By Nick Corasaniti
He found fame in the 1980s impersonating Frank Sinatra, President Ronald Reagan and countless others on “Saturday Night Live,” followed by numerous Hollywood gigs, stand-up routines and a drive-time radio show.
So for Joe Piscopo, the weeknight scene at a high-dollar fundraising gala in the tuxedo-packed Starlight Roof room at the Waldorf Astoria hotel seemed perfect for a little Ol’ Blue Eyes.
But Piscopo pocketed his “New York, New York” for the night, opting instead to trade a Jersey-centric joke or two with Stephen Baldwin, encourage guests to donate, offer praise to the hosts and scoot offstage.
Piscopo, 65, still managed to draw giggles from the $50,000-a-table crowd at the gala to help bring pandas to New York City. But his self-discipline is part of an effort to project a more sober image as he weighs his next move: trading in his Sinatra for a run for governor of his home state, New Jersey.
“I’m very serious about it,” he said. “I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.”
New Jersey is one of two states that will elect a new governor this year, as the eight-year reign of Gov. Chris Christie comes to an end. And Piscopo is hoping to parlay his Jersey credentials and rising political profile – he campaigned for President Donald Trump, and his radio show focuses on conservative politics – into a long-shot bid for governor.
For the moment, the seriousness of Piscopo’s potential run remains shrouded in a statewide listening tour of sorts – meetings with union leaders, industry experts and elected officials, sprinkled with the occasional keynote at Republican county dinners or cable news appearances.
If he decides to jump into the Republican primary, he has an April 3 filing deadline.
Piscopo has formed the skeleton of a platform: a focus on increasing manufacturing for distressed communities; resuscitating the state’s once-booming pharmaceutical industry; a property tax cap; using public-private partnerships to rebuild the state’s infrastructure; eliminating the state income tax for teachers, firefighters and the police; and, with his show business roots, working to “make Atlantic City the film capital of the Northeast.”
He is also ready to to break out Ol’ Blue Eyes for the right moment.
“I’ll tell ya, if I do win,” he said, laughing as he dropped his voice half an octave to match Sinatra’s, “I will be the one singing ‘My Way,’ at the inauguration.”