Talk to Philadelphia cheesesteak king/actor Tony Luke Jr. and Netflix’s “Fuller House” writer Craig Shoemaker (who graduated from Springfield Township High School) and you’ll find it hard to get a word in edgewise. The old pals share a rapid-fire, familial banter that has you thinking — “Hey, these guys should have a show.”
Having recently filmed a pilot in Los Angeles (Shoemaker’s current home) for the comic reality series, “Funny Food,” that’s exactly what they’re doing. In it, Luke shows Shoemaker how to make great meals and Shoemaker introduces Luke to comedy clubs to perform stand-up. From March 30 to April 1, Luke puts his comedy skills to the test when the pair performs five shows at Helium Comedy Club.
So how are you guys friends to begin with?
Craig Shoemaker: I think we’re separated from birth.
Tony Luke: Show business.
How did you two clowns meet?
Shoemaker: We’re a mutual admiration society, like how I feel about sports guys. But I didn’t have Tony’s baseball card.
Luke: I went to a lot of his shows.
Shoemaker: Too many. I have a restraining order against him.
Luke: We became super tight in the last five years. He’s hilarious. Even if you know his jokes from the 7:30 show to the 10:30 show — they just get funnier. Doesn’t matter that I know what’s coming. I’m crushed.
And what about the food end?
Shoemaker: Well, I cook, and we had a party several years back at the Jersey Shore for one of my times home from California. I made all these pastas and meats — and then Tony comes with all of his great food, and everybody threw my stuff into the garbage. He’s got the gravy, the roasted pork. Eh, my dog wouldn’t even eat my food in lieu of Tony’s cuisine. Then there’s the time when Tony wanted to try stand-up comedy.
Luke: Don’t tell the story.
Tell the story.
Shoemaker: It was me and actor Jimmy Russo and my son and we’re at this restaurant in L.A. We still cry thinking of this. Tony gets up on a table, a rolled napkin as his microphone, and does this act, and we’re laughing our asses off, thinking of how badly he’s gonna bomb the next day. But he had confidence.
Luke: Craig said to me before that show the next night: “I know you’re nervous. I know you’re worried about bombing. Don’t worry. You’re absolutely going to stink up the joint — you’ll suck.”
It’s just a matter of degrees.
Shoemaker: But Tony wound up being really good, in front of a sold-out audience, yet.
Luke: That’s because I thought of it like a film. I’ve been doing roles in movies since I was a kid. So I acted like a stand-up comedian. Because it’s not just the material — it’s like Craig taught me — [it’s about the] the delivery.
Shoemaker: Unless they plain don’t like you. But they did — I did — and saw it as cathartic to him as a person because he was going through a rough patch and this was a way to extend his acting career.
Luke: You know, Craig told me that my role as a boxer in “The Nail” was the funniest thing he ever saw — until I told him it was a drama.
Craig saw potential in you as a comic, and you must have seen hope in him as a chef, which is how your pilot show came about, yes?
Luke: Exactly. He’s a passionate cook. Huge.
Shoemaker: I bought the rights to open three Tony Luke’s on the West Coast. Still, I want to match him meatball-for-meatball.
Luke: But he wants to put peppers in them — forgive him, he’s Irish.
No peppers. No onions.
Luke: Right. Yet, “Funny Food” was his idea, so we filmed it almost immediately because it was such a great idea. And now we’re getting attention for the pilot — a buddy comedy/food show where we go around the world and live our story.
Shoemaker: The guy who filmed it from BBC Worldwide Productions [not who is airing it, as yet] liked it because it is us, our story.
Luke: Our chemistry is exceptional.
Shoemaker: Travelling around the world — me cooking, Tony backstage genuinely nervous about his material. It’s a winner.
So what will the live show at Helium look and sound like?
Shoemaker: I base everything on my real life — my family, my wife — when you do that, you can’t go wrong.
Luke: I’m not doing political material. No Trump. I’m talking about me — my weight gain and loss, my relationships and food.
Shoemaker: And how impatient we both are. And how Tony is gonna bomb.
If you go:
Craig Shoemaker (with Tony Luke)
March 30-April 1
Helium Comedy Club
2031 Sansom St.