October 12, 1955
Brooklyn, New York
|Occupation||Solo performer, comedy writer, producer, director and speaker on first amendment issues.|
|Known for||Senior editor, MAD magazine, Annual John Lennon Tribute, Theatre Within|
Joe Raiola (born October 12, 1955) is an American comedian, comedy writer and producer. He has been a member of the editorial staff of Mad magazine since 1985 and currently holds the title of Senior Editor.
Joe Raiola was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up on Staten Island where he attended Tottenville High School. He was awarded a scholarship to Adelphi University based on his work in the school drama class. After graduating from Adelphi in 1977, he was a taxi driver in New York City until the mid-1980s.
Raiola began his professional comedy writer career in 1984 working with National Lampoon writers, including Tony Hendra and Sean Kelly, on a series of popular magazine spoofs, including Cosmoparody and Like A Rolling Stone.
He sold his first article, a collaboration with his long time writing partner, Charlie Kadau, to MAD magazine that same year. In 1985, Raiola and Kadau became MAD staffers, writing for the magazine as a team and separately. Among their best known MAD pieces is The Belching Dragon, a parody of a Chinese take-out menu.
Raiola honed his skills as a comic performer at Theatre Within in New York City, where he began studying with director Alec Rubin in 1979. He appeared in clubs and small theaters in a series of one-man shows, including Lost in the New Age, based on his Whole Life Magazine column of the same name.
In the early 1990s, The Joy of Censorship, Raiola's comic take on controversial First Amendment issues, earned him a reputation as an outspoken defender of free speech. He's performed the show at colleges, regional theaters, libraries and professional conferences, and continues to tour with it today. It has been broadcast on C-SPAN's American Perspectives television series.
In 2002 Raiola's Almost Obscene show was a hit at the New York City International Fringe Festival. The New York Times called it "a ruefully amusing lament for the ineradicable hypocrisy of humanity." In July 2006, at the Henry Miller Library, Raiola unveiled a new version of the show, which he also performed as part of the Woodstock Fringe, where the Woodstock Times called it "unflinchingly honest and thought provoking."
Annual John Lennon Tribute
In 1981, Raiola (with Alec Rubin) created Theatre Within's Annual John Lennon Tribute, which is the longest running such tribute in the world. Raiola has produced and appeared in the Tribute for 33 consecutive years.
In addition to supporting Theatre Within, proceeds from the Tribute have helped feed the hungry, build music schools in the Third World, fund education programs for homeless children, and support Hurricane Sandy relief. In 2013, proceeds were shared with Spirit Foundations, which was founded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1978 as a vehicle to support charities that address the problems of the aging, abused women and children, and victims of terrorism and natural disasters.
The Tribute has attracted many well-known artists such as Patti Smith, Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Judy Collins, Aimee Mann, Rosanne Cash, David Bromberg, Raul Malo, Bettye LaVette, Joan Osborne, Shelby Lynne and Taj Mahal.
Upon hearing of the Tribute for the first time in 2004, Yoko Ono invited Raiola to contribute to her book, Memories of John Lennon.
Theatre Within's 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute took place at the Beacon Theatre.
Since 2001, Raiola has co-hosted the Woodstock Roundtable radio program with Doug Grunther.
Run For Pope
On February 14, 2013, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Raiola announced his candidacy for Pope. Along with Stephen Colbert, Richard Simmons, Jim Caviezel and Tom Araya he was chosen by TruTV as one of 5 Unconventional Catholics That Could Become The New Pope. Ultimately, Pope Francis was elected; due to the traditional secrecy of the voting process, the only certainty is that Raiola finished no higher than second in the balloting.
- "MAD magazine masthead appearances". Mike Slaubaugh. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- Raiola, Joe. "Senior Editor, MAD". Senior Editor, MAD.
- "Almost Obscene Explores Censorship from Biblical Times to the Present".
- "Annual John Lennon Tribute".
- Raiola, Joe. "Theatre Within". Theatre performer. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
- Rubin, Alec. "Theatre Within". Founder, Theatre Within.
- Bruckner, D.J.R. "O.K., You've Rejected Just about Everything. Now What?".
- Rebecca Daniels (August 23, 2007). "Raiola Unleashed and Outrageous". Woodstock Times.
- Grunther, Doug. "Woodstock Radio".
- Joe Raiola. "Joe Raiola For Vice Pope". Facebook. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
- "5 Unconventional Catholics That Could Become The New Pope.". TruTV. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
- Raiola's official website
- Complete list of Raiola's bylines in MAD Magazine
- Posters for one of Raiola's stage shows, including images from MAD Magazine