"It all comes down to being from North Bergen," said Diaz, the comic actor who was born and raised in North Bergen before heading for Hollywood a few years ago to pursue his career. "I got my comedy start in North Bergen High School. If you don't have a good sense of humor coming from North Bergen, then you better just shoot yourself. I had 12 years of comedy training in the North Bergen schools, with teachers like John Barone and Fred Terranova. That's where it all started."
Diaz has been a hot commodity in recent years, earning starring roles in the remake of "The Longest Yard," starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, and "Taxi," starring Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.
He's also been a hit doing standup comedy in clubs all across the country and just recently enjoyed a stint as "Joey Karate," doing promotions for the Ultimate Fighting Challenge in southern California. Diaz does karate tips, complete with the garb and get-up. It is a regular laugh riot, and the clips can be found on Youtube.com. But Diaz just might have stumbled into the role of his life.
He's become a regular on the popular NBC sitcom, "My Name is Earl," starring Jason Lee and recent Emmy Award-winner Jamie Pressly, earning a role as prisoner, "Joey, the Candy Bar Criminal."
"It's good that they call me Joey by name," Diaz said.
Diaz has a role in the first four episodes of the new season, which begins Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m.
In jail with Alyssa Milano
"It's a really funny show," Diaz said. "I think the guys who write this show are the funniest guys around. They have wild minds. It's just hysterical. I think it's the best show on NBC, but what do I know? I'm just happy to be on it and to have a recurring role."
Diaz said that the role popped up because the writers for "Earl" were looking for a bit part.
"They called around, looking for people who could play prisoners," Diaz said. "I kind of have a history of playing those roles. They saw me in 'The Longest Yard.' They contacted my agent to see if I was interested. I went in and read for them, and the next thing I know, I'm booked for the part and they kept writing me in."
In the first few episodes, Diaz offers funny quips while sitting in a jail cell with prominent actors like Michael Rappaport and Alyssa Milano.
"It's unbelievable," Diaz said. "We're all in jail together."
Diaz just loves working on "Earl."
"There are just so many talented people working on that show," Diaz said. "I just love it. Jamie Pressly is so beautiful. Jason Lee is great. Ethan Suplee is a friend who is studying ju jitsu, and I think he saw me as Joey Karate. I think that might have helped me get this part."
While Diaz enjoyed his movie roles, he believes that this may be the role that catapults him into the mainstream.
"This really puts me out there as a comedian," said Diaz, who will also be seen on the Showtime comedy special, "The Piazzo Comedy Show," which airs this month. "I've done movies. I've done standup comedy. But I've always wanted to be on a sitcom as a regular. This could be it."
Over the last two years, Diaz had roles on possible sitcom pilots that were not picked up by the networks.
"So this is my chance," Diaz said. "I always wanted to play like a coach or a dad on a sitcom. But I guess I was born to play a prisoner or a convict. Coming from North Bergen, it's natural. I told them that if they leave me in the prison long enough, I could become a regular. I could become a member of the 'A Team.' "
Diaz said that he has been getting funny lines.
"I can't wait to see how it turns out, but I don't like watching myself on TV," Diaz said. "I'm too fat."
Benefit for NB kids
Diaz said that he will be returning to his old stomping grounds in North Bergen on Nov. 4, headlining a benefit comedy show to help the North Bergen basketball teams purchase new uniforms.
"I'm looking forward to coming home, coming back to town," Diaz said. "That's more important to me." To learn more about Joey "Coco" Diaz, visit his website at www.joeycocodiaz.com and check out the links for Joey Karate.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com