(Joey Mulinaro, photo via Twitter)
If you’re active in the sports realm on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve come across Joey Mulinaro of Barstool Sports impersonations of Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron, Andrew Luck, Colin Cowherd, and other sports figures or celebrities. The imitations that have gone viral on Twitter have created a niche for Mulinaro and has blossomed his Twitter account to 271.8 thousand followers.
“I am six months into in now with Barstool,” Mulinaro said. “I started in March and it all came about really when things started picking up for me and my videos started popping off a little bit. The NFL Scouting Combine was in Indianapolis like it is every year and the “Pardon My Take” guys were in town and I linked up with them and did some videos with them. From there Dan “Big Cat” Katz gave my information over to Dave Portnoy and I talked with him, and a week later I was on a flight to New York to talk everything over.”
Mulinaro previously worked in digital media at WFNI ESPN 107.5 in downtown Indianapolis and said he was using radio and sports media as a gateway to be able to do comedy on the side since they are close parallels, but being a comedian was something that he always wanted to do full-time as a career.
“When I was at my old job, I did that during the day, and then at night on the weekends I was doing my own shows, or I was doing stand-up or my own videos and working on skits and impressions,” Mulinaro said. “It’s really what I’ve always wanted to do, but then I just really kind of started focusing on (comedy) last year and it started working out for me.”
As mentioned above, Mulinaro has crafted the art of nailing impressions of college coaches and celebrities in the sports world or outside of it. So how does he do it? Mulinaro says it’s no different than any other occupation with a pursuit of perfection.
“Certain people that I’ve done or tried to do it can take me a little bit of time to work on, but typically with each one of them I’ll rip a few takes and then I’ll just kind of play it back for myself,” he said. “If it’s not sounding up to par with what I want it to sound like, then I’ll keep on doing it again until I finally get to where I feel confident objectively enough that it sounds like that person or that would be a funny thing to do. I’ve kind of compared it to football like watching film. I play it back and listen and watch and try to see where I can improve.”
When Mulinaro isn’t hosting his podcast “Cup of Joey” or impersonating Nick Saban to a T, he’s actively following the Steelers and is the creator of the phrase “Big Ben Revenge Tour 2020.”
“That saying all kind of started because I just felt like Ben (Roethlisberger) wasn’t getting the credit that he deserved,” Mulinaro said. “People were kind of putting the blame on him for a lot of different things like Antonio Brown and that fallout and people just saying that he’s washed up. And I just truly don’t believe that. You know, I think that he’s going to come back this year healthy.
“He’s on a mission and with the weapons that he has with JuJu (Smith-Schuster), and James Washington is coming about now, and Diontae Johnson is going to be a star and signing (Eric) Ebron and drafting Chase Claypool. I just think it’s going to be a whole new Big Ben and he’s going to show all these people who said that he was washed up and that he was the problem as to why Antonio Brown left. I think he’s going to show why he’s a (future) first-ballot Hall of Famer and he’s on a mission to get that seventh trophy.”
Mulinaro is commonly asked on Twitter about how he became such a massive Steelers fan, since he grew up in Indianapolis, and the answer is quite simple. During the Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s when they won four Super Bowls in six years, there wasn’t an NFL team in Indianapolis, so his dad was a Steelers fan and he passed on that tradition to his son.
“It was good and bad,” Mulinaro said about growing up a Steelers fan in Indianapolis. “It was really good because the Steelers were winning Super Bowls and getting to the Super Bowl fairly often in my middle school and high school days. The bad part of it was that I was kind of a loner, everybody else was a Colts fan and so everybody would give me a hard time about being a Steelers fan and everything.”
Mulinaro grew up in Indianapolis during the height of the Peyton Manning era and had bragging rights after the Steelers beat the heavily favorited Colts 21-18 in the 2005 AFC Divisional Round game, a season in which the Steelers ran the table and defeated the odds as the No. 6 seed in the AFC and ultimately beat the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL to capture their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
“The whole week leading up to the game all I heard from people was how much the Colts were going to kill the Steelers and how they’re going to get blown out and this is the year the Colts are going to the Super Bowl,” Mulinaro said. “Then the whole next week after the game, you know, everybody was really, really quiet. So, it was nice, I still give people a hard time here about Mike Vanderjagt, so it’s great.”
The Steelers’ defense was all-world last year, leading the league in sacks (54) and turnovers (38), along with having three first-team All-Pros – Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The defense has all but one starter from 2019 returning this year and the expectations are high in Pittsburgh for this unit. This year’s defense reminds Mulinaro of the Steelers’ Super Bowl defenses from 2005 and 2008.
“I think kind of combining my Big Ben take with the defense, I think that Big Ben’s career has gone full circle,” Mulinaro said. “What I mean by that is that at the beginning of his career he won his first Super Bowl and even his second Super Bowl, the defense was historic, it truly had playmakers all over the field. And Ben just had to do enough to help that defense get over the top, and then we saw the middle of his career where you had the “Killer B’s” era and they were very explosive. And now because the defense that the Steelers have now, Ben will be able to do just enough because he has such a great defense on the other side. You got Stephon Tuitt coming back this year, hopefully he’ll be able to stay healthy this year, you got Joe Haden and Steven Nelson locking it down on the outside, along with Minkah Fitzpatrick on the deep end. It just gets you fired up to have a Pittsburgh Steelers defense out there that’s loaded with stars and flying around and making plays all over the place. It feels right.”
As it is always for Steelers fans, expecting a Super Bowl just comes with the standard that the franchise has set over the past five decades, and with the roster they have assembled, it’s not improbable to think they won’t be playing in Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Fla. on Feb. 7, 2021.
“I got high expectations for the Steelers, I feel really good about them,” Mulinaro said. “I think that finally pairing up a healthy Big Ben and a healthy offense with that defense is going to bring a lot of good things. I think they’ll go 12-4, and I want to try to be a little objective, I guess, and not just say straight up that I predicted them to win the Super Bowl. Even though I think they can, and I want them to, and I think they will. But, you know, as long as Big Ben stays healthy, I think it will be a hell of a year.”