Sal or “Cousin Sal” as he’s better known, is a former lawyer turned comedy writer and podcast host. He was on the writing staff for Jimmy Kimmel Live! (hosted by his cousin) and now he’s pursuing his passion for sports and gambling as the host of Against All Odds podcast and Lock It In on FS1.
HOW'D YOU GET STARTED?
I was actually a lawyer in New York and I was cousins with Jimmy Kimmel. By the way, that's what I would suggest to everybody. Go to 23andme and just keep doing it until a famous cousin pops up that can help you along the way. [Laughs] But the truth is, he had been a radio DJ in many cities and I did call-in bits for him throughout the years. So when I graduated law school and hated it, he said, “Why don’t you come out here and write for me?” Then I came out, and I liked it, and from there I just kind of latched on to him. I wrote for the Man Show, Crank Yankers, a bunch of things. I was always into sports gambling, so when I met up with Bill Simmons the first year of Jimmy Kimmel Live! —Bill was also a writer — we got into the podcasting thing. He started it up and he had me as a guest.
"It’s good to have goals, but make them reasonable. And if you can do it while being yourself and using your true personality, it’s always best."
LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
Well, there’s the cliché saying that goes something like, “be nice to everyone on your way up, because you’ll see them on your way down” and all that stuff. But I really think a lesson I learned is to stay within yourself. It’s good to have goals, but make them reasonable. And if you can do it while being yourself and using your true personality, it’s always best. This worked for me mostly. [Laughs]
BIGGEST AHA MOMENT?
My aha moment came around 1983 when I was watching MTV and this video Take on Me came on and I was like, Oh a-ha! They made this video. [Laughs] No, that’s not really my aha moment. My aha moment was when I graduated law school and it wasn't like, Oh, I can do this! I knew I was able to do this. It was more like, Wow, this was stupid! I don’t know why people put lawyers and doctors on such a high pedestal because it’s not such a big deal if I’m able to accomplish it.
ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
Obviously my kids and everything else. But I would say making an honest living out of a questionable passion that is sports gambling, which is now widely regarded as legal— thanks to the Supreme Court. Also, [Laughs] beating Santino Marella. I had a pro wrestling match in front of 19,000 people and I beat Santino Marella. All with my cousin Jimmy in my corner and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper who trained me. Some people might say it’s fixed, and they might be exactly right. I followed every book.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
You know, it’s funny because a popular thing to say is that you don’t care what anyone thinks about you. But honestly, I really do define success on how I’m perceived by my family, my loved ones, and people who listen to me, follow me on Twitter and all that stuff, and watch me on TV every day. So it's having the others around you appreciate you for your craft and what you've done and your accomplishments. I'm not going to lie and say that it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks.
WHAT ROLE DOES FAILURE PLAY IN BEING SUCCESSFUL?
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t failed. Tom Brady had to lose a Super Bowl to win another Super Bowl. I definitely think you have to learn from your failures and get back on the horse and all that stuff. Life is so long, so keep trying at things.
SECRET TO PUSHING THROUGH WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH?
Whether I’m losing a bet, or you get a parking ticket, or something aggravates you, and leaves you with a monetary loss, I always say to people, “You know what, we'll always have money.” And people look at me like I'm crazy. Obviously it's a stupid thing to say because we won't always have money, but I feel like if I keep saying it enough times, it’ll inspire me to make money, so minor setbacks like this don’t hurt as much — at least financially. It’s one of the ridiculous slogans that I carry with me.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I would say my credit card bills inspire me. [Laughs] It seems like a dumb answer, but when I see the wife and kids are going to Target 27 out of 30 days in a month, I know I got to keep everything going and stay focused.
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL EVERY DAY?
I always keep in the back of my mind that the goal is to be able to go home. I like nothing more than going home at night. If I do a hidden camera bit for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and people say, “I don’t know how you keep a straight face while these Costco customers are screaming at you.” Because if I break down and laugh, we have to stay there and keep going and keep shooting until we get the right person. In the back of my mind, I just want to go home. So, do everything to the best ability, so that at the end of the night, we can return home.
ULTIMATE LIFE HACK?
I write everything down. I have a to-do list every day and I usually have between 15 and 20 items on it. I get very upset if I’m not able to cross them off. I’m very big on cross-offs. I’ve actually written down my net worth every Sunday night — probably for the last 20 years. How much people owe me, and how much I owe them. Some things like this that are going to send me to a mental facility when all is said and done.
IF YOUR FRIENDS COULD DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY IN ONE WORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Sneaky. [Laughs] I was always about playing pranks on people. While everybody would trust me with their deepest secrets, they didn't trust me in other regards.
"Go to 23andme and just keep doing it until a famous cousin pops up that can help you along the way."
HOW DO YOU DEFINE WELLNESS?
I have a nice routine. Every year January rolls around and I have to lose weight. So I lose 15 pounds, and then I gain it back by July, and then when the holidays roll around, I add another 10 pounds. This has been working for me for a solid dozen years or so. It really keeps me going and it keeps my mind fresh as well. I didn’t do the math on how much I’m going to weigh in 10 years with this crazy schedule, but I don’t think it bodes well for me.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
We’re at an interesting time in the world of sports gambling. The Supreme Court ruled that it could be legalized by individual states and I think about 7-10 states have legalized it. By this time next year, it should be about 35. I was way ahead of the curve when it came to this — being on the Simmons podcast and talking about sports gambling for years — and now it’s not a taboo thing. So I’d like to really make my mark in that field in some capacity. Without the family hating me. If I could somehow pull both those things off, it’d be great.