Michael D’Angelo grew up in Las Vegas and is a former Marine Corps gunner. After being medically separated from the Marines, D’Angelo worked several jobs before finding his calling as a standup comedian. Now, D’Angelo and his troupe of comedians tour military installations as the Rapid Fire Comedy Tour.
For most of his life, D’Angelo lived out of a van with his father. At fifteen, he realized if he wanted to stay alive and out of prison, he needed to do something with his life. When his friend’s behavior began escalating, D’Angelo knew something had to change.
“As a kid, I wasn’t mentally strong enough to separate myself from the people I knew as my friends even though I knew they were pulling me in an environment that would land me in prison or dead,” said D’Angelo.
In the middle of his junior year, D’Angelo unrolled himself in high school and took his GED. Then, he went to the Marine Corps recruiting office in town. Reluctantly, his dad signed for him to join the Marines.
“I was so ready to leave the city and I didn’t want to be like my father or live like him anymore. I wanted to take control of my life,” he said.
D’Angelo served five years with the Marines as a machine gunner before medically retiring. After working temporary jobs in construction and sales, D’Angelo started doing stand-up to get better at talking with people. D’Angelo said he was addicted right away. He did stand-up for three years, and that’s when he found his calling.
“I realized instead of helping someone else build their own company, I decided to work on my own thing,” he said.
So D’Angelo started going to Los Angeles to attend improv and writing classes. There, he attended shows at the big clubs are realized that’s precisely where he needed to be. He moved to LA, and he planned to live in his car because that’s something he knew how to do.
“I’m no stranger to discomfort,” D’Angelo recalled, “and at least this time, I’m doing it this way.”
D’Angelo worked as a doorman for Hollywood Improv for three years, and he says there were many mornings when he’d stand in the middle of Melrose Avenue after a long shift and feel like he’d made it.
But in the middle of those years, D’Angelo also struggled to get stage time.
“I had a really hard time adjusting to the kinds of crowds that big clubs bring,” he said, which led him on a path to discover just who was his audience.
As he shifted through his memory, D’Angelo says one day it struck him who he should be performing for — all of his buddies from the Marine Corps.
“These were the guys who told me if I didn’t become a comedian, I’d be wasting my life. So I decided to do something about it,” said D’Angelo.
He sent out 400 letters to units all over the country and told them that he’d travel for free to their installation and perform for free. His first show was May 5, 2018, at Camp Pendleton’s Edson Range.
“I didn’t know what to expect at all. I didn’t bring anyone with me, so it was just me standing up there for 45 minutes telling jokes to 250 Marines. They treated me like I was Dave Chappelle and immediately, I was hooked,” he said.
D’Angelo says the experience was wild and unique, and he knew right then that was where he was supposed to be. Now he scouts for comics to bring them to bases, and since D’Angelo is based in Hollywood, he has access to the “best comics in the world.”
The shows are performed in a “rapid-fire” format, with each comedian having about 15 minutes of stage time. This way, the audience is exposed to a diverse variety of performers. Rapid Fire Comedy Tour is a 501 3(c) approved non-profit funded entirely by donations.
As the group continues to evolve, so too does the mission.
“Initially, I wanted to build camaraderie among the units. From the mental aspect, if you can get folks together who have high-stress jobs and get them to relax a bit, the whole unit benefits. Now it’s to help expose young Marines to this form of art. The country is so divided right now, and comedy acts as a bridge,” he said.
For D’Angelo, he says he’d love to tour the country and perform at a different installation each weekend.
“I’m trying to make sure that we can leave the world better than when we arrived. That means self-forgiveness, feeling comfortable about the world, and becoming closer to people who matter,” he said.
Find out more at the Rapid Fire website, including information about upcoming shows. D’Angelo and his troupe are available to perform, and he’s interested in expanding his reach to other branches of the military, including spouse’s clubs and other “mandatory-fun” type events.Read comments