Mario Cantone is "old school" all the way when he performs his nightclub act: He sings, tells jokes and does impressions of icons such as Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli.
"Jon Stewart told me I'm the white Sammy Davis Jr.," says Cantone, who will perform his act 9 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. "I said, that's a great compliment, thank you."
Known for his over-the-top turn as Anthony in the HBO series "Sex and the City" and crowd-pleasing appearances on "The View," Cantone is an accomplished stage performer whose Broadway credits include the acclaimed one-man show "Laugh Whore."
The very out Cantone, who got one of his first big breaks as the host of the syndicated cult favorite children's TV show "Steampipe Alley," also had a recurring role on the ABC series "Men in Trees" and appeared in both "Sex and the City" movies.
Cantone talks about playing gay to mostly-straight audiences and how "Sex and the City" changed his career.
Q: You're an Atlantic City regular now. What's it like to come here?
A: The first time I played Atlantic City, I was petrified as usual. I didn't know how it was going to go. It went so incredibly well. Afterwards, I thought about it. What I do lends itself to very old-school Vegas and Atlantic City. I have a band. I do an opening number. I do stand-up. I do my impressions. I talk about pop culture. It's very musical –– it's very old school.
Q: Has A.C. gotten more gay-friendly over the years?
A: The first time I played it was 2005 –– it felt pretty OK then for me. A lot of my audience that comes to see me is straight –– I don't know about what's out there in the ethernet, but the people that come see, it's more straight people than gay people. When you have high-rollers in the front row jumping up wanting to shake your hand, it's pretty great. I don't know what it was like before 2005 because I hadn't played it yet. I had played Vegas in the '80s, which felt a little strange.
Q: Times are different now, no matter where you are.
A: The president has spoken ... the country is shifting –– I never thought I'd live to say it. There still needs to be more shifting, but it's definitely amazing what's going on. I don't talk about my marriage, I don't talk about my past relationships, I don't talk about it ... because it's like being a fat comedian and just doing fat jokes. I just never did that. If you don't know (I'm gay), you're an idiot.
Q: Are you working toward another one-man show for Broadway?
A: I am, but it needs work, I think. Last year, I kind of had the show, and then as time goes on, you lose some of the material and rework it. I have 80 percent of it. I just need 90 minutes. But I still want to shape some stuff. It has a working title –– "Mario Cantone Swings Both Ways." Right now, I have a four-piece band. For Broadway, hopefully I'm going to add some brass to it, so it does swing a little bit more, musically.
Q: Do people confuse you with your "Sex and the City" character?
A: There's a lot of people that are really true fans, that know my stand-up, know me from "The View" and know "Sex and City." Then there are people who are just so excited that you're from this phenomenon that was part of American pop culture. They just freak out and sometimes they call me by my character name, which is fine, because it's my middle name, Anthony.
I tell people, if you just know me from "Sex and the City," you don't know what I do –– you have no idea what I do. It's a frustration, but something that completely boosted up my visibility and my Q and whatever the hell else you want to call it.