It’s been a little over 10 years since Arlington Heights comedian Nick Smeriglio first stepped on stage. He remembers it vividly. It was during his senior year at Saint Viator High School, when football season had ended. Without strength workouts to fill their time, he convinced his teammates to go out for the musical. “C’mon, it’ll be fun,” he remembers telling them.
Well, he’s still having fun on stage. Whether he’s doing stand-up, acting in film and commercials, or doing impersonations on TikTok and Instagram, he has hundreds of thousands of followers. And now he’s coming home. Smeriglio, or Nicky Smigs as he calls himself professionally, will headline a sold-out shot June 16 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
“It’s amazing,” Smerigilio said in a phone interview from his home in New York. “It still doesn’t make sense that 330 people are coming to see me, but it means the world to me.”
After appearing in the ensemble of The Sound of Music during his senior year, Smeriglio went on to earn a marketing degree at Marquette University, before beginning a career in sales. He says he followed the conventional route, but he just wasn’t happy in the corporate world.
A lightbulb went off when he read the book, Stay Hungry, by another Arlington Heights native and comedian, Sebastian Maniscalco.
“It really motivated me,” Smeriglio says. “Like me, he had no experience on stage or in standup. He waited tables for seven years while he tried to make it. There were so many signs that this was possible. I had to start somewhere. His book — and his story — were transformative for me.”
After going to see Second City with his sister, Frankie, Smeriglio enrolled in improv classes. He also followed a lead from his younger brother, Rocky, who filmed a video and put it on TikTok, which drew 100,000 views. Timing played a role. Literally, one week after finishing his Second City class, the pandemic hit.
With that, he quit his job, moved back to Arlington Heights and began posting impersonations on TikTok and Instagram. He credits his family, including his parents, Rocco and Andrea, with supporting his new venture into comedy and impersonations.
His following soon blew up, especially with his impersonation of Maniscalco in September 2020. Turns out that Maniscalco himself saw it and he liked it so much he shared it with his own followers. He even spotlighted Smeriglio’s impersonation of him on the Jimmy Kimmel show, which went viral.
After that, Smeriglio started getting calls from East Coast comedy clubs, eventually leading him to hire a manager and move to New York. All signs pointed to going to a bigger market, he says. Bookings came, leading to one memorable 11-day, nine-show tour that paved the way for a headlining gig at the famed Caroline’s on Broadway in Times Square.
Last November, Smeriglio appeared in Burbank, CA with comedian Jay Leno, before returning to Chicago in January to appear on WGN-TV and 670 AM, The Score, with a skit on how celebrities would have fired former Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy.
Increasingly, Smeriglio has diversified himself. He still posts videos and impersonations daily on social media, but he also has begun posting videos on YouTube, doing more standup on stage, writing new material, working on film projects and collaborating with other creators.
“It’s a natural progression,” he says, “but I’m having fun doing all of it.”
Appearing at Metropolis had been in the works for months and talks are underway for a possible return in December, given how quickly the June 16 show sold out.
“It means the world to me, I still haven’t come to terms with it, ” Smeriglio says. “But it’s a nod to the Arlington Heights community and how supportive they’ve been. They show up!”