By Jason Tanamor
"My brother was adopted. Somebody left him on the back doorstep when he was a baby. We found him when he was 16. We didn’t use that door."
"For his holiday gift my husband asked for a huge TV. So I just moved his chair closer to the one we have already."
"My husband suffers from migraines. It sucks for him but it works for me cause I'm like, "Not tonight, honey - you have a headache."
These witty jokes come from one of the most talented comedians working today. Wendy Liebman, a veteran stand-up whom I’ve seen on cable TV for years, still has that same comic charm from when I first noticed her. Liebman has always been my favorite female comedian (Seinfeld is my favorite male), because her approach to comedy and her comic timing and delivery are top notch.
With television being bombarded by “TV” comedians like Whoopi, Ellen, and Leno, many people, unless you’re a huge fan of stand-up comedy, have never heard of Wendy Liebman, yet she is still making people laughs many years after her arrival.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Liebman, and although I was interviewing her for this magazine, what really got me was being able to speak to someone I look up to and admire.
Q - How did you get involved in stand-up comedy?
A - I took a class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education on “How to Be A Stand-up Comedian.” It was just a fluky thing - I got the course catalogue because I picked up the mail for the apartment downstairs, and when I saw there was a class like that something resonated. Now there are a lot of comedy classes, but in 1984, not so many.
Q - You've been doing stand-up for many years now. Do you ever get tired of, not necessarily the performing, but the constant traveling, the hotels, the time away from home?
A - Um, yes.
Q - It seems there have been dozens of successful sitcoms involving male comedians, "Seinfeld," "Everybody Loves Raymond," and few involving women, "Ellen," "Grace Under Fire," Do you think women in stand-up have a disadvantage over men in the business?
A - Well, they’re not doing a lot of sitcoms with comedians anymore, male or female. But I don’t think men have an advantage. I think if you look at the ratio of the number of male performers total/the number of male performers who have their own shows vs. the number of female performers total/the number of female performers who have their own shows, it would be fairly equal. I also think the ratio of male to female stand-ups is probably the same as male to female inmates. Just a guess.
Q - Have you ever wanted your own sitcom?
A - Yes. I had a deal to do one, but they recast the role of “Wendy” with the hilarious Nicole Sullivan - but she couldn’t get out of her MADtv contract, so the show died. I also had a deal to do an animated sitcom with my voice and humor, but it didn’t happen. I did marry the writer though.
Q – If you did a sitcom now, what would it be about?
A - I’d be a stepmom and a widow, raising her late husband’s teenage boys with their intermittent biological mother. Comedy ensues.
Q - What types of things do you like to do on the road?
A - Walk. Sleep. Shop. Primp. Scrabble Blast (Pogo game). Movies. Facebook. Cool hunt.
Q - Have you ever had an experience that made you say, "I'll never go to that place again?"
A - I vowed never to go back to Erie, Pennsylvania until they got a Starbucks. They got a Starbucks.
Q - What is the worst experience you've come across during stand-up comedy?
A - Thanks to Rx I’ve been able to block it out. One of the hardest shows I’ve had was for NIKE. It was a holiday party, and I was on a stage 20 feet above the audience. They were on couches, and there was a basketball game going on in the far part of the room. It was hard to have any comedy momentum. I JUST DID IT!
Q - I saw an interview with you where you said that a lot of your material comes from when you were a child where you used to mutter snide comments under your breath. Hence your act in which you have to listen closely to the end of your comments. How has your material changed since you started doing stand-up?
A - I think someone made that childhood thing up about me because I don’t remember saying it, but I’ve heard it a lot. My style developed after being on stage and not wanting there to be silence, so I would just keep saying things. My material has changed a little because I don’t keep adding tag lines. And my delivery is slower. I’m less anxious.
Q - Is there anything you still want to accomplish as a comedian?
A - I wrote a book (“Swear on Lily”) which is my humor and philosophy. It’s not published, but that is my dream. Also, I’m producing a health & well-being show right now (“LMAO”) which is half diet/exercise/etc. and half humor.
Q - Anything you wanted to add?
A - I love watching other comedians. And I love comedians. Period.
Visit Wendy Liebman on the web at: www.wendyliebman.com.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor