New York Times bestselling author, actor, screenwriter, and comedy genius Danny Pellegrino has come a long way since those early, empty-crowded stand-up gigs. His wildly successful podcast: Everything Iconic, was downloaded more than 50 million times in 2023 and serves pop culture and reality TV enthusiasts by breaking down both current and nostalgic moments with Pellegrino’s laugh-out-loud detours along the way. It’s unsurprising then, that fun is an essential factor in how this content king stays both mentally and physically fit enough to perform at the highest level while traveling from project to project.
M&F caught up with the frequent flyer to find out how he keeps it all together.
“I used to do stand-up and sketch comedy around Chicago and then Los Angeles when I moved to California, and I was often doing shows where there would be more people on stage (than in the crowd), or there’d be just three people in the audience,” reflects Pellegrino.
Now of course, there is a ton of interest in the popular writer, actor, and presenter. “I started my podcast, and the podcast snowballed in a way that I couldn’t have expected and that led me to performing again on stage for more people. I just got off this tour, and there were sold out crowds across the country. It was just incredible, but also not something I could have ever anticipated when I was doing those sketch shows or improv shows for such small crowds of people.”
The comedian, who says he is not a good traveler, finds that airports and flights heighten his anxiousness but he accepts that it’s a necessary aspect of something he enjoys very much: meeting his fans. Whether he’s navigating a book tour for releases like The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories or finding top podcast guests like Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz or the exalted Miss Piggy of Muppet fame, Pellegrino uses the following principles to live life on the brighter side.
1) Danny Pellegrino Has Learned to ‘Have Fun’
As a fledgling comedian, performing at the ImprovOlympic theatre in Chicago (now known as the iO) or Groundlings in Los Angeles, Pellegrino has paid his dues to lean and become successful at his craft. Just like an athlete, he’s had to deal with confidence issues and self-doubt, especially when going out on stage at 11.30 p.m. as the fifteenth act of the night. Fortunately, whether you are an aspiring comedian, a bodybuilder, or hoping to stay the course in any discipline, the key to longevity is to find a way to have fun.
“When you’re the 15th comedian of the night, the audience is drained. They don’t care about your five minutes, they want to get out of there, or they’ve had enough” shares Pellegrino, who is now enjoying warmer, more familiar audiences because his hard work has paid off. “You keep the mindset to say, ‘you know what, it’s gonna get better next year, maybe a year from now, 10 years from now, I’m gonna be filling crowds,’” he explains. “Instead of just saying, ‘you know, what? Is it worth it? Ask yourself how you can have fun with it.”
2) Take Different Routes Instead of Quitting
Listening to his Real Housewives round-ups and razor-sharp wit, you could be forgiven for thinking that every day is a breeze for our man, but like the rest of us, he’s had his fair share of mental challenges, bereavements, and career setbacks. Bravely, Pellegrino explains that sometimes when things seem to be at their bleakest, you just have to take a different route, but there’s always a way around a problem.
“I had a moment before I started my podcast, I had fallen into a very bad place with my own mental health, and I had said to some friends and family that I would never perform again. I thought I was done,” he says. “A friend actually recommended that I started a podcast because she said I could perform from the privacy of my house. You don’t have to leave. You don’t have to go to a show. You don’t have to be on a stage in front of people. And so, I started a podcast and then oddly enough that led to performing again for people.”
3) Mental Wellness Is a Constantly Evolving Journey
Danny Pellegrino explains that he’s had days where he’s struggled just to get in the shower, but has learned through mindfulness and honest reflection that some months will be better than others. Part of feeling better is to understand that mental health is a constantly evolving journey.
In addition to meditation, Pellegrino is an advocate of journaling and says that this has been a great help with feelings of depression, and he’s not alone. Several studies have found that expressive writing can be linked to an improved quality of life, aiding in a wide range of areas such as blood pressure and heart health. Those that write about their deepest thoughts and feelings as relates to emotional events often receive significant reductions in their levels of depression.
4) Find a Community Through Fitness
The funnyman stepped up his fitness journey when he began daily HIIT classes, but little did he know the lifechanging impact that his new, more active, lifestyle would bring. “I met a lot of close friends at that class because I was going at the same time every day,” he says. “And, it was also a very challenging workout. Getting that sweat in, and getting all of the endorphins flowing was super important to me. And then oddly enough, it also led to a writing career because I was taking classes with a guy named Bob Harper, who was a trainer on The Biggest Loser on NBC and, and he was later a host of that show, but he and I became very good friends. And I ended up co-authoring his book, which was called The Super Carb Diet.
These days, Pellegrino views his chances to catch-up with friends as a great excuse to catch-up with his fitness too. “I know it’s cliche,” he says. “And, some people are probably rolling their eyes about this. But I do love to schedule that hang or that catch-up around a walk or a hike because then I can get the workout in, I can hang out with a friend, and I love looking at the views too.”
5) Danny Pellegrino Likes To Walk While On Tour
Daytime book signings and late-night comedy gigs will challenge the will-power of any would-be fitness enthusiast, but Pellegrino has found that discovering new places, or rediscovering his old stomping grounds like Chicago is a great way to get out of the sedentary lifestyle that travel can temp us all into. “it’s so fun to be able to walk around and see places that I used to visit, and I try to exercise that way. If I can make it to a workout class in some city, I will definitely do that as well,” he explains.
Undoubtedly, behind the laughs are some important lessons. Pellegrino understands that being physically and mentally fit is a journey that helps him to continue entertaining people, and that’s his biggest passion. “I’m still editing, I’m still booking, I’m still literally doing everything. I’m a one-man band at the show,” says Pellegrino of the authenticity of his Everything Iconic podcast. “And I feel very proud of that.”