Joey “Coco” Diaz has never forgotten where he comes from, and he is about to release a documentary that pays tribute to his childhood in North Bergen. The documentary will be released in mid-May, and shows his true roots in the Hudson County town.
Diaz is best known for his brash approach to comedy, as well as his acting on the television series “My Name is Earl.” He has also made appearances on “Law & Order” and in movies such as “Spider-Man 2,” “The Longest Yard” and “Taxi.”
Even with all the accolades and performances under his belt, he still considers himself a North Bergen boy at heart. He wanted to capture that in his documentary, which allows him to depict his youth in the town he loves and the people that made it a treasure for him.
“People love North Bergen,” said Diaz.
Despite the love, Diaz’s comedic approach is not for the faint of heart. He is best known for a style of story-telling that leaves the audience in fits instead of the standard joke and punch line delivery that many comedians use.
His documentary is called “Where I Got My Balls From” and was created as a collaborative effort with the help of Diaz’s fan base. Fans donated roughly $1,400 from Facebook and Twitter, leaving Diaz to put up an additional $2,600. He was shocked at the amount of support that his fans have given him.
“Anything is possible; you’re from North Bergen.” – Joey Coco Diaz
Diaz will only charge $5 for the documentary because he wants to make it readily available for the masses in a rough economy. Payloadz.com will be the first to sell the documentary and he also hopes that Amazon.com will take it on.
Director Lee Syatt shot six hours, which was then trimmed down to two.
From ringtone to CD
When Diaz’s friend Joel Haff contacted him to record some ringtones, he felt they turned out better than expected. So Haff suggested they make the recordings into a CD instead. Haff’s idea paid off, and Diaz’s CD, “It’s Either You or the Priest,” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, in the U.K. and in Canada.
His career also took flight digitally, as the CD reached No. 1 on iTunes. The documentary and CD are meant to compliment each other, according to Diaz.
The CD was released in April on Friday the 13th, and its name comes from a line Diaz uses at the end of some of his stories: “I either gotta tell you or the priest.”
Diaz also keeps his fans entertained with his podcast called “Beauty and Da Beast.” Felicia Michaels, his partner in the podcast, collaborated with the CD project as well. She managed to find a door at the church that said “priest” on it which made it perfect for the cover.
His increasing popularity has given him the freedom to take greater control of his career.
“I control it from A-Z. I’ve cut out the middle man. I’m off and running because I know I have a following. Now I have somewhere to take it,” said Diaz.
Diaz regards his fellow North Bergen residents, including his following, as natural story tellers. It’s to that innate ability which he credits to his comedy.
North Bergen, where ‘anything is possible’
He cites North Bergen for his “humor and toughness,” which is why he never forgets where he came from. It’s a part of him.
The once-troubled youth who lost his parents at the age of 15 thrived after residents in the community embraced him by taking him into their homes. This was a new form of family for Diaz.
“When the bomb drops there are going to be two people that survive and two are going to be from North Bergen,” Diaz said. “[Expletive deleted] The Sopranos; we’re from North Bergen.”
When it came to auditions and trying out for parts, Diaz relied on his upbringing to help him get through his insecurities and anxieties.
“Whenever you walk into auditions you get intimidated. I get stopped for the first four seconds and then I say, ‘I’m from North Bergen. This audition has nothing on me. I’m from f’in North Bergen. Anything is possible; you’re from North Bergen,’” said Diaz.
His pride extends to his knowledge of his home town. Although he currently resides in Los Angeles, he is well aware that the North Bergen High School state championships led to a victory last year. He referred to the NJSIAA that led to a one-point victory within a short period of time.
“Those kids were tiny little monsters and they won,” he said. “At the state championships, they won with three seconds left.”
Diaz recognizes the connection between himself and North Bergen residents, especially the youth.
“When my back’s been against the wall, that’s when it always starts. When we were kids in ’78, we won the state championships and they refused to lose and they became family.”
Despite all his connection to his hometown, he Diaz still gets homesick for it.
“I miss North Bergen every day and only stay for two, three days because it’s hard for me to leave after that.”
Vanessa Cruz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.