Joy Behar can make people laugh. That we know.
But can the recently departed co-host of “The View” work a crowd? Can she thrive in what might be the entertainment industry’s most intense spotlight – that of a stand-up comic?
That was the question Saturday night when Behar stepped onstage at Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls.
The answer is yes – with a little warming up, the occasional glance at some notes and some healthy interaction with a receptive audience.
Behar, 71, left ABC’s “The View” in August after 16 years. She had her own show on Al Gore’s Current TV, but that, too, ended last year when the former vice president sold the network to Al Jazeera.
Behar decided to return to the comedic roots that led her to “The View” in 1997. At the time, Behar was a well-known comic who launched her career in her 40s and 50s after spending most of her 20s and 30s as an English teacher in her native New York.
After a well-paced opening set by New York comedian Tom Shillue, whose ’70s-themed comedy resonated well with the mostly 50s-and-older crowd, Behar walked onstage with a few pages of notes and navigated through a dialogue that visited an array of topics: She offered brief assessments of some of her “View” co-hosts, from the conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck (“Her children look like Dick Cheney”) to the fashionable Star Jones (“One day she coughed up a hairball with a label on it”).
Behar dished – briefly – about some of the trouble she caused on “The View.” (Tip: Don’t suggest Donald Trump wears a wig.) She talked about growing up in an Italian family and the craziness that language barriers can hurl at travelers. She compared a mammogram to a tightly pressed Monte Cristo sandwich.
Behar pointed out the “hypocrisy” of the global-warming crusader Gore selling his network to Al Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar – one of the biggest oil producers in the world.
And she wondered how John Wayne Bobbitt’s missing body part was found by police in two hours, while it took years to find Osama bin Laden and Jimmy Hoffa’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
She encouraged her audience to shout out questions, virtually all of which were about “The View.”
With every interaction, Behar seemed more at home.
If doing stand-up is like riding a bike, then consider Behar a champion cyclist who stepped away for 16 years and became a great triathlete. Now that she’s back to comedy, she’s getting comfortable riding on her own. But it doesn’t seem to take long.
Though Behar referred to her notes more than most stand-ups do, nobody seemed to mind. Behar’s public persona has never been polished anyhow. Rather, she has a sweet way of being caustic and a funny manner of making serious points.
And her routine is still developing. In a recent interview, Behar said she has been writing a show that incorporates video to tell her story, that of a woman who switched from teaching to comedy at midlife.
“I’m telling the story of my life, basically,” she said. “I’m hoping people are interested in that.”
Judging by the warm reception in Niagara Falls, they will be.