A few weeks ago, I spent some time on the set of “Hammered with John and Jimmy DiResta," which currently airs on HGTV. They film the show on Waverly Ave! Click here to read about how I discovered them in the 'hood. While I was there, I hung out with John and Jimmy, and watched them work on a set of bunkbeds for the show's second season.
1. Are you a native Brooklynite? What neighborhood did you grow up in? My family is from Rockaway beach Queens. I grew up in Woodmere LI, and I lived in the East Village for 14 years.
2. How did you decide to get into design? Were you always making stuff as a kid? Your HGTV bio says you've worked in toy design. Have you designed any famous toys? I’ve always made things -- our dad put us in the environment to build with a wood shop always there in the house. I went to School of Visual Arts, class of 90'. In my final semester a teacher named Mark Settiducatti introduced me to the toy biz and helped my brother Joey and I make several connections and we worked it for 15+years. Joey is still in the biz on the manufacturing side of things. Our biggest item was a thing called "Gurgling Gutz."
3. Tell me about the inception of Hammered -- how did you and John come up with the idea, and how does one go about getting their show on TV? In about 2000 I started to edit video on a Mac. John went to Hollywood in 98 and sold a show to UPN (“DiResta,” about John as a working class policeman). The concept started as stand up, and became a one-man show and then a TV show (it lasted one season). With the connections John was developing we started to come up with ideas that I would shoot and edit. I made a pitch tape for a show called “Trash to Cash.” We would pick the trash and make it into stuff. That was our first show on Fox’s FX, and we did 7 episodes in 2003. We kept making pitch tapes and in 2004 we made a show called “Makin’ It With John and Jimmy,” all about making things in the shop with a fun aspect. Through friends we sent it to HGTV. It took about 10 months to come to a deal, and this show pitch became “Hammered.”
4. How did you choose your workshop location? Had you been working there prior to filming the show?
We did the pitch tape in my shop in the LES and having people on the street outside was something HGTV wanted to keep. We looked around NYC with the production company and we found an affordable place in Clinton Hill.
5. Even though the show films in Clinton Hill, you live in the East Village. Any plans to move out to the Best Neighborhood in NYC? I would consider moving into one of the abandoned-looking mansions. Know of any deals? [Ed. I wish! These guys should take over the haunted mansion/church on Clinton!]
6. What's your favorite thing about Clinton Hill? The abandoned-looking mansions. For real! No joke!
7. Favorite place to eat in the neighborhood: We ate at a great Mexican place over the summer but don't know the name? [Ed. Pequena? Los Pollitos?]
8. What's on tap for the new season? How do you decide what to make? (If you need ideas, I have a GREAT one- maybe you could make me a cool cat tree/scratching post- hint hint.) What was your favorite project from last season? I like the poker table – it’s a mechanical device and I like to make things mechanical. We all come up with the general ideas and I usually put the "flair" into it with some inventive design aspects. The show is about learning some thing new and having fun, so I consider what will look good and give John something to work with for comedy.
In this next season, we’ll make more practical stuff for the house.
9. You teach 3-D design and invention at SVA. Are these classes open to anyone, or do you need to be an artsy-type and already an SVA student in a degree program? I teach in the BFA degree program, so you would need to be full-time enrolled student at SVA.
10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why? Anything with bumps and lumps in it. Keep things interesting.
1. So, who's the older brother? Do you guys have other siblings? There are four of us: Joey is 44, I’m 42, Jimmy’s 39 or 40 and Kathleen is about 35.
2. You've had quite an interesting career, starting out as an NYPD Transit Cop. You MUST share some stories with us -- what was the craziest thing you ever saw on the job? Did you ever do any patrolling in Clinton Hill? I was on patrol for five years in the subway on foot, mostly south Brooklyn-Coney Island area. Then I worked in a unit where you ride the train from eight pm to four am. After that, I was in the Homeless Outreach Unit. In my 12 years I was in just about every subway stop there is.
I got off at Shepherd on the A once to find something to eat, late night. The token booth clerk told me, “Be careful! There’s a guy at the top of the stairs selling guns. He's a gun dealer." I turned around and got right back on the train.
3. How did you make a successful transition to stand-up? Were you the cop always cracking jokes? I’ve been married for 18 years. My wife, Frances, is from Rockaway Beach. I have three kids: Matt, Sabrina and Shannon. (their nicknames: ratboy, chia pet and the piss monkey)
I always wanted to be a comedian and actor and didn’t have the balls to do it; nobody to guide me. I thought it was like wanting to be an astronaut...it's just a dream. Then after failing out of two colleges (New Paltz / Nassau Community) my dad forced civil service on me. I took the police exam, hoping to be NYPD. Instead, I got stuck in the subway against my will and hated every minute of it. (Our motto: You Ride, We Hide.) I was scared, bored and lonely. One night it got so bad I had to pay a crack-addicted transvestite hooker three bucks, just to hug me and tell me everything would be okay...
I spent five years on foot and then moved to the homeless unit, telling jokes to our 'clients' and getting big laughs on the bus with cops and homeless people. One night, my partner Mike Venckus said, “You should be a comedian. You should a least try it,”....and he was right. I was broke, depressed, married with two toddlers, tired, spent, done...but his suggestion had a certain 'righteousness' to it. I drove home to Harrimand NY at six am and woke up my wife...."I want to be a comedian"....long dead stare back, then..."Well, I want another baby..."
4. It sounds like you're the local guy who made it big, having your own sitcom and appearing in several movies and other TV shows (very impressive IMDB list, btw). Any secrets to success? I enrolled in a stand up comedy class in NYC, which I still owe Jimmy the $350 for, and nine months later our daughter Shannon was born. Right about that time, nine months into it, I started to get paid: 50 bucks at Pips in Bklyn, 35 bucks in the Bronx, 200 on a weekend in Conn.
Then I won a contest. I was officially NY’s funniest cop (and still am).
After five years of being a cop and a comedian I put up my one-man show, “Beat,” in NYC and it sold as a sitcom. That sitcom, “DiResta,” became the lowest rated sitcom in TV history. Then I did Miss Congeniality and then 15 mins with DeNiro…
5. What would you say was crazier -- dealing with crazy NYers, or dealing with crazy Hollywood types? LA is way tougher than anything on EARTH...THIS TOWN IS AN OUTRIGHT MOTHER FUCKER! TOUGH! IF YOU’RE HOT YOU’RE HOT AND IF YOU’RE NOT YOU’RE BROKE.
I hung in through some tough times and now I have two TV shows: Hammered on HGTV and American Body Shop on Comedy Central, which debuts in June.
6. You're living in LA now. What do you miss the most about NYC? What I miss about NYC: having true, longtime friends to hang with, pizza, the multiable comedy clubs that put me on and the multiable gigs In the tri state area as a comedian. I'm lucky -- I'm now bicoastal!
7. How did you and Jimmy come up with the concept for Hammered? Jimmy and I wanted to do a show where jimmy could show his talents that he could make anything I am could make anything funny. We shot four shows, on our own, with our own money, called “Making It.” We said if Hollywood wouldn’t give us a job we will just make our own shows and sell them directly to the fans on DVD. Then HGTV came looking for us...perfect timing. They changed the name from "Making It" to “Hammered with John and Jimmy DiResta” on HGTV.
8. What's your favorite thing about filming in Clinton Hill? What's your favorite place to eat when you're in the nabe? The thing I love most about Cobble Hill/Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy is that I used to work all those streets and now I work 'em as a TV host with my own show...weird! I also love the real people, no phonies. I love the broken streets, broken buildings and I love that I have Jimmy there, at my side, making a great show....
Don't have a favorite restaurant yet, but I love the Bronx, Bklyn and Harlem for rice and beans. I like real ethnic food.
9. I haven't seen the John DiResta mailbox outside the shop. What happened to it? The mailbox would be stolen! It’s inside the shop.
10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why? If I were an ice cream flavor it would be french vanilla with big chunks of chocolate chips, big chunks, nestled throughout.