twitter, whether you follow me or not, my DMs are always open, I encourage people to message me and I try and answer them.”
This openness has been part of the evolution of LaMorte’s career as he started out as a “loud 19-year-old” and now considers himself a storyteller, with the truth becoming a focus of his act. He describes his comedy as a “healing process” that people find enjoyment in.
Opening up and becoming honest with his audience about who he is, how he is living and the joys of exploring new things. One of those things has been the mixed martial arts world.
His interest in the sport started in the Liddell years but got serious when he was 20 years old and started working with Middle Easy, where one of his current podcasts, Fight Fist Podcast is hosted (his two other hosts are Diego Lopez and Luke Touma). The relationship started with Middle Easy when he pitched them the idea of a story called: From Fat to Fit to Fighter. His goal was to write an article after taking an amateur fight and then eventually pitching the story as a TV show. He started training at the Institute of Muay Thai in New Jersey. He was allowed to train with their professional fight team and then he learned to truly appreciate the sport.
Sadly, LaMorte was involved in two serious car accidents that forced him to stop training and not finish the article. While sitting on the sidelines, he knew he had to stay involved in the sport so he pitched his podcast idea to Middle Easy which was accepted.
LaMorte specifically went to Middle Easy with the podcast because he had been a fan of the site for a long time. Middle Easy was one of the major brands in MMA for many years, it is still well known but LaMorte has the goal of brining it back to its peak.
“Middle Easy is a great brand still, but they used to be one of the biggest brands. They were a massive website. As a comic, I felt I could bring back the glory days of Middle Easy. Which is what I’m trying to still do. Which is why I go to the events and I live tweet them and do interviews and all that good stuff and we have the podcast every week.”
The comedian doesn’t deem himself a journalist (though he has been one before) instead, his goal is to become a personality in the sport. He says that has allowed fighters to become more comfortable on the show and let’s fans in to see who they really are.
“The goal for me, I’m lucky enough to have a steady following online, so I like to get guys like, Jimmie (Rivera), and Aljamain (Sterling) and Randy (Brown), guys who are super accomplished in the UFC but their following isn’t (as big), I want to show my fans them, I want to showcase them and what they do in life. If you listen to the podcast, when we have interviews, a lot of the time its not all that MMA heavy, it’s to bring them into these fighter’s lives.”
The Fight Fist crew also do interviews a little differently than may podcasters. They do all of them in person, whether it’s travelling to a fighter’s house or gym. When they interviewed Randy Brown at Brown’s house, Brown even had a tray of muffins, a fruit platter and other goodies for the team, LaMorte said “that was the nicest thing.”
Part of the reason LaMorte believes he has had success with getting such big-name guests is that he and his co-hosts bring a different feel to an interview. That it’s an easy one to do and the majority of the interview isn’t about fighting.
“Truthfully I think being a comic helps me get these people on because it’s not your generic interview. It’s not an Ariel Helwani interview. Even though he’s more respected, we have more of a fun banter. Where as we don’t keep it strictly professional.”
With that in mind, LaMorte is always curious how he is viewed by the fighters, but he believes he has their respect.
“I always wonder that, I always wonder if they don’t take me serious. But I think when we get into talking MMA, they realize I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been following the sport heavy for years.”
And he’s developed not only contacts but friends through it.
“It’s weird because I’ve noticed a lot of fighters who, the media side of things as media and so far I found these guys have treated me like a friend, where we text back and forth.”
The Fight Fist crew, has even attended several live events including UFC and PFL events. They have been invited by these organizations to attend the events, which in the UFC’s case specifically, it’s hard to get credentialed in general. The podcast has been done out of love so far as the hosts haven’t made a penny from it yet, but the journey has been worth it so far.
“I did not think it was going to happen this quickly. The podcast had only started in November of 2017. And even then we didn’t take it serious at first, because we had to find our legs, none of us had done a podcast before. So we had three guys, Diego wasn’t even a part of it at the time, he was our first guest. And the fact that here we are now, not even a full year later and only basically being a serious podcast for 3-4 month now and every event in the Northeast we’re being invited to. And its so fun to see how fast its happening. I’m not making any money from MMA, I’ve made zero dollars from MMA. But I get to sit cage side and live tweet events. I’m starting to do a thing where I every event I go to I write a road journal about it to bring more of a life to the event.”
“I really don’t have words for how quickly it happened, it’s been a dream come true.”
LaMorte developed a passion for the sport but also the brand he represents, so much so that he actually tried to buy it.
“The funny thing about Middle Easy is it was going to be my first adult purchase. I was going to buy Middle Easy and I got out bit, near the last seconds by the new owner. I put together my life savings, that’s how much I love the website, I was really going to take a risk and buy it all and take on the brand. Probably for the better of everybody that didn’t happen, cause I would be very much in debt at the moment.”
From all of his success, LaMorte looks at it as a continued journey, that while in it, it’s hard to enjoy the success he has had. Much like fighters often do.
“It’s funny when I step back from it, right now we’re hitting four years of me in stand up, though its been one of the quickest ascensions in recent memory, internally it feels like a lifetime. I mean, this world weighs very heavy on an individual. So those four years feel – I realize that I’ve spent the same amount of time in comedy that I have in high school and high school seemed to go by much quicker and those were not fun times. People often ask me how I feel about my career, maybe if I was an outsider I would love what I’ve accomplished in such a short time. But the crazy thing about comedians is that nothing is ever enough, it’s always about what’s next.”
What’s next for LaMorte is a tour he calls: “The Dunking Nuggets Tour” named after one of his more famous jokes. LaMorte will embark on a 24-city tour starting on August 30. Starting in New York City, a few of the places LaMorte will visit are: Richmond, VA, Joplin, MO, New Orleans, LA, Houston, TX and he will end his tour in Atlanta, GA.
“The hope is that it goes well and that every show is sold out but the real internal hope is that you just make memories. At the end of the day, I’m just 23, I don’t have to buckle down and become an adult yet…maybe I should.”
Through it all, life on the stage, sitting in a car recording a podcast, at a fighter’s house doing an interview or at an MMA event covering the UFC or PFL, LaMorte has enjoyed the ride.
“Four years in and the life never ceases to amaze me.”
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