Comedian Shawn Pelofsky will be performing her edgy and fun brand of comedy at the Laugh Factory on Oct. 17.
A so-called "superhero to the gays," Pelofsky has performed at venues around the world for more than 10 years.
She spoke with Windy City Times about her life, career and what people can expect at her upcoming show.
Windy City Times: How did growing up as a Jewish kid in Oklahoma inform your comedy?
Shawn Pelofsky: Being probably one of about 30 Jews in Oklahoma, I definitely had no choice but to go into comedy and it helped that I had a really, really funny family.
WCT: Your website says that you started performing at the age of 8. Tell me about that.
Shawn Pelofsky: I started performing in school plays and once played the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. I was a little anxious so I melted before Dorothy poured the water on me and the audience started laughing and I really liked the sound of that. This is what inspired me to go into comedy. From that moment on, I started creating characters and impersonations. As a huge Saturday Night Live [SNL] fan, I would watch the show and learn new ways to be funny.
Comedians can be some of the darkest people alive and you wouldn't know it by seeing us on stage. We're like the sad clown. I'm a pretty vivacious person and full of energy. Every now and then we can be dark and I like evil characters. I would love to be on Game of Thrones.
WCT: What made you decide to attend college in southern California?
Shawn Pelofsky: My dream was to be on SNL, do improv and impersonate celebrities, so I wanted to go to a school of theater and study acting. The University of Southern California [USC] had a great school of theater and my sister was going there too so I chose them.
WCT: You joined The Groundlings.
Shawn Pelofsky: I entered the Groundlings program when I was 19 years old and still in college. I was in class with Will Ferrell when he was just a bank teller. After I graduated from college, I joined the sketch comedy group called Acme Comedy Theater. I was performing with people like Dan Bucatinsky and Alex Borstein.
WCT: Tell me about performing overseas for the troops ( USO Comedy Tours ).
Shawn Pelofsky: I was the first female comedian to go to Afghanistan and I went a couple of times. The men and women don't have much over there so when I arrived with giant boobs that was exciting and different for the soldiers.
It was pretty insane to be in a war zone. I was hearing mortar at night and listening to fire outside my door but again I knew it was something I had to do. It's an honor to perform for the troops and the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life. Here I am a single person with no kids so I took the risk of going over there and bringing some laughter and joy to our soldiers.
WCT: Physical comedy is one of your fortes. Have you had anything interesting happen while performing?
Shawn Pelofsky: I have this move called the "stretch it out" and, as a result, my hip is not aligned. My brother is a chiropractor and he gives me a hard time. He says I need to stretch out both sides of my body and we laugh and call it my comedy injury. This is embarrassing because I don't know many other comedians who are injured by doing stand-up comedy. When I was in Japan entertaining the troops, I walked into a glass door and broke my nose for the third time so I now have a Barbra Streisand face. I didn't always look like this and after that injury I just kept my nose that way.
WCT: What gives you the courage to go out there and perform in front of live audiences?
Shawn Pelofsky: Thousands of people don't scare me but flying does because I don't have control over that. What I have control over is my performances, my set, my words. I'm hoping I'm trained enough, good enough and fast on my feet enough to handle an audience. I'm grateful to be challenged every day by this profession and for all the places I've seen. When I feel alive most is when I am standing onstage. I'm like a comedy hooker. I'll do anything it takes to have any type of success. I have the best of both worlds ( gay and straight ) and I'm very lucky to be able to experience both worlds.
WCT: Tell me about performing on gay cruises and LGBT events.
Shawn Pelofsky: I am very grateful that Atlantis Cruises hired me. I began collecting a large LGBT following performing on those cruises. The LGBT community is so loyal and I'm eternally grateful for that support.
I love working amongst the LGBT community because I can be myself. I'm very observational and I'm able to call the gay community out whenever I see behavior from gay men that I find funny. I do it with humor and they love it. I'm pretty bold and very uninhibited and I think the LGBT community has really raised the bar for me. I see all these beautiful people living their lives and enjoying themselves. Because I tell it like it is I think that's why I am embraced.
I just hosted the Trevor Project pep rally in San Diego. I've been involved with that organization for three years. I've worked with HRC in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I've performed at many Pride events, the WeHo Awards and many other LGBT events. Anything that's involved with the LGBT community count me in.
I've worked with The Comedy Store located in West Hollywood for a long time. The club management asked me to change the dynamic of the club from a strictly heterosexual environment to one that is friendly to the LGBT community. From that conversation came "The Bathhouse Show," a variety/cabaret/stand-up show. My show changed the vibe of the club and on that given night there are 150 gay men and women in the seats.
WCT: What are you most looking forward to when you perform at the Laugh Factory on Oct. 17?
Shawn Pelofsky: I'm looking forward to the people of Chicago. A lot of my gay friends have been asking me to come to Chicago and I actually have a lot of college friends that live there. It's USC vs Notre Dame weekend which I find kind of funny.
WCT: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of WCT?
Shawn Pelofsky: I look forward to everybody having a good time whether you are gay or straight. Hold on to your hats because it's going to be edgy and fun. After that we can go streaking.
See www.hahachick.com for more information.
Check out Pelofsky at The Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway, on Thurs. Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.laughfactory.com/clubs/chicago/date/2013-10-17 .