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Election 2000

Actor Joe Piscopo on the 2000 GOP Convention

In-Depth Coverage of the Republican National Convention
August 3, 2000
Posted at: 6:45 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Actor Joe Piscopo is the founder of Jersey Joe's Gyms, an activity center for inner city kids promoting drug-and-violence-free behavior. Piscopo also started his own foundation called The Positive Impact Foundation, creating positive media for at-risk youth, including the syndicated television show for teens, "Positive Impact TV."

Piscopo is best known for his work on "Saturday Night Live" from 1980-85, playing characters such as The Sports Guy and Doug Whiner, and doing impressions of David Letterman and Frank Sinatra. After "Saturday Night Live," he appeared in films such as "Wise Guys" with Danny DeVito, and "Johnny Dangerously" with Michael Keaton.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Joe Piscopo, and welcome.

Joe Piscopo: Greetings from New Jersey. It's Jersey Joe Piscopo, live from! Talk to me, baby!

Chat Moderator: What was your purpose at the Republican National Convention?

Joe Piscopo: I was at the convention as a guest of a Republican friend. I believe I was the only Democrat at the convention. I was also a representative and guest of the Creative Coalition. I must say, it was like going to a Super Bowl football game; it was absolutely cuckoo!

Question from TheWatcher: Joe, what is your impression of George W. Bush?

Joe Piscopo: You know, speaking as a Democrat, I really am most impressed with Mr. Bush because of the comments I hear from the people around him. When one talks to friends or other people in the political arena, you really hear the inside dope, so to speak. In this case, the dope on Bush is good, so to speak.

Question from Voteforal: Joe, hello there. What are your thoughts on Al Gore's chances? Also, what is the Creative Coalition?

Joe Piscopo: Don't ever underestimate Al Gore! I don't know Al, and I don't know if I'm gonna vote for him either, but he is a man of integrity. He's a man with a solid family history like Bush, so you can't underestimate a guy like that. I can only hope that if he does win, he and Tipper don't dance. The Republicans actually dance better than Tipper and Al Gore.

The Creative Coalition was started by Chris Reeve and its president is William Baldwin. They are involved in getting people involved in politics and education. The primary reason that I'm interested in working with them is violence in the media. They are as concerned about violence in the media as I am.

I have my own foundation called The Positive Impact Foundation, which creates positive media for at-risk kids. I got kicked out of school so many times I can't remember, so it's time to give back. When I deal with these at-risk children throughout New Jersey, Texas and Florida, I see violence as a recurring theme.

So, I am working with Governor Whitman here in New Jersey on the New Jersey Commission to Deter Criminal Activity. With Governor Whitman, we will be starting a whole anti-violence campaign in the fall for children in schools. That's what piqued my interest in the Creative Coalition. Sorry for babbling.

Question from WisOldMan: Joe, will you be at the Democratic National Convention in a few weeks?

Joe Piscopo: Yes, I will. I will be in Los Angeles, and I'll be attending some conferences on youth violence. I'm on the host committee for Chris Reeve’s foundation to help find a cure for paralysis.

Question from Candyce-CNN: Joe, will you chat with us again from Los Angeles?

Joe Piscopo: Absolutely! I think it is so cool to be able to talk with you like this because I am not one of those "celebrities" who sticks his head in the sand. I like talking with the people. I like talking with groovy people like you.

Question from PETEYBOY: Joe, hi; I'm a big fan! Did you ever hear a critique from, "The Chairman of the Board," on your impression of him?

Joe Piscopo: That’s a great question. The "old man," as we affectionately referred to him, actually enjoyed me doing him very much. He used to call me, "Joe Baby" or "Giuseppe." So, in a moment of comfort, I asked Mr. Sinatra, "May I call you Frank?" He quickly said, "No." He had a great sense of humor.

Question from Risen2cu: How do you think history will record Hollywood’s involvement in politics during the last century?

Joe Piscopo: Gosh, what a very astute question from Risen2cu! I think that history will record most celebrities getting involved in politics as kind of sad, kind of like egomaniacs looking for power. However, I could speak from experience that a lot of celebrities are community activists, and they really enjoy the political process.

What is so absolutely cool about getting involved in politics is that it's like fixing a sports game, and having a hand in the outcome. But, it's all legal.

Question from Jethro: Why are most celebrities supporters of the Democratic party?

Joe Piscopo: That’s another great question! You guys are kicking butt out there! First of all, Jethro, are you related to the Clampetts? But to answer your question, it's true, there seems to be a history of celebrities attached to the Democratic party, of which I am one, to tell you the truth, and I couldn't tell you why.

Nowadays, with Arnold, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis -- and I saw Jon Secada with George Bush yesterday -- there seems to be a real resurgence in the Republican Party with celebrities.

I'm a Democrat, although my friends tell me I'm leaning toward the Republican side. I am the product of immigrants and the working class family and, historically, all those folks were good Democrats. I don't know if that holds true today. Uh-oh, I don't know if now I'm getting too serious.

The conventions

Question from Moose: Joe, if you were the sole moderator of a Bush-Gore national television debate, what would be the one question you would be sure to ask each of them?

Joe Piscopo: I think I would ask Bush to nail down his drug history -- nail it down, Dubya! It's okay; we understand. We're cool with it, and we ain't gonna hold it against ya. But man, I am just so curious. I would ask him, "Could you just give us a timeline on your drug history?"

With Al Gore, I would just try to get him to chill down by asking him to disrobe on stage. "Al, take your clothes off. This will really break the ice, because you're just way too uptight!" But, I jest.

Question from Oldpoljunkie: Joe, if you recall, political conventions were very different in the past. How do you feel they have changed?

Joe Piscopo: Well, I am old enough to remember Grover Cleveland's convention. I believe it was during the 1800s and, in Grover's time, it was more an old boys' network. Now, it's more inclusive of women, of ethnic groups, of people of all colors, and I think that's the absolute best thing that has happened to conventions. And to back that statement up, yesterday at the GOP Convention, I actually spotted four African-Americans in the crowd.

Question from How: What was Grover's slogan?

Joe Piscopo: Grover's slogan actually was, "You loved Bert, you loved Ernie; now wait until you see Grover!"

Chat Moderator: Any final thoughts?

Joe Piscopo: No, just that I think it's wonderful. Everybody who was kind enough to join us today on should be so proud because they are the folks that will get involved, and they are the people who will truly make a difference in the political landscape of America.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.

Joe Piscopo: Thank you so much for chatting. Let's catch up at the Democratic National Convention, okay?

Joe Piscopo joining the Allpolitics Chat via telephone from New Jersey. CNN provided a typist for Piscopo. The above is an edited transcript of the chat.

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