By Jessica Carreras
An ex-lawyer, a lesbian and a Virgin Mary impersonator walk into a room – but it’s no joke. It’s the line-up for The Women’s Show at Royal Oak’s Comedy Castle.
Connie Ettinger, a veteran comedian, former lawyer and Detroit native, will emcee the event. It’ll feature eight comediennes including a mixture of mitten dwellers like Ann Arbor’s Shelly Smith and Waterford-native Adrienne Johnson and out-of-towners like Courtney Cronin, a crude comic from Los Angeles. Also on tap: Kim Toscano, Linda Belt and Midwestern-mom Kathie Dice, who mimics Jesus’ mom.
Between The Lines chatted with one of the night’s comediennes, Affirmations CEO Leslie Ann Thompson, to hear her take on being PC, chatting with telemarketers – and getting hit by a bus. OK, not really.
What kinds of things do you joke about? Are there any topics that are off limits?
I do almost all openly-gay material and I prefer straight audiences. I like to think I’m educating them. Sometimes, people come up to me after the show and tell me they’ve never met a gay person before, which, of course, they have; they just didn’t know it. But it’s usually big, burly guys and they’re all excited that they met a lesbian. As far as what’s off limits, political correctness is part of my Affirmations job but political correctness is maybe not part of comedy and so I have to make sure that I am still politically correct. Sometimes we take things too seriously.
Speaking of serious matters, you went through several back surgeries back in 2006 and you said to BTL that you ‘joked about getting hit by a bus.’ Were you actually hit by a bus?
No, but it’s funny, that came up today. I just signed up for the Michigan Donor Registry in case I get hit by a bus. I have degenerative disc disease. We hadn’t really planned for me being away from the office. We thought I was going to be gone for two weeks and I ended up being away for three-and-a-half months. So we came up with a succession plan in case something happens, or I do get hit by a bus. Or, you know, in case someone sees me on Jan. 21 and decides to give me my own sitcom. I’d rather go with scenario two.
Some people turn tragedies into comedy. Are your life’s tragedies ever part of your routine?
When I first had a relationship with a woman, it really freaked me out and I went into the garage, turned on the car and closed the door. Coming out to the audience is my first joke and that’s my second joke. I do that a lot. I also talk a lot about stereotypes and how wrong they are, but also how accurate they can be as well. Like me, I was trained to be a gym teacher and played softball.
What famous comedian would you compare your routines to?
Paula Madigan – that’s a combination of Paula Poundstone and Kathleen Madigan. One of my favorite things to do is to interact with the audience. I’m quick on my feet, which actually helps me with my job. I use my humor in my education role as well. I really like to interact with people and Paula Poundstone is the best at that. I like that part and so I aspire to be half as good as she is. Kathleen Madigan is a great storyteller. I’m not a one-liner kind of comic. I like to tell stories. I do a lot of telemarketer stuff.
You talk to telemarketers?
Yeah, they assume that everyone they call is a straight, heterosexual, married couple. When they call and ask for ‘Mrs.’ I say, ‘This is a lesbian household, we’re not allowed to get married. Can I help you?’
You’re the CEO of Affirmations, but was there ever any plan to make comedy your career?
It still is my plan. It has to pay my mortgage though, and I like what I do at Affirmations, but after I retire, I can see nothing more exciting than to do comedy by night and play golf by day.
The Women’s Show
8 p.m. Jan. 21
Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, 269 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak