Pat Cooper

By Michelle Vaccaro,

At almost 82-years-old, Pat Cooper isn’t slowing down. He still does shows at the Tropicana and has spent long hours working on his memoir. He speaks his mind. You don’t meet Pat Cooper, you experience him. He’s like your grandfather, telling stories about how things used to be, but does it with a sharp, comedic tongue. His autobiography, How Dare You Say How Dare Me!, in stores now, is a no-holds-barred discussion of his life. TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Michelle Vaccaro had the opportunity to meet with the legendary comedian to discuss his career, pop culture, and his new book.

Pat Cooper’s career blossomed after his first appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show, but he never expected to be making money by making people laugh. Just two years before his television debut, he was doing everyday jobs as a bricklayer, cab driver, and even a furrier. He said, “I did everything unhappy and then I found my niche. I found out that I was a naturally funny man. When I drove the cab, I used to entertain the people in the cab naturally, without even trying.”

Before he stepped foot on stage, he was already causing controversy. People were telling him his Italian wedding routine could not be done on TV because it may offend Italians. Cooper says it was Jackie Gleason himself who provided the support he needed. Over 47 years later, Cooper remembers it like it was yesterday. He said, “[Jackie] comes out of the elevator and he says to me, ‘If you weren’t the greatest Pat, you wouldn’t be on my show.’ And that really calmed me down.” The next day the phone was ringing off the hook and he was booking gigs at places like The Flamingo Hotel, and the Copacabana. He asserted, “From that moment on…I’m still here and I’m going to be 82 so I must be okay.” He went on to do shows with many big time performers including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.

Despite becoming famous with comedy based on Italian culture, he says being Italian wasn't helping his career, it was hurting it. He recalled, “In those days, Italian wasn’t supposed to be funny. They never heard of an Italian being funny. He sang. If he sang off key, he was the next Caruso. But when you’re funny they go, ‘there’s something wrong with this guy.’” He added, “When I got out there, a lot thought I was making fun of my culture.” It took some time, but now Italians are some of his biggest supporters.

You might ask, if Italian culture is such a big part of his act, then why would he change from his birth name Pasquale Caputo to Pat Cooper? He blames the industry for forcing him to alter his name. He had trouble getting work with such an ethnic name. He explained, “Now you can work as Pasquale Caputo. Years ago it was a little bit a disgrace. Pasquale Caputo being funny didn’t hit it, but a Pat Cooper talking about a Pasquale Caputo…it didn’t hurt the Italian culture who wanted to stop me.” His moniker even caused some trouble with the IRS. He says, “The Internal Revenue says, ‘Where’s Pat Cooper’s taxes?’ I’m working under Pasquale Caputo. So I says well, I’m Pat Cooper, but my real name is Pasquale Caputo so I’m paying Pat Cooper’s taxes as Pat Cooper.” His lawyer told him that he needed to just pick one name so, to the chagrin of his family, he went with Pat Cooper because that’s how people knew him.

Cooper conveys his story in his new book How Dare You Say How Dare Me!. He told over 36 hours worth of stories to producers Steve Garrin and Rich Hershlag, who made it into a 256 page book. He professed, “If I don’t make a dime on it…I swear to you…I’m not a money hungry guy, but I put a book out there that says something. And in analyzing the whole book…one word, it says ‘dignity.’” His memoir touches on both the good and the bad, including the strained relationships with his family like the time his children called into the Howard Stern Show and caused an on-air family feud. He confessed, “I put myself down terribly in this because it’s the truth. Pardon my French, I was a prick in my days. I lost a family.”

Pat Cooper is an opinionated guy. Whether it’s talking about kids these days or popular celebrities, he always has something to say. About people in the subways, he complained, “Now they’re all carrying napsacks. I said, ‘Are you people going on a picnic?’ Where are you going?’ You know, they bump into you, take your glasses down because their bags are so big!” His take on singer Lady Gaga, “I call her Lady Caca….She walks around with a gown made out of meat. You know what that is? That’s stupid to me.” He added, “If she keeps doing that, the dog is going to lick her to death!” He’s not a big fan of Angelina Jolie either. He proclaimed, “She’s a loony toon! That’s my opinion. How many kids you gonna adopt?”

Over the years, the “angry comedian” has made appearances on The Jackie Gleason Show, Letterman and even Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony. When asked why he thinks his humor has transcended decades and generations, Cooper proclaimed, “Because I am stubborn. I will not get off my horse. I will ride this horse till the horse dies and I’ll die with the horse.”

If you’re in the NY area and would like to meet Pat Cooper, here’s a list of his book signings:

Mon., Nov. 15 at TGI Friday’s on the Amtrak level of Penn Station from 5pm-7:30pm

Tues., Nov. 16 at Borders in the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle at 7pm

Wed., Nov. 17 at TGI Friday’s in Union Square from 5pm-7:30pm

Fri., Nov. 19 at TGI Friday’s in Penn Station near the LIRR from 5pm-7:30pm



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