By TIM O’SHEI | @timoshei
Sarah Colonna plays Buffalo for the first time this week, but the comic isn’t without a Western New York influence.
The 39-year-old grew up watching “I Love Lucy” re-runs, absorbing Jamestown native Lucille Ball’s example as perhaps the first fearless female in comedy. That helped Colonna shape a career that’s landed her a regular roundtable spot on E!’s “Chelsea Lately,” a book deal (“Life As I Blow It,” 2012) and, this week, a three-day stint at Helium Comedy Club starting Thursday.
Question: You’ve cited Lucille Ball as an influence. How has she impacted you?
Colonna: She was willing to try anything. She didn’t care about looking silly, and she never really did. She was so goofy, but so intelligent at the same time. The combination was really endearing. She didn’t take herself too seriously, even though she was a beautiful, eloquent woman. She was the first to laugh at herself. And in her time, she was the first woman to break out that “woman can be the troublemaker” mode, and in the cleanest way possible.
Question: Do you ever have moments of self-consciousness where you wonder if something will be too ridiculous?
Colonna: For sketches, that never bothered me. It’s almost like you’re in character mode. The only time it does creep in is on stage doing stand-up. You worry, Is this going to work? But you just learn as you go by trying that material and feeling out the audience.
Question: When you’re in stand-up mode, do we see Sarah the person? Or are you playing a character?
Colonna: It’s definitely me. I talk about family, relationships, friends. I try to be really honest on stage and connect with the audience.
Question: Is doing comedy a cathartic experience?
Colonna: Absolutely. Years ago, I had been living in L.A. for three years and my sister [in Arkansas] was in a car accident one morning. She’s OK now, but it was a very bad accident. That night I was supposed to perform. I wasn’t going to go; I was going to go home. My mom said, “Do what you’re supposed to do tonight. There’s nothing you can do [here] till tomorrow.” I did stand-up that night, and it was amazing. I realized this is why people do this. I made people laugh. I forgot about things for just a minute. Not completely, but a little bit. That was the night I realized how cathartic comedy can be.
Who: Sarah Colonna
Where: Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St.
When: July 24-26