Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Did I happen to mention that I used to do stand up comedy?

Many many (OK add a few more many) moons ago, I used to do stand up comedy. If I were still performing, it would have to be sit down comedy, as I'm too old to stand in one place that long.

Back in the olden times, when I was a girl, my father told me actresses don't come from Iowa. He told me "nice" girls didn't go into the theater as a profession. He told me the umbilical cord my mother had snipped off at the time of my birth he had picked up and attached to him and it did NOT stretch far enough for me to go on stage nor out of town!

SO, since my dreams of becoming an actress were becoming mangled in all this what couldn't be done, I came up with the alternate career of becoming a singer--another no go; and then comedy. Since my father had been quite the ham and cutup of his day in school, he had more sympathy for this possibility--but again, he said you only would be able to perform in seedy bars, so a "not for my daughter" on that one too.

To further the crumpling of the dream, there were few female standup comics for me to use as role models, or to hold up as "proof" to myself that this could be done. The Ed Sullivan Show was about my only platform to see standup comedy being done, and the bulk of those were men. [Note: For those of you who need to know, I'm talking fifties here and early sixties--if you need to Google the following names, please do.]

Every week the show offered a comedy spot--and predominantly it was filled by men: George Jessel, Joey Bishop, George Gobal, Henny Youngman, a very young Allen King and George Carlin, etc. For women, well, there was Moms Mabley, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Gracie Allen (of Burns and Allen), and Anne Meara (of Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller). Most females involved with comedy were actresses who did comedy--such as Lucile Ball, Mary Tyler Moore.

But then, when I was 17, I got the opportunity, at school, to present a ten minute speech--it was called a speech to entertain. I turned it into a ten minute standup spot. My teacher was NOT prepared for this. He had wanted us to tell an amusing anecdote from our family life, or something like that--but standup, no one even thought of doing anything like that back in those days, or at least in an Iowa high school LOL.

I pretty much took off Joan River's delivery style--but it was all my own material. It was actually based on using school situations my classmates were all aware of, including a bit about our teacher. I knew that was a risk, but it HAD to be done if I was going to pull this off.

And then it happened. The kids started laughing. My teacher turned red right up through his hairline--but he was laughing. Try as he might to keep from it, he was laughing. By the time it was over (trust me, the more they laughed the more I was ready to do ANYthing, to keep them laughing, so it got "out there" for my material), I had people almost falling out of their desks. I was a hit!

Well, let me tell you, after that, there was no going back. I was addicted. I wanted to have it happen again. Gratefully, Life afforded me opportunities to do standup routines. I didn't have to perform in bars. I didn't have to do anything immoral to get work. Eventually my father and the umbilical cord gave way, and I found myself able to go and do, and live my life. And I have a ton of good memories of those years of entertaining.

Now a days I pretty much do my "routine" any time some poor hapless person gives me a "straight line" in a conversation. I still get a kick out of getting those laughs--perhaps there's a twelve step program for it? HA: Ham's Anonymous perhaps.

Will I ever get up on the stage again and do comedy? Hum, possibly, if they let me sit down.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Yet another side of you I didn't know! How many careers have you had??

And laughter is such a joy.

When I was a senior in high school I was usually up until 12 or 12:30. I was finished with my "responsibilities" by 11:30 or so, and then my mom and I would watch old Burns and Allen reruns. Gracie was my complete, total and all-time favorite. Mom and I would fall off the couch laughing, and it was just what we needed, as we were doing that mother/daughter-about-to-leave-home thing of pushing each other away. Big time.

There's just never been anyone like her before or since.

Wholly Burble said...

You could say I'm a fan, too. My dog is named Gracie Allen, actually, in loving memory. It's great that you have those memories of time with your mom. Special!

Well, I am getting on up there in age, so I've taken on a number of challenges in life. My mom and dad were both great living examples for me. My dad was going to school, taking classes at the university at night, right up to when he died. He was learning how to make jewelry, working in silver and gold. And that same year, Mom was taking more advanced organ classes at the university.

In our family, if you're breathing, you should be learning and growing and trying something new.