Sebastian Maniscalco has a number of gifts as a stand-up comedian -- among them, storytelling skills and a physicality that enlivens his performances.
Now starring in a new comedy series starting Thursday on Max, Maniscalco, 50, also has one of those voices that, for reasons I cannot explain, has a unique, comedic quality that would probably sound funny if he were reciting his grocery list.
It is a quality that not every comedian has the good fortune to possess. Some who come to mind were Norm MacDonald and Louie Anderson -- both deceased, unfortunately. I am sure there are others who are still living.
The point is that Maniscalco’s new series “Bookie,” in which he plays the title role, would be a funny show even if he did little more than just show up.
But he does more than just show up in “Bookie.” In the show, Maniscalco (above photo, left) plays “Danny,” an L.A. bookie of the old school who takes clients’ sports bets over a cellphone that identifies them only by a three-digit number.
In Episode One (which was the only episode Max provided for preview), we see the two most important parts of his business -- taking bets and collecting debts. He is a lot better at the former than the latter.
To help with the collecting part of his profession, Danny works with an ex-NFL player named Ray (Omar J. Dorsey, above photo left, with Maniscalco) who does not believe in physical confrontations.
As an old-fashioned bookmaker, Danny is a low-level crook who may soon be thrown out of business if sports betting becomes legal in California.
His situation is echoed by an acquaintance of Danny’s who was formerly a pot dealer, but now works as a Lyft driver because the legalization of marijuana ruined his illegal business.
“Bookie” is from sitcom mogul Chuck Lorre and cohort Nick Bakay. The first episode of the show contains references to one of Lorre’s previous sitcom hits, plus unannounced cameo appearances by two well-known comedy stars.
“Bookie” is the third Lorre comedy series produced for streaming. The other two were “Disjointed,” starring Kathy Bates, and the much-loved “The Kominsky Method,” starring Michael Douglas and the late Alan Arkin. They are both Netflix shows.
With all three streaming comedies, Lorre and his team demonstrate that they are just as comfortable producing for streaming as they are for broadcast television. They are just as good at it too.
“Bookie” starts streaming Thursday, November 30, on Max.