October 24, 2023
EDGE Interview: Out Comic Danny Pellegrino Gets Unhinged for the Holidays with New Book
Matthew Creith READ TIME: 8 MIN.
Out comedian, actor, and writer Danny Pellegrino has warmed hearts for years with his nostalgic take on pop culture. As the host of "Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino," the podcaster tends to wax poetic about everything from "The Real Housewives" franchise to the Muppets. A scholar of television and movies from the 1980s through the early aughts, Pellegrino has shared his love of Jessica Simpson, Rosie O'Donnell, vintage McDonald's toys found on eBay, and Bravolebrities with his band of loyal listeners. Putting pen to paper, Pellegrino released his first book in 2022, entitled "How Do I Un-Remember This? Unfortunately True Stories," which became a New York Times Best Seller.
EDGE caught up with Danny Pellegrino as he prepares to embark on a tour for his newest holiday-themed book, "The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories." Keeping with the tradition of embarrassing himself via writing about stories that actually happened to him, the author brings hilarity and sincerity to every page of this new publication as he traverses stories from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and a little Shakespeare thrown in for good measure. With chapters that detail his mother Linda's epic meltdowns on Christmas Eve, growing up in suburban Ohio alongside a 1980s-era gay ghost, and giving weed as a gift to friends and loved ones for the holidays, Pellegrino has written a book with women and gay men in mind. He is unapologetically nostalgic, not only for the pop culture of his youth but also for the traditions of the holiday season. "The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories" arrives October 24th.
Below are some excerpts from the interview:
On his interest in the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s:
I was an 80s baby and a 90s kid and I think I just always enjoyed pop culture as an escape. It also, I, maybe felt a little different than the other kids my age when I was growing up in Northeast Ohio and a little different than my family. I was raised with two older brothers who are both straight and and these Midwestern parents. And I think I just use pop culture as an escape. I used it as a way to see other people that I might not have been seeing in my community. And I just gravitated towards movies, TV shows, talk shows music, I just gravitated towards sort of the pop culture spectacle of everything. And so it was really started as my escape. And as I've been writing, I've been trying to analyze why I attached myself to certain things or why I've become obsessive with certain things. And I don't know that I might have the answer to that. I just tried to chase whatever I liked. And if it makes me feel good, I embrace it. So I don't know I've always just lived in that nostalgia space...
But I think also collectively over the past handful of years, the world has been so stressful and chaotic, and the thing that calm me down or makes me feel a little relaxed is to go back to some of those things from my childhood that are comfort films or comfort TV shows. So I think that's part of it too."
Queer representation in today's media:
Well, I think a lot of the gay characters I see unfortunately are often relegated to the assistance of main characters. Pre strike I had started to audition and do some acting stuff. A lot of the auditions I was getting for these gay characters. It felt like almost all of them were those sassy assistants with the quips. And they don't really have a storyline, but they're there to serve the main character. I find myself just not interested if I see a gay assistant. So that sort of immediately turns me off. Not to say that there can't be well written ones...
I just saw "Bottoms." It was really great and weird and all over the place, but in a way that I miss. I think in the 90s especially movies weren't as made by committee as it feels like they are now. So now I don't think you get the weirdness of movies, the quirkiness, the, the different tones. It feels like everything's just okay. Nothing's really rough around the edges either. And so I like those movies from the 90s and 80s. And stuff that have a little roughness around the edges, but I think Bottoms and that and Theater Camp. Both of those were interesting and had great LGBTQ characters. Those are the ones that pop out at me at the moment.
His dream podcast guest:
Meg Ryan is probably at the top of the list. I've been trying really hard. She's got a new rom com coming out. And I just love her. "You've Got Mail" is my all time favorite movie, and I'm fascinated by her story, her life and, and so much of what she has to say. And she doesn't give a ton of interviews. I don't know what this press tour will be like for her new movie. But I just, I would love to talk to her. Other people like Mariah Carey, of course be at the top of the list, Jessica Simpson. And any again, anytime I can interview a Muppet is also like, I will drop everything. That's really if I could only interview my pets, I think I would be in heaven.
His struggles with diet and nutrition addressed in his new book:
Yeah, you know, that chapter, there's a whole chapter about my dealing with food issues and body image issues. And I had actually written it for my first book. And it was too scared to put it out, I just ultimately took it out. But this one, I just thought I wanted to be really as honest as possible. And it is tonally a little different than some of the silly stories that come before it. But I also think the holidays have a lot of joy. But then there's also a lot of melancholy, there's a lot of hard stuff. And so I didn't want to ignore any of those other emotions, the drama, The those things that make our heartbreak when it comes to the end of the year. And so I just thought I had to be honest and open about it. And I'm so scared for people to read it just because it feels like the most vulnerable thing that I've written about myself, but I feel pretty good about it. And when I came out of the closet, I remember thinking, 'Okay, I'm just gonna just be honest about everything. Like I'm not going to keep any secrets, because I don't want that to be the case.' And so there is something that feels nice about releasing that into the world. So that it's no longer just my own and but I be lying if I said I wasn't scared of how people will take it or, or just how vulnerable I feel with that specific chapter...
For me growing up and when you would go shopping for clothes, the bags just had these ripped men on them without their blouse on and it was. That's the imagery that we were getting all the time. And then with the advent of these superhero movies where these guys are, it's impossible to look like them. Yeah. And those are the images we're coming of age with and seeing bombarded bombarding ourselves with. It's a mindfuck. I don't know. And I don't have it all figured out by any means at all. I just was trying to kind of floor my experience with it. But I don't know, I think more people go through and, and there's so many different eating disorders. I hope I'm not I'm also very nervous about these terms, because I don't want to be using the wrong terms. I don't want to come across as I'm an expert on any of this stuff. I was just trying to share my experience. But I do think that there are so many different versions of the eating disorders and disorder, all that body image issues that are very prevalent, and they really run the gamut of specific in terms of specific experience. I hope I'm making sense. Am I making sense?
His take-away from the book:
Yeah, I wanted it to just feel like the holidays. Like I said before, it is nostalgic, it is dramatic. It's chaotic. It's can be heartbreaking. And so I just didn't want to ignore those, the heartbreaking parts of the holidays, I didn't want somebody to sit down and read it and be like, well, holidays aren't just completely joyful and perfect and whatever.
Holiday movies worth watching:
And I've been thinking a lot about these holiday movies even that I rewatched every time and no matter what it is, and you probably know better than I would when it comes to "Die Hard," but with something like "Home Alone," I think about there's these beautiful scenes where Kevin is reunited with his mom played by Catherine O'Hara. And the movie is so cartoonish and has this cartoonish violence that makes us all laugh hysterically. But if you really look at that movie, there's also these beautifully grounded, dramatic, small moments. I wanted the book to really feel hope funny and make people laugh. That was the main goal. But then if those little, tiny moments slip in, that are those other feelings, like I love that. And so I just think that it came sort of naturally, to wrap up those stories and put a nice little bow on some of the stories. But yeah, I just didn't want to ignore any of the emotions with the holidays.
His favorite holiday movie:
I'm a big muppet fan. "A Muppet Family Christmas" is one I gravitate towards. It was a special before "A Muppet Christmas Carol." I love that one, the "Home Alone" movies, "Christmas Vacation" is probably the one my family goes to all the time. The one we can all sit down together and really love. Or "Home Alone," I'd say those are the two the whole family can get to know, but I love all of them. I like the specials: a "Garfield" Christmas special, or "Charlie Brown Christmas." The only ones I don't like are the Rudolph or claymation, I'm not a fan of those. Ony because I'm scared, they scared me as a kid.