Paisan Finds Growing Up Italian Funny

Vinnie Penn used to be “embarrassed” by the stereotypes associated with being an Italian American.  Now, the New Haven native has not only embraced his heritage, he has written a book about his memories of growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Connecticut.

“Guido’s Credos: The Paisan Point of View on Everything from Marriage to Macaroni” was released in December by Cambridge House Press.

“I didn’t want my first real book to be joking on Italians,” said Penn, “but I have really grown to love it."

Penn, 41, may best be remembered for his time as a morning show host on KC-101.  The versatile Penn has also appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever”.  He has contributed articles to the music magazines “Circus” and “Hit Parader”, and has had several short fiction pieces published.

With “Guido’s Credos,” Penn has his first complete book in print, and its roots can be traced to a sad moment, his father’s funeral. 

“When my father was dying, I realized looking back that it gave him such pride by being Italian, so I embraced it,” said Penn.

Penn’s father loved all things Italian: Frank Sinatra, making sauce, and eating seafood on Christmas Eve.  The son did not.  It was not until later in life, when Penn had a family of his own that he began to appreciate his heritage.

The end result is 39 credos (one for each year of Penn’s life at the time he wrote the book).  The subject matter ranges from family life, to pizza toppings, to dating:

Guido Credo No. 16
Dating is like buying a suit.  First you gotta try it on, and then you just alter the hell out of it.

Throughout the 113 pages, Penn deals mostly with stereotypes and political correctness.

“There’s a weird thin line that I try to draw,” said Penn.  “When someone gets mad and says, ‘why don’t you shut up and eat some macaroni,’ I don’t see what’s wrong with that.  Some stereotypes are hilarious, but others are hateful.”

For example, Penn said assuming an Italian is a mobster is “prejudicial, insulting, and wrong”.

But that thin line moves back and forth between stereotyping and political correctness.

“Political correctness is one of our biggest problems in this society today,” said Penn.  “Just look at the old TV shows, would Arthur Fonzarelli and J.J. Walker slide today?  The Fonz was saying, ‘Ohhhh’ and J.J. was yelling, ‘Dynomite’.”

Penn thinks that shows like ‘Happy Days’, ‘Good Times’, and ‘All in the Family’ were important and needed at a critical time in our nation’s history.

Penn said, “Put on TV Land and watch ‘Good Times’ and ‘Happy Days,’ they were good times and happy days back then.  Look at how Fonzie and J.J. were forced to behave.  Those laughs were needed.  Now think to yourself, 'Have we moved forward, stayed still, or gone backwards?  I think we’ve gone backwards.”

By the way, Penn is his professional name.  His real last name is Pennacchini and he’s proud of it.

Click here for more information on “Guido’s Credos”. 

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