Jewish Comedian Gianmarco Soresi Wants You to Laugh in Spite of Yourself

Soresi spoke to Hey Alma about his Italian and Jewish heritage, divorced parents and why he's drawn to dark humor.

If you are reading this, then you are probably somewhere on the chronically online spectrum and have heard the viral joke, “I’m culturally Jewish which means I have all the anxiety, stress and gastrointestinal problems of regular Judaism but without the comfort of God,” before. 

But do you know who came up with it?

The popular punchline is one of up-and-coming comedian Gianmarco Soresi’s go-to stand-up bits. 

The self-described neurotic and lifelong cynic frequently touts tongue-in-cheek that he does not mention he is Jewish unless he is losing an argument. Yet fans know he regularly pokes fun at cultural oddities, shares his skepticism of organized religion and experiences with antisemitism and even occasionally slips in somewhat unsavory Holocaust jokes (like when he said Anne Frank would have never written a diary if she had TikTok in his first-ever comedy special, Shelf Life,” in 2020).  

Soresi was born in 1989 in Potomac, Maryland, to a Jewish mother from Long Island — or as he calls it Little Israel — and an Italian father who divorced when he was just an infant. 

I talked to Gianmarco after his stand-up show at Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Katz JCC about how his mixed heritage and family dynamics as a child of divorce shaped him. 

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You’re of mixed Italian and Jewish heritage. So am I, and I feel like there’s such a special bond between us — our attitudes and behaviors, the drama, using humor and food to cope. Do you feel like that’s something you’ve noticed in your life, too? 

Uh huh. I feel like conversationally some people are like, “You’re interrupting me,” or, “You’re talking over me,” and it’s like, “No, to me, that’s what communication is.” And, you know, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. You can hear and get their thoughts and keep it flowing.  

Tell me more about your childhood. I know your parents got divorced when you were very young, and I’m sure that had a big impact on how you see the world. 

Certainly. They got divorced so young that I don’t have any memory of them being together. I went back and forth, and I think I just had a really fractured childhood. When I went to my dad’s it was a single man dating on and off. Women would come into my life, I’d grow close to them, and then they’d disappear without a trace. My dad would let me stay up and do whatever. Then at my mom’s I had a more traditional household but of the loveless variety. But comedically, artistically, I think where interesting art comes from is unique perspectives. 

You say you’re more hesitant to have a family because of your childhood, but is that something you’d want one day?

All I know is that I like kids. I don’t know the answer because this is a very narcissistic career. I would have to talk to myself and be like, “Could I put a kid in front of my dreams?” What I would kill for is to be an uncle. I would pay for the hotel to make it happen for my siblings.

Why do you think you’re drawn to kids?

I think I’m a depressed person who can struggle with inhibited joy, and you’ll see kids just before they develop whatever that self-judgment is with such a capacity for joy. This is why I’m on stage because I like to play and be goofy and weird. There’s something about when you’re with a kid there’s an excuse — you get to free yourself — because you’re like, “I’m doing it for the kid,” but you’re also doing it for yourself.

It’s very Jewish to use humor as a coping mechanism to deal with life and seeing the world through a bit of a darker lens. Do you feel like there’s something particularly Jewish about that for you? 

I think it’s hard to know because basically my mom’s parents told her she could either have a bat mitzvah or a sweet 16. She chose a sweet 16 and that was the end of Jewish traditions in the household. But I think it’s being with my girlfriend where I’ve been reintegrated with Jewish roots, and there’s this cultural Jewishness that Larry David is the face of. I think if you went to a rabbi versus a priest, the rabbi is willing to be self-effacing a bit more. I don’t know if that came out of suffering where it was hard to take anything too seriously? Is it gallows humor? I think there’s something that’s so nice with Jews, even conservative ones — most of them you can get a laugh out of. They’ll make fun of themselves. Larry David knows he’s an asshole sometimes, and that’s what makes it funny.  

So you’ve said you’re more of a cultural Jew. What is being Jewish to you? 

I think for me it really is more about the way I’m treated than what I internally feel. If someone’s antisemitic they are not going to like me, but in a way it makes me feel more Jewish. I have very strong anti-religious feelings because I only saw it from the outside. I only saw the flaws. I think there’s certainly a Jewish space that, even if I don’t ever fully indulge in it, knowing that it’s there does feel like some tenth degree of family and it is nice. I’m still finding it. It’s holding those two things together, and I’m much better through my girlfriend and getting older and feeling lonely in the universe and thinking about death in holding both.  

When it comes to being drawn to the darker things in life, where do you think you find catharsis and comfort in making light and joking about it? 

I think it’s because it’s not like I can get rid of the dark thoughts, you know? The only thing to shake me out of it is to think of something that’s so inappropriate, so silly, so counterintuitive to the tragedy itself that it pulls me out. If you can make a joke that makes everyone laugh to spite themselves, that’s the best. That’s the most you could want out of comedy, so that’s what I go for.  

You can find Gianmarco’s tour dates here, featuring the opening act of fellow Jewish comedian Ariel Elias.

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