Sam Tripoli: "Politics Is Like Pro Wrestling. They're All Getting Paid by the Same People. It's All Fake Drama."

It's fitting that a comic who does a popular sports podcast is performing at the House of Comedy during Super Bowl week. "I've loved sports since I was kid," says Sam Tripoli, who co-hosts Punch Drunk with fellow comics Ari Shaffir and Jayson Thibault. "But I wasn't good at it. My brother was exceptional at it. He was the number-one high school bowler in New York State. He could bowl 300 with both hands. He was rock-and-bowl Jesus."

The best Sam could muster on the lanes was a 185. "Which is nothing compared to what my brother could do," he says.

[jump] The first sport he followed passionately was basketball, college and pro. "My first introduction to sports was Patrick Ewing and Georgetown University [basketball]," he says. "I fell in love with basketball and that 'Hoya Paranoia' team."

He followed Ewing as he became a member of Tripoli's hometown New York Knicks. However, his favorite football team was not the Giants or Jets. "I was a Raiders fan as a kid. I loved the bad guys. I always loved the bad guys. I was a Raiders fan because they were bad guys. Now they're just bad."

Tripoli later parted ways with the Knicks for two reasons. "I hated the way they traded [Ewing]," he says. "They got rid of him around the time I moved to Los Angeles, so I decided to start rooting for the Clippers." The decision to pull for the Clippers instead of the much more successful (at the time) Lakers was made in part for financial reasons. "Back then, I could only afford their tickets. I've been a Clippers fan for 15 years now."

Onstage, Tripoli doesn't talk a lot about sports, instead saving his observations for Punch Drunk.

"Most chicks, and some dudes, don't follow sports," he notes. "The whole idea behind Punch Drunk is that all the comics used to hang out in the back of the Comedy Store [in Los Angeles] just arguing sports all the time. We were like, 'This should be a podcast.'" 

The trio has done the show for about three years while each has seen their comedy careers take off. "Ari's special just came out, it's called Big Regular, and he has a TV show coming out called This Is Not Happening. He still loves doing Punch Drunk. Everyone that comes on the show loves talking about sports. Everybody thinks they are an expert, and that's the best."

That's not to say that some of them don't know what they are talking about -- quite the opposite. "I'm amazed at how the comics that come on our show are pretty accurate," he adds. "It's very funny, we predict a lot of stuff before it happens, mostly because we don't have anyone paying us to say what we have to say."

Tripoli's other ongoing project is The Naughty Show, an adult comedy evening that is performed in Las Vegas on a semi-regular basis. He's looking to have it there permanently.

"We've had talks with a bunch of people," he reports. "What's happening now is all these casinos are opening new stages, like two or three. Instead of just having one show per stage, they are having a show every two hours. So you could have four or five shows using one stage. We'll see what happens."

Las Vegas is quite familiar to Triploi, as he went to college at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) before starting his comedy career in the desert oasis. He wonders if Cuba will provide competition for Las Vegas now that the embargo is ending.

"I think that's going to be interesting," he says. "Everything is going to be so cheap there. I love Vegas, but Cuba might be fun."

It might even force the Vegas properties to rethink their business model.

"I think it will force Vegas to loosen its laws, too," he says. "Vegas was really great when it was the only place you could do a lot of stuff. Now, you have Indian casinos and racinos everywhere.  People don't need to go to Vegas as much. Vegas is like Major League Baseball in the '90s. A bunch of corporations bought teams and tried to cut back on spending and increased prices on everything. You can't do that in entertainment."

Tripoli says that people who come to Las Vegas want to stay cheap, eat cheap, and gamble the rest of their money, something that's difficult to do in the age of the mega-resort.

Known for his libertarian views, Tripoli doesn't focus much on the political part of the newly relaxed relations with Cuba. "It's interesting the way it all works out," he says. "Politics is like pro wrestling. They're all getting paid by the same people. It's all fake drama."


Sam Tripoli

The House of Comedy

Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558


18+; 21+ later shows

7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday