Activism and art go hand-in-hand for Daniel Franzese. He has committed his life to both in equal measure. Initially, he made history by originating the classic role of Damian in Mean Girls. The character stood out as the first plus-size open LGBTQ character in mainstream culture way back in 2004. It also paved the way for a series of artistic breakthroughs for Franzese, spanning his stint as the boundary-breaking HIV-positive Eddie in HBO’s "Looking" and his successful "YASS! You’re Amazing!" two-year comedy tour—which gave much-needed LGBTQ representation in the world of standup comedy. In 2020, he joins "RuPaul’s DragRace" on VH1 as a guest judge, furthering his role as a proud champion for the community. Meanwhile, he remains a staunch supporter and active pillar of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. As a child, he identified the power of his voice, setting the stage for him to emerge as a confident body-positive voice for entertainers in the LGBTQ community and beyond.
“Very early on, I learned I could bring people joy by entertainment,” he recalls. “I used laughter to battle everything I dealt with growing up. When I came out of the closet, it allowed me to be fully authentic, and authenticity is exactly what you need to be a comic. For the first time in my career, I feel like I’m being who I’m supposed to be. This is the real version of me.”
He quietly worked towards unveiling this version. After booking his first commercial in second grade, Franzese committed himself to acting. He often visited a local Barnes & Noble and “bought a coffee just to read all of the books in the acting section.” Graduating from high school in Florida, he caught his first big break with a role in Larry Clark’s cult classic Bully followed by Party Monster in 2003, and the critically acclaimed Mean Girls where he lit up the screen a year later. The blockbuster emerged as a cultural force and accelerated Franzese’s career. Relocating to Los Angeles, he appeared in everything from Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster War of the Worlds to the critically acclaimed remake of I Spit On Your Grave. He wrote and created his own rock opera, JERSEY SHORESICAL: A FRICKIN ROCK OPERA! Following its premiere at The Fringe Festival on the East Coast, it ran at the Hayworth Theatre in Los Angeles. In its wake, he launched the one-man Off-Broadway show "I’ve Never Really Made the Kinda Money to Become a Mess" and achieved viral success with the YouTube series "Shit Italian Moms Say," viewed over 10 million times.
In 2015, he joined the cast of "Looking" for the duration of the second season as well as Looking: The Movie. Depicting the first HIV-positive character on scripted television in a decade, Entertainment Weekly christened Eddie as “such a modern version of someone living with HIV” and “very groundbreaking.” Around the same time, Franzese became an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. As part of his activism, he implored Hollywood to spotlight the stories of characters living with HIV and AIDs, presenting a media playbook to MSNBC in tandem with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and GLAAD. 2016 saw him star in ten episodes of "Recovery Road" on Freeform followed by yet another series lead playing the role of Jackson Morrison on ABC’s "Conviction." While filming the latter in Toronto, he immersed himself in standup by regular performances at The Second City. This paved the way for the "YASS You’re Amazing!" tour. Not only did he pack clubs, theaters, and colleges, but he also built a platform for up-and-coming comedians to shine such as Anthony Desamito, Nicky Paris, Katie Molinaro, and many others.
With more tours and roles on the horizon as well as increased activism for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and launch of his YASS! Jesus! podcast, he continues to empower and unite.
“I like to unify audiences,” he leaves off. “I try to create something where everyone can be involved. I endeavor to be a people curator and bring everyone together.”
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Please Note: All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Daniel Franzese for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Daniel Franzese speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.
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