- THE MAGAZINE
"I have a college degree. By day, I clean carpets, and by night, I tell jokes. Mostly clean ones."
If this seems like an odd combination, consider Mastrangelo's background: He grew up in Chelsea; his father is Italian-American and his mother is Irish-American ("We make our own wine and then we drink it"); they ran a carpet store; he met his wife, Stephanie, in prison and they now live in Wayland with their 5-year-old daughter, Sophia.
If this isn't enough material for a comic routine, there's always the current political scene, local driving habits, suburban pretensions and virtually anything else foibled enough to come across Mastrangelo's radar.
In high school and college, Mastrangelo said he never thought about doing comedy.
"I was into sports. And I helped out the family business by cleaning carpets on weekends."
Meanwhile, he earned a bachelor's degree from Bridgewater State College in communications. "I still don't know what that's all about," he quipped.
After a stint as a prison guard ("It was either that or "Do you want fries with your Big Mac?") and counselor (and meeting his wife on the job), he started cleaning carpets full time. Then, in 1991, on a dare, history was made. Mastrangelo stepped up to the open mic at Nick's Comedy Stop in Boston figuring to make a fool of himself. Instead, after he finished his act, the manager called him into the back office.
"He asked me how long I'd been doing comedy. I told him 'About five minutes.' He said I had potential. I thought that was hysterical."
But the club manager convinced Mastrangelo to enter a comedy competition at Stitches Comedy Club.
"I went and I won. This was my second night on stage. Then they offered me money. I thought this was even more hysterical."
Since then, he's played all the major comedy clubs in the Boston area, books regularly into Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Los Angeles, and does smaller gigs as well, such as a recent appearance at a benefit at Sandy Burr Country Club in Wayland. He has also been a frequent monologue writer for Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."
For his family and observational brand of comedy, Mastrangelo draws extensively from his own life, including his first foray to the Wayland dump, and, yes, carpet cleaning. Once, while doing a gig in Las Vegas, a nationwide convention of carpet cleaners was in town. "So they asked me to come over and perform for them. The act that night was pretty heavy on carpet-cleaning jokes."
"Sometimes, I'm the 'celebrity carpet cleaner,"' he said. "Once when I did a show for 7,000 people at Boston University, a couple of folks came up afterwards and asked if I was the guy who had cleaned their carpets."
Like his carpets, he said, most of his jokes are clean.
"Of course, if I'm at a biker bar in New Hampshire, I can mix it up. But frankly, you get more work by staying above board. And you also get jobs on cruise ships, ski resorts and places like that where I can take my wife and daughter for a family vacation. I work two shows a night, but I have the day free to spend with them in these great places."
Vince Longo, general manager of the South Shore Music Theater, said, "It's not often that someone grabs my attention like Brad did. He was hysterical, likable, and most importantly, clean. We can't wait to have him back."
Boston comedian Dennis Leary, star of the FX series "Rescue Me" and organizer of the Boston University show, is also impressed with Mastrangelo. Of that event, he said, "Brad stole the show; he blew the roof off."
With these kinds of plaudits, it's not surprising Mastrangelo says he could do comedy pretty much all the time if he wanted to.
"But I like to break it up so it stays fun," he said.
In the meantime, he's built up the carpet-cleaning business. He says he enjoys the work and its flexibility, as well as the extra money. It also helps to be self-employed and working locally so he can drive his daughter to preschool in the morning and spend time with his wife in the evening.
"She is absolutely my biggest supporter," Mastrangelo said. "I couldn't do this without her."