Stand-up comedian & “lovable madman” Frankie Pace appeared on Night Flight’s “Comedy Cuts”

By on January 30, 2018

This special edition of Night Flight’s “Comedy Cuts” — taped live at the world famous Comic Strip in NYC — features one of Night Flight’s favorite stand-up comedians, New York’s very own Frankie Pace, who also hosted episodes of “Night Flight”‘s “Rick Shaw’s Takeout Theatre.”

You can find this episode — which originally aired a week before Christmas, on December 18, 1987 — now streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

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Pace — born Francesco Pac’e in Italy — had originally started out to be a trumpet player, working in New York City-area nightclubs at the age of sixteen.

He later became the lead horn player for the Earls, a doo-wop and oldies combo led by Larry Chance. Eventually the group changed their name to Smokestack and became a dance band, adding three horns and a lot of percussion and becoming one of the hottest dance bands in the tri-state area.

Smokestack lasted about three years — 1968 to 1970 — and eventually they reverted back to playing the kind of music they’d originally played, but by then Pace was ready to move on to other interests.

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Pace got married, had a couple of kids, and soon began an apprenticeship as plumber (Local #2), working in New York City, where one of his first assignments was to help with the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Pace had always made his friends and family members laugh, though, and with a little coaxing from his wife, he soon tried out his talents in stand-up comedy, performing his first routines at the White House Inn in Massapequa, Long Island, NY.

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Pace as “Stupid Man” on “Night Flight”‘s “Rick Shaw’s Takeout Theater”

Within a few years, he was performing in New York City, and owner Rick Newman made him a regular at his Catch a Rising Star club, where shared the stage Eddie Murphy, Jackie Martling, Rosie O’Donnell and other stand-up comics who would go on to great success.

His Catch a Rising Star bookings led to Pace performing in some of the other big comedy clubs, like Silver Friedman’s the Improvisation, Richie Tinken’s the Comic Strip, the Comedy Cellar and Dangerfield’s (where he headlined for three years).

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Frankie Pace with a young Richard Belzer and Gilbert Gotfried at the now-defunct Catch a Rising Star comedy club

Pace often shared the stage with many of the 1980s great stand-up comedians, celebs like Robin Williams, Bill Maher, John Mendoza, Howie Mandell, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Richard Jeni, Sam Kinison, Jon Stewart, Gilbert Gotfried, Richard Belzer and Joy Behar, just to name a few.

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Read more about Frankie Pace below.

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In 1984, producer Dick Ebersol invited Pace to make his first nationally-televised TV appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” where he became one of only a handful of comedians to perform a stand-up comedy routine on the show.

Night Flight’s producer Cynthia Friedman was soon asking Pace to write and host his own series introducing Kung Fu movies. It was called “Rick Shaws’ Takeout Theater.”

Pace made numerous appearances on the show, which aired on the USA network, often as characters like “Stupid Man” and “Satan.”

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Frankie Pace as Satan on “Night Flight”‘s “Rick Shaw’s Takeout Theater”

Pace was soon appearing in small TV roles on “The Cosby Show,” and he also appeared on Malcolm-Jamal Warner’s short-lived 1986 Show Off! How to Be Cool at Parties,” a children’s instructional video.

Pace played various characters in the short sketch-like segments, something he’d also done on “The Richard Belzer Show” cable TV special for Cinemax (1984).

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Frankie working on set with Lenny Belzer for brother Richard’s cable TV special

By the late ’80s, he’d become a talk show regular, and when he appeared on “The Joan Rivers Show,” he famously gave actor Robert Urich a kiss.

Rivers would dub him “A Lovable Madman.”

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Mostly, though, Pace became known as a prop comic who found multiple ways to use simple props, like using a red blanket for his famous “Red Riding Hood” character, or for doing his impression of a baby being born.

Pace was also noted for his portrayal of an overweight beach jogger in a hilarious Chariots of Fire parody.

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Pace (bottom) with John Mendoza, Cheech Marin, Bill Boggs, Dom Irrera and Tommy Chong

Pace also appeared on stand-up comedy series like “Bill Boggs’s “Comedy Tonight” (1985-1986), a televised launching pad for up-and-coming comedians.

He appeared on “Caroline’s Comedy Hour” (1989), a stand-up comedy show filmed at the famous Caroline’s comedy club on Broadway in Times Square/

He also appeared on “Comic Strip Live” (1989-1994), a weekly late-night hour long stand-up comedy showcase that aired on the Fox network, hosted by John Mulrooney.

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Pace with Frank Zappa on “Comedy Tonight”

Over the years, Pace has also made appearances in dramatic TV series like “The Sopranos” (playing a newspaper reporter during the show’s fourth season, in 2002) and in various other roles in To the Moon, Alice (1991), Sometimes Santa’s Gotta Get Whacked (1998), and Lost & Found (1999).

He’s also appeared more recently on HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords.”

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These days you can catch his revamped act at Freddy Roman’s “Catskills on Broadway,” or see him perform on cruise ships and casinos or at corporate retreats, like the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, where he’s performed before an estimated crowd of 7000 comedy fans.

Recently, you may have also seen him doing a comedy sketch parody of a KISS-type video rocker “P.L. Moy-ShayShee” for the Jimmy Fallon-hosted “The Tonight Show.”

This episode of Night Flight’s “Comedy Cuts” also features rapid-fire stand-up from unsung comics like Steve O, Adrianne Tolsch, Stevie Ray Fromstein, and future Conan O’Brien talk show producer Mike Sweeney. Watch it now on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.