By John Benson
Despite the pull to stay near family, creative folk often have to leave to pursue their dreams.
For comedian-actor Mark Riccadonna, that meant leaving Brookfield Township a few months after graduating high school in 1999. While he’s been back many times over the years, a triumphant homecoming recorded for the ages was supposed to happen last fall when the funnyman decided to record his first comedy album in Youngstown.
However, fate had another plan.
“I did the show, and something happened with the recording,” said Riccadonna, calling from New York City. “I ended up recording a show in Indianapolis. I’m really happy with how it came out, but I was pretty mad about Youngstown because I did have a lot of material talking about home.
“You can’t really talk about Ohio when you’re in Indiana or New York City. It’s just stuff that people in Ohio really find funny and enjoy. I really wanted that feel to it. It bummed me out.”
Already, Riccadonna said his label, Realize Records, is talking about recording a second album in Ohio. As for his debut, “Drinks, Jokes and Storytelling,” the project is expected to be released later this year.
It’s a big step for the 32-year-old comic, who returns to the Mahoning Valley — sans recording equipment — for shows Friday and Saturday at The Funny Farm Comedy Club. He’s hoping this project helps his storytelling style of comedy spread around the country through word of mouth.
Overall, the notion of releasing a comedy album is a dream come true for Riccadonna, who said it took him more than three years to hone his material.
“It’s all storytelling and true things,” Riccadonna said. “I try to hit serious topics from a joking standpoint and joking topics from a serious standpoint. Obviously, my storytelling style gets compared to Bill Cosby. It’s like cooking — you have to go through a process to get it simmering, and when you put it together it becomes amazing. But when you just do jokes, it’s like just grilling a steak.”
You’ll have to forgive Riccadonna’s culinary analogy. Aside from stand-up, lately he’s been getting a lot of work on The Food Network in shows such as “Restaurant Stakeout” and “Giving You the Business.” The latter is a restaurant takeoff of the popular “Impractical Jokers.”
Also, Riccadonna recently produced and acted in a horror film called “The Devil’s Tree” and co-wrote feature film “Jack and Sal,” which is currently being considered for production.
It’s been a long journey for Riccadonna, who, right after arriving in New York City more than a decade ago, appeared on “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” television show and in national commercials.
These days, whether it’s doing stand-up comedy, writing or acting, Riccadonna said he’s living a dream.
“I like to put it all out there and see where it goes,” Riccadonna said. “Every day I get to wake up and be creative, I feel like I’ve won.”