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Meet Joe Dalo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Dalo.

Joe, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am an Italian guy, born and raised in the Philadelphia area. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be an entertainer. I used to put variety shows on in my basement from horror plays to musicals (where I sang along to my first Elvis album), or just cracking jokes around the dinner table with my Mom, Dad, three sisters, and my little brother. My three older sisters, Louise, Joann, and Marie and my parents were often subjected to my one-man shows and my poor brother Phil was often dragged into my show with me. Sorry, Phil.

In high school, I started acting in plays and talent shows. I still remember the first standup comedy routine I did in my senior year of high school, where I made fun of my teachers and Principal to the roar of laughter of the audience. Right then, I was hooked. I went to college for Lasers (yes Lasers, it was the 80’s) but I was still doing plays when I could. To support myself, I worked as an Assistant Carpenter building houses and home repairs. That job taught me a lot about building and carpentry – which comes into play much later. I switched majors (and schools) and got my BFA in Acting and Directing from Montclair State University. It was during my time at MSU that I worked at the school in the tech department and my boss, Terri Raulie, taught me about how to run a crew of people… a skill I would need and use later in life, just like carpentry.

A few years out of school, I was cast in the Original Philadelphia company of the Off-Broadway hit “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.” I played Tina’s loveable but jealous ex-boyfriend Michael Just. Tony and Tina’s was the very first interactive, environmental theatre experience of it’s kind. And it was a HUGE hit. While I was performing in Tony & Tina’s, I started getting serious about stand-up comedy and became a regular at local Philly clubs. Between standup comedy and acting, I was able to travel the country. Eventually, Off-Broadway called, and I transferred to the NYC company of Tony & Tina’s, now playing the clever and loving Best Man at the Wedding. In New York, I continued to do stand-up won a comedy contest at Comic Strip Live. I added voice-over to my resume at this time, and with all the opportunities of New York City at my disposal, I was thriving.

Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. I was staring across the river in Weehawken NJ that day a group of us watched the Twin Towers fall. Tony and Tina’s went dark for a while and the next few years were about rebuilding the city, but also my career. NYC was hurting and so was I.

Thankfully, an old friend who I had met on the tour of TnT, called and told me that a new show called Punk’d was in shooting in New York and could use a PA (production assistant). It paid well so I said yes. The first “camera hide” (aka what a cameraman is hiding in when filming with a hidden camera) I built was in the kitchen of my small apartment in West New York. Suddenly, those years of carpentry work came in handy! I was naturally good at this work, and just before the show left to go back to Los Angeles, Oscar Albuerne, the Production Designer, asked if I had any interest in coming to Los Angeles. I was broke, my roommate was moving and I was single. So I said, “why not”?

About six weeks after I moved to LA, I got a job as a PA on a show called Monster House. After getting others organized to work (and still making them laugh), I was asked to be the Lead Man of the Punk’d Art Department crew for season 2. I remember saying I would love to do it before I realized what it meant. I was now the guy on set who had to lead a crew of amazingly talented people to help what would become one of the most influential shows ever. I was usually the first guy on set and the last to leave. It was so exhilarating to be part of such an incredible show. We accomplished so many incredible things on a daily basis – the stunts, the real-time (not digital) special FX, and all those insane pranks!

And the celebrities we got to work with were amazing! From Hugh Jackman to Rihanna to Sugar Ray Leonard. The thing about Punk’d that people don’t realize is that all other hidden camera shows use multiple people and do multiple takes – a lot of other shows are “faked”. But with Punk’d you only get one shot and all of the celebrities are cautious of actually being Punk’d. Celebrities are savvy, and once they show became a cultural phenomenon, our jobs got even harder. It’s a really difficult show that takes an incredible crew of people to pull off.

And it also took a lot of time. For years it was all I did and I learned a lot. But it left me no time for acting, directing or standup. I was learning, discovering and creating new ways to hide cameras and how to create such legendary things as making The Rock thinking he blew up his trailer to making Beyonce think she knocked over a 30′ Christmas tree. Fun fact: You can see me dressed as an elf in the Beyonce episode.

In between Punk’d (which has been rebooted so many times now), I continued working in hidden cameras, creating legendary pranks such as the giant swinging hand in the movie, Jackass 3. I then got to work with magicians to build the illusions that were turned into pranks on the show Room 401 and I built and designed magic illusions for such magicians as Matt Franco and Michael Carbonaro. And no, I won’t tell you how it’s done so don’t ask me.

After all those years working behind the camera, in 2103, The Disney Channel cast me as the co-host of a prank show, “Code 9”. In a full-circle moment, I played the funny and clever guy who hides the cameras and pull pranks on unsuspecting parents by their children. There has never been a role more suited for me! Season One was a huge hit for the network, averaging three million viewers per episode. Unfortunately, great pranks come with a great price tag and the second season was never shot due to budget restrictions. Having rekindled my love for performing, I went back to my first love, theatre, and met my next love, my wife Renee, while performing opposite her in a Tennessee Williams spoof, “The Glass Mendacity”.

Punk’d never stay dormant for long, so before I knew it, I was back in production for season nine. And now, I was the Art Director. That season we created a fake earthquake that scared the hell out of Drake. (In that episode, you can see me behind Ashton Kutcher, directing the over 20 cues that it took to make a fake quake happen). After Punk’d, I worked on Bill Nye Saves the World and Martha and Snoops Pot Luck Dinner. I also started getting the itch to do standup again. Of all the crazy things I had been part of, there was still something missing.

I will always remember the moment Renee looked me in the eyes and said, “You need to do standup again, even just once.” She was right and I started putting together a small set, I went to open mics and before I knew it I was in a stand-up show at the legendary Ice House in the main room. I invited friends and made a deal with my wife that if it went well I would keep going. That night I got up for the first time in a long time and did stand up comedy, and it was truly like riding a bike. I had a killer set and as I walked off the stage, I was hooked again.

I continued doing standup at the same time I was continuing to become a Production Designer for hidden cameras tv shows like The Carbonaro Effect, The Substitute on Nickelodeon, and Fuzzballs. I started headlining for Rebels of Comedy and it was at this time that a new streaming service called Quibi announced it would be doing a new version of (the now-classic show) Punk’d. I was called by the producers and was told they were interested in me being the Production Designer for the new show. How could I say no? I had now climbed from Art PA to the Production Designer on a show so popular the name of it is in Websters Dictionary. Punk’d is part of our culture; it’s part of our lexicon. I’m proud to a part of that legacy.

The irony isn’t lost on me: I started my career wanting to be front and center, on stage, performing. And now, most of my success in hidden camera and the magic world, I can’t really talk about. And as much as I hope I can one day just do standup comedy for a living, playing pranks on celebrities is a great way to fill the time until then. I can’t wait to see how this next generation enjoys the new season of Punk’d on Quibi. And like always, I’m going to continue to make people laugh.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My mother was an inspiration to me and so many others. Losing her to Parkinson’s was hard but I often think of what she said one day when her nephew asked how she was doing. She responded, “I could complain, but then I would waste all that time I could be having fun instead.” That kind of inspiration got me through the times like when I was going back to standup comedy and I broke three of my toes and was unable to stand up easily for over four months. I think my biggest obstacle in becoming successful in the hidden camera/prank world was myself and having the confidence to trust my ideas and instincts.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I’ve worked my way up to one of the top Production Designers for hidden camera movies and television shows. I’m probably best known for my work on Punk’d, Code 9, Jackass 3, The Carbonaro Effect, Room 401, and The Substitute. With my wide variety of experience, he creates, designs and innovates new methods of hiding cameras. I love the challenge of hiding a camera as small as a pack of cigarettes to a camera person needs to run. One of the things I like to say is, “People only know they are on a hidden camera show is when we tell them.”

I create and design practical effects, from falling wedding cakes to dropping a wrecking ball through a luxury car. And I am constantly figuring out new ways to hide cameras in plain sight. I’ve also been a key player in some legendary viral pranks, such as the giant high five hand from Jackass 3. I always try to work with almost any budget, making sure the needs of the show get met in a practical and effective way without breaking their bank. When I’m not doing that, I’m also a professional stand-up comic, using my truly one of a kind experiences to relate to the audience and allow them to laugh about the absurdity and complexities of life. Right now I am hoping to get back on the road soon and continue doing the thing I love most, making people laugh.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My Mom for always being an inspiration. She always found something to laugh about, even in the darkest moments and she taught me to always keep fighting. Also, my siblings Louise, Joann, Marie, and Philip for always being my biggest supporters.

I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without Mark Thompson who was the person who taught me about carpentry and home repair and is still like family to me.

Terri Raulie who hired me as an assistant at Montclair State University and let me run the crews and build the shows for the theatre department.

Oscar Albuerne who is a true genius in the hidden camera world. He taught me everything I needed to know to become the hidden camera designer I am today.

Rico Dela Vega and Magic X for teaching me the magic basics that allowed me to work with some great magicians and be a small part of such an exclusive world.

Michael Carbonaro for giving me the chance to work as a Production Designer for the first time.

Jason Goldberg who trusted me to be an important part of the new season of Punk’d.

Tim Kaminski for inspiring me to do stand up again.

But most of all, my wife Renee, who is my everything. She amazes me with her drive and success in her work. She helps me every day be the best me I can be. Love her to the moon and back.

Contact Info:

  • Website: JoeDalo.com
  • Email: JoeDalo.com
  • Instagram: JoeDaloJoeDalo
  • Facebook: Joe Dalo – Standup Comedian
  • Twitter: Joe_Dalo

Image Credit:
Me with Renee
Me with the amazing art department from Code 9, Billy, John Calderon, Michael Cruz, La Jesse J, Joe Dalo, Rosie Leone, Kellen Harmon, Macky McNamara, Cory Lennon, John and Tom Kizy
Me with Mark Thompson
Me with Michael Carbonaro after he came to see me headline the Rebels of Comedy.
Me with my sisters and brother, LtoR Philip, Marie, Louise, myself and Joann.
Me with my wife Renee
Thats from a promo for Good Day New York w (Chris DePierro, Fabio, Scott Bielecky and myself.

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