Lino Banfi's career can be said to begin at eighteen, in 1954, at the height of the post-war period and above all of the internal migrations to the industrial triangle (Milan, Turin and Genoa), he emigrated to Milan to attempt adventure in the theater of variety.
Right here, after entering the company of Arturo Vetrani, he began his career as a comedian, bringing on stage typical elements of his country: sayings, idioms, games. As he will continue to do later in his career, he entrusted the resources of his impetuous and immediate comedy to his Canosine dialect, as well as to his funny and original speech. He chose as the first pseudonym Lino Zaga, from the abbreviations of the name (from Pasqualino) and the surname, but he was pushed to change that surname on the advice of Totò, who in his opinion believed that in the world of entertainment it brought luck to shorten the names, but instead brought bad luck shortening the surnames. It was her impresario, husband of Maresa Horn, who chose the surname Banfi. Since he is also a primary school teacher, he took the first name at random from the class register of his fifth grade students, Aureliano Banfi: it should be noted that this is a typically Milanese surname and very rare in Puglia, so much so that, ironically, in contrast with the striking regionalistic connotation of almost all the characters played by the actor. Subsequently he moved to Rome where he had his first appearances of a certain importance: the first is in the Biblioteca di studio uno (episode I tre moschettieri), a program by Antonello Falqui in 1964, where Banfi played the part of the Duke of Buckingham's valet (Memmo Carotenuto), reciting some lines with the Apulian accent.
In the following years he got his first successes by making his debut on TV on Rai 2 in 1969 at Renzo Arbore's Speciale per voi and with the cabaret at the Sancarlino together with Carletto Sposito and Anna Mazzamauro in 1972, then continuing with Enrico Montesano and Lando Fiorini. The meeting with Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia was crucial for his artistic affirmation.