My major reset came when I was around 39. I decided to go into stand-up comedy, having been a high school English teacher, a receptionist and a counselor.
There was a series of events that pushed me into it — a divorce, a near-death experience and I got fired from my job. These three things coalesced, I guess, into a kind-of shock treatment for me. I told myself, You have to try something. You’ve tried everything else, and this is the thing that you probably can do. It was very, very difficult. I was raising a child. I was a single parent.
I had to show up at clubs at all different hours and go to work. I started very slowly — doing stand-up where they’d pay your cab fare. Then on the weekends, you’d make $100 if you could emcee. I paid my rent, which was low. It was very, very hard at that time, but it paid off and worked out for me, as we know.
For my whole life, I had been funny. I was just a person who made people laugh. You know, it’s like being beautiful. You know it. You’re gorgeous and everybody says you’re gorgeous. When you’re funny, they say you’re funny. It’s not like when you’re smart and people don’t necessarily know it.
I kept getting feedback, “You really should do this professionally.” Stand-up comedy seemed to be accessible in a way. You know, if you’re an actress, you have to wait for a part. But if you’re doing stand-up, you can actually go onstage and try material that you’ve written. You have a certain amount of control. And if the audience laughed, then you knew that you were onto something.
For women who are reading this, you need to know that you can jump into something at any age. You just have to let go and say, I’m going to try this. Because there are only so many years you have on the planet. You might as well do what you can with what you have.
I think people who feel a personal power are happier with themselves. We have the power to make changes in ourselves and make changes in other people’s lives. It’s not a big thing. It’s not a huge thing. It’s just one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, basically.
I was asked by a friend of mine to attend an event that was raising money for The Retreat, which is a shelter for abused people. It’s a place where you can feel safe. It was interesting and eye-opening to see that a lot of the women who were at the Retreat are not poor — a lot of them have husbands with a lot of money. It’s an unbelievably eye-opening experience to visit these places and to see what they go through. This is why I got involved with The Retreat, ’cause I wanted to help them [regain personal power].