The Hard Work of Entertainment

When the 86th Academy Awards extravaganza gets under way on March 2, all eyes will be on the leading men and women who starred in film this year. In anticipation of the parade of Oscars that will grace the stage of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, Ellen DeGeneres, the effervescent host for the evening, will be gushing over Amy Adams and Cate Blanchett and Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. It’s a safe bet that she won’t be mentioning Jimmy Palumbo.

Unlike the chosen few among his brethren who are world-famous multimillionaires for playing memorable (and not-so-memorable) roles in movies, Palumbo LC’87 has made a living as an actor for 25 years. You probably have seen him and don’t even know it, at least not to put his name with his face. In gesture and words, he is usually the guy in the scene who is going to get a chuckle out of you. Palumbo has appeared on television’s Friends and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He was the referee judging NFL quarterback Peyton Manning’s pizza-making skills in that Papa John’s commercial. And, most recently, Palumbo played an FBI agent assigned to protect members of a Mafia family, played by Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, under government protection in the fall release The Family.

The myriad roles—on television, in commercials, on the radio, in movies—have afforded him a career, a way to stay at his craft, although, Palumbo will tell you, he won’t be retiring tomorrow. So, this guy who hails from New Jersey and still lives in the Garden State, who is an unabashed Rutgers booster and devout Kappa Sigma brother, is always looking out for the next audition, the next part, the next opportunity.

What is the life of a working actor like, performers who must be always mindful of having to land the next gig? This constant state of low-grade anxiety is certainly the reality for the vast majority of actors, if not for Christian Bale and Scarlett Johansson. But this life, far from glamorous, is rarely seen in media that cover the entertainment industry. Allan Hoffman, a feature writer for Rutgers Magazine, recently spent time with Jimmy Palumbo, interviewing him several times at his home in Ramsey, New Jersey, and accompanying him to auditions in New York City and to the offices of Palumbo’s agents, who are always scouting for appropriate roles for him. “I may kid around a lot,” says Palumbo, “but when I get into that room, you gotta knock me out. I’m not getting out of the ring, bro.” Read Allan’s revealing profile of Palumbo, “Best Supporting Actor.”

And make sure to take a look at Health Matters, the new department in the magazine that will be featuring the undertakings and discoveries—and the researchers, scientists, and health care professionals behind them—in the biomedical and health sciences, which will be playing a prominent role in the mission of Rutgers for years to come.