October 1, 2018
I’m sitting across from a man whose identity is moreorless irrelevant. For now, he’s Peter Griffin. Donning the iconic white button-up, green pants, and circle-frame glasses, he’s playing a character at a small comic-con here in Queens, NY. This is Rob Franzese and after going viral in 2012, he developed an entire brand around being ‘Real Life Peter Griffin.’
The event we’re at is “Another Freakin’ Con,” a fan-led comic-con produced in-part by Rob and his manager and friend Anthony Cross. A lot of the excitement here is that they’re doing something I think anyone would want to see: a half-hour fight between Real Life Peter Griffin and a Giant Chicken. It sounds low-brow, but honestly, it was pure entertainment.
Talking with Rob, he remains fairly protected. It’s not that I need to know much about his past or dig into any of his childhood, but he’s not here to throw that out there. He’s here for the fans and to play around as one of America’s most recognizable television characters.
“I feel like I’ve made Peter Griffin my own character by now. The Real Life Peter Griffin is very different than Peter Griffin from television. Peter Griffin from television: he’s irreverent, he does a lot of things you wouldn’t be able to get away with in real life. I started this at Comic-Con and it was just about making people laugh.”
He’s certainly committed to the role. In the past year, he’s garnered 125,000 likes on Facebook and 18,400 followers on Instagram. That’s enough to bring people out for a local comic-con like this one, and a little bit more. Apparently, a chain of strip clubs is opening around the country and the owner wants to fly Real Life Peter Griffin to each opening to co-host with Stormy Daniels. Whether or not that’s on brand, at least the thought of that is absolutely outrageous.
None of this is effortless. Rob’s friend and manager Anthony Cross shows me a little of the behind-the-scenes work he handles every day while running the convention. He’s posting content every moment he can, in-between coordinating with the catering company and the stagehands, and the tabling organizations. Involving Rob to produce their videos for social media is also a struggle, what-with having to schedule the time and write the material, and posting them in a timely manner. Rob, for all that he is, is an entire brand and that kind of upkeep is a handful for some companies, let alone a team of scrappy upstarts like these guys.
But don’t let that take away from their work. Watching Real Life Peter Griffin smash a chair into the Giant Chicken is inarguably hysterical entertainment and well worth it. On Rob’s part, it seems well-worth it to him, too.
“I actually got a message back when I had first gone viral. I think there was a police officer that had written to me, believe it or not, and it was in the time where it was the start of the decline of people’s opinions on police and everything. He said that he was really getting depressed over the comments and everything about law enforcement. [...] He said that my video was really helping him through that because there is a bright-side to everything. That, it’s really all about perspective. You can be negative about things all the time, or you can change it.”
On whether he’s privately that positive: “That’s what I’m trying to do.”