.Comedian Eddie Pepitone Comes to Kuumbwa

Pepitone, aka ‘The Bitter Buddha,’ is a comedian’s comedian with a growing cult following

Who could forget this classic Doritos commercial:

“The U.S.A. has a $768 billion war budget while our cities fall into chaos, violence and disrepair. Vast death and despair will be our constant companions. However, there is one thing that just might make this a little more palatable: the new cheese flavored Doritos! Come get it!” 

Ok, so it’s not a real Doritos commercial, but comedian Eddie Pepitone thought it should be. So he made it the opening of the fourth episode of his newest podcast, Apocalypse Soon With Eddie Pepitone. The commercial is the latest incarnation of a bit he’s perfected over the years on Twitter: blending smarmy corporate ads with hard-hitting facts about war, American plutocracy and the collapse of the ecosystem. 

You know, light-hearted stuff. 

“I’ve always been a harbinger of doom—not to brag,” says Pepitone with a laugh. “During the pandemic I had a bunch of friends go to me, ‘Are you happy, Pepitone?’ and I’m like, ‘No, no I’m not!’” 

secure document shredding

It’s this brand of dark comedy he’s bringing to the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Saturday, April 16th with friend and comedic partner JT Habersaat. It won’t be Pepitone’s first show in Santa Cruz; the comedian—who is also an outspoken vegan—previously performed at the 2018 Santa Cruz Comedy Festival (SCCF). 

“Without hyperbole he is the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time],” says SCCF founder and local comedian DNA.

Before Apocalypse Soon, Pepitone previously had his pre-pandemic PepTalks, and mid-pandemic Live From The Bunker, along with appearing on episodes of his friends’ shows like WTF With Marc Maron. But what makes Apocalypse Soon stand out is its late-night show format, complete with parody interviews (like James Adomian doing an absolutely hilarious and uncannily spot-on Bernie Sanders), a fake band leader who is also an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist and cut-away segments like the serene  “Driving in the Rain.” 

“It’s a monologue where I go on about driving through apocalyptic Los Angeles,” he laughs, naming absurdist writer Joe Frank as an inspiration. 

While Pepitone might not be a household name, he’s likely your favorite comic’s favorite comedian. He’s appeared on numerous television shows like The Sarah Silverman Program, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Chappelle’s Show, as well as voiced characters for Bob’s Burgers, Rick & Morty and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He also starred in recurring roles as Eddie on Adult Swim’s Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, (a show about how the corporate workplace in hell isn’t much different than here on earth), the online cult hit Puddin’ and as the angry New York City Heckler on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and Conan. 

Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, New York, Pepitone is the son of a Sicilian father and Jewish mother. Nicknamed “The Bitter Buddha,” Pepitone is a force to be reckoned with, flowing between heated yelling—where he claims to channel a mix of his father’s rage and Jackie Gleason—and calming, insightfulness and self-deprecation, often switching within the same sentence. 

“I’ve always had a real anti-authoritarian sense,” he says. “A lot of comedy is toothless and doesn’t punch up or attack the right people. You want to go after people? Go after the Pentagon, the war machine or the fact America has the largest prison population in the world and corporations use prisoners to do work for them without paying them anything.” 

He credits his hatred of plutocracy to reading as a teenager the 1968 book on inherited wealth and its influence on American power, The Rich and the Super Rich, by journalist Ferdinand Lundberg. 

“I think that book and my dad turned me onto how we’re getting screwed in the big picture,” says Pepitone. At the same time, he admits nobody can escape it, himself included. 

“Meanwhile, I have an iPhone, I’m a sports fan and I’m still a part of the culture. So I’m making fun of myself, too,” he admits. “I tell people I don’t have material, my sets are a cry for help. I am the punchline.” 

And people are listening. 

The 2012 documentary about Pepitone, The Bitter Buddha—also featuring Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and others—is still a comedy cult favorite 10 years later, with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. More recently, the New York Times named his 2020 For the Masses stand-up film as the “Funniest Special” of the year. 

So with everything, including the world, appearing to crumble in real-time, is there any hope?

“Maybe. I listen to a lot of Eastern philosophical stuff—Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, Alan Watts—and one thing they say is things have to get really, really bad before there’s incredible change,” he states before chuckling. “I don’t know how long we have left, but we definitely can finish up this interview.”

Eddie Pepitone with JT Habersaat perform on Saturday, April 16, 7:30pm. Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Center St., Santa Cruz. $25. kuumbwajazz.org.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

spot_img
Good Times E-edition Good Times E-edition