Bio: NUNYO DEMASIO
I was born the day after Christmas in New York Hospital, mainly because my dad, a Ghanaian diplomat, lived in Manhattan's Upper East Side during an extensive assignment to the United Nations. I soon started to notice my relatives and their friends muttering "Nunyo" while looking at me, often grinning and making the goofiest faces. After returning to Ghana in West Africa, my parents split up in 1975: Despite being virtually penniless, Dorcas Demasio moved back to New York City with her five children, including three boys. George Carlin had lived on the second floor of the apartment building where I grew up: 519 West 121st ST between Amsterdam and Broadway. (New York City would name part of a nearby street after the legendary comic amid resistance from the Catholic school that we had both attended as boys.) Starting when I was in junior high school, neighborhood kids and classmates often ridiculed me with nicknames such as"Numblo," "Numnuts " -- even "Kunta Kinte." Worse, they dissed me for my tattered clothes, including sneakers one size too small with matching holes -- and torn socks -- under my big toes. To defend myself, I sharpened my "snapping" skills: using comedy to skewer people. My mother was no joke: She attended graduate school at Columbia University -- and would earn a Master's in Nutrition -- while working full-time as a nutritionist. Queen Dorcas ruled the household like a dictator -- requiring her children to attend church at least five days per week. Our family made up most of the orchestra at a Pentecostal church near Bloomingdale's on the East Side -- Rock Church -- where I played lead trumpet. (John DeLorean, the automobile legend, lived down the block, and occasionally attended.) During some sermons, out of boredom, I surreptitiously jotted down jokes on a napkin and then looseleaf paper. Enjoying the process as a teenager, I purchased a notebook and became prolific. One day, I turned the raw jokes into a routine, recording it on a cassette tape. A friend of mine visited me, and laughed hard at most of the material. I obliged his request to take the tape home for entertainment. He shared it with another pal who then asked to borrow it. They decided to dub my 60-minute routine, using a double-cassette tape recorder -- a luxury that I lacked. Eventually, copies of the tape spread around the neighborhood. Guys would come up to me and toothily repeat jokes. Because of my shyness, I declined suggestions to go into stand-up comedy or, at least, comedy writing. Instead, I pursued a career in sports journalism. After graduating from St. John's in the late 1980s, I worked at Newsday, the New York Times. the New York Daily News, the Seattle Times, the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated. In my early 40s, I finally acted on my long-time ambition to write a book: Parcells: A Football Life -- an authorized biography of the iconic coach. The 544-page tome turned into a New York Times bestseller. But perhaps the coolest thing was getting a note from Warren Buffett after he had received the book. I was flattered by several inquiries to collaborate on another book such as one from Pete Rose's attorney. Instead, I looked into a couple of my own ambitious ideas like an authorized biography of James Patterson, the uber novelist who's sold more books combined than Stephen King and John Grisham. With none of my brainchildren coming to term at this point, I decided to put my book-writing career on hold to belatedly pursue screenwriting and comedy writing. Entering middle age, it was now or never. But I still planned to maintain my journalism chops by launching a podcast -- NUNYO & COMPANY -- for occasional, in-depth interviews with noteworthy figures, coupled with related articles in Apple News. As my cousin, Dr. Kafui Demasio, emailed me when I revealed the plan: "This will be interesting to see."