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I could attempt to come up with a pithy description of US comedy veteran Eddie Pepitone’s act, but someone’s beaten me to it: he goes by the nickname ‘The Bitter Buddha’.
Dark, angry and depressed, the Brooklyn-born stand-up mixes bursts of philosophical outrage with moments of calm, introverted self-loathing – imagine an overweight, balding man having a darkly funny nervous breakdown for your enjoyment and, well, you’re exactly imagining Eddie Pepitone.
So, ahead of his first London shows in his 30-plus year career, what’s currently grinding Pepitone’s gears? With me tightly grasping the receiver at a safe distance, the 54-year-old comic rants down the phone from his LA home.
‘Why do I get made fun of for trying to be vegan? I mean, am I not the one who should be applauded? I’m doing the amazingly difficult and noble task of not contributing to the slavery and abuse of gorgeous creatures, yet I am called a “vegetable-eating pansy”. Everyone seems so put out by the fact that I am not eating meat or cheese! They’re like, “great, we have to sit at the same table as this moron who doesn’t have the guts to eat flesh and doesn’t understand our primal nature which involves blood and guts and death. Screw this, let’s eat without this pansy.”’
‘Why the fuck do I keep aging? What the hell is it with life that just as you start to figure out the opposite sex, or get a little wisdom about the universe we live in, that you start peeing eight times a night or your teeth start falling out? Or now that I am finally more civilised and realise that everyone should be treated with compassion, I find things growing out of my back? You mean God wants to see me grow but only so much? “Oh, let the poor bastards get a sniff of the meaning of life, then kill them.”’
‘Why won’t my anxiety go away about achieving things? Every day I get up and feel like I have to do thousands of sit-ups, run a few miles and then write an opera. I feel like I have to be a combination of Adonis and Beethoven. Instead, I’m so flawed that animals and children cry when they see me. What is it about the stress of achievement that leads me to underachieving in such a heroic fashion? I could lead seminars on how to convert your anxiety about aspirations for eventually doing productive things into a really awful life that will lead to an early death.’