“You probably noticed my sparkly gold boots.”
The crowd, which I can only hear because the white fire of the stage lights has left me momentarily blinded, responds positively.
“And if not, please take a moment to notice my sparkly gold boots. I’m wearing them in tribute to my 25 years as a fashion executive. Oh wait. Did I say 25? That’s a waste of Botox and filler — 20 years. If even that…”
But how did I get from an office on executive row at Barneys New York to the comedy circuit? By taking only the most direct route — children, brain injury, divorce and a few adult enrichment classes, natch.
To take it from the top, after serving as a White House Press Office intern under President Bill Clinton (it was one year earlier, since I know you want to ask), I returned to my home town of New York City to start my career in earnest. I worked as an editor at magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, SELF and Mirabella, but soon jumped to the other side — public relations. I spent 10 years at the luxury emporium Barneys, penning press releases about store openings, celebrity events and new designers.
After the birth of my second child, I suffered a loss of blood so extreme it resulted in a short-term deficit in oxygen being sent to my brain, which left me with a gnat-like attention span reminiscent of the naughty schoolmate who was routinely sent to the principal for being exceedingly restless and disruptive in class. Pile on the start of (acrimonious) divorce proceedings and the normal chaos of raising two young children and it was soon clear that the career that had once been a priority was no longer sustainable.
While I contemplated my next move, I filled my time with the kinds of enrichment courses I used to say “I would love to take if only I had the free time.” Now I had nothing but time, so I took Memoir 1, Beginning Sewing, Intro to Comedy…
But I made a mistake. I’d wanted to take a comedy writing class to add some sizzle to the memoir I would write, you know, as soon as I took entry-level paper making and notebook binding for novices. Comedy writing, not a class in actual stand-up comedy. This specific curricular detail did not fully register with me until the second session when our teacher began discussing logistics for our first (of two) stand up shows.
Actual live performances. To be held in a legitimate comedy club. The esteemed and world-renowned Comedy Cellar, no less. With a cover charge, two drink minimum and all. To be attended by… people. Some of whom were to be invited by me, which meant that I would know them and scarier still, that they would know me.
All I could think about was the episode of The Brady Bunch when Cindy got “television-itis” during a quiz show and couldn’t open her mouth but only stared blankly at the TV camera’s red “on air” light.
But an amazing thing happened. Having never given a bridesmaid toast nor eulogy, I got up on a brightly lit stage for the very first time, on the day of our first show. I could see no one, nary a familiar face nor strange, like Karen Silkwood staring at the debilitating lights in the rear view mirror. But I didn’t drive off the road and into a ditch; I shrugged it off and did my thing. Just like I’d practiced in the shower. And it worked. I nailed it. The crowd loved it, friends and strangers alike. The laughed in all of the right places and in others, too. They liked my jokes and my unintentionally nonchalant deadpan delivery. I’d found my “thing.”
I didn’t freeze, nor shake and quake as I’d imagined I would; I was comfortable and felt as at home as if I were regaling a group of pals with funny story about what happened on the way over.
I watched the video back later that week, tightened a few small details and performed the following week. Again, I felt good and the feedback I got told me I wasn’t wrong. Then, I got a Facebook message from a show producer with an invitation to perform the following week. And I did. Then another producer reached out and another show was on the books. And the luck continued.
I want to tell you it’s been an arduous battle — an uphill journey — but I haven’t lied to you yet. What I will say instead is that I’ve found my new home in comedy and I’m not sure it would have been a good fit much earlier than now. Now I’m “the oldest young comic*” on the scene (*phrase credit Jordan Bleznick, because intellectual property is property). Everything leading up to this moment, both related and unrelated, has had a role in readying me for this reset, which is absolutely right just where it is.
As for the gold boots, well fashionistas die hard, so they’ve been side-lined for the moment by the cutest brocade block heeled mules, my current favorite shoes, until the next pair…