INTERVIEW: Shawn Pelofsky
Growing up in Oklahoma, Shawn Pelofsky spent her formative years performing in school theatre productions before moving to the big city of Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy. After earning a degree at the Unviersity of Southern California, she went on to train with legendary improv company The Groundlings, before embarking on a career in stand-up up comedy that has taken her around the world as part of the USO Comedy Tour. She performs regularly in the main room at The Hollywood Comedy Store, and recently released her first album, Lady Haha, a spoof on current pop culture icon Lady Gaga, via iTunes. SanDiego.com had chance to talk with Pelofsky and found out what triggered her career in comedy and how Mitzi Shore has played a pivotal role in helping her career.
When did you start doing stand-up?
Shawn Pelofsky: I started doing stand-up after I graduated from USC, it was a couple of years after I graduated. I took a stand-up comedy class with Judy Carter probably about 16 years ago. I did it once, and then I didn’t do anything with it for the next year. And then the next year I did stand-up like once a year and I was like, ‘I’m a comedian!’ Then I got more involved with sketch comedy and I was doing work with the groundlings and Acme Comedy Theatre. And when I got tired of seeing that we were attracting audiences of five, and me putting on wacky wigs and playing different characters and that no one in Los Angeles cared, I switched to an individual showcase and that was doing stand-up. I’ve been doing stand-up for almost 15 years.
Do you remember the first set you did?
Yeah I thought I was awesome.
Where was it at?
Gosh, I can’t think of the name of the club! Now you’re really testing my dementia. It was a comedy club that used to be off Pico Boulevard. It was with Judy Carter’s stand-up class, and at the end of six weeks of taking the class you invite all your friends out to the big stand-up night and everyone does three minutes and that’s what I did.
Was that Igby’s?
Yes it was!
Did you have any acting experience growing up in Oklahoma?
Yeah I was doing theatre as a kid. In second grade I played the wicked witch of the west and I was so excited. I melted before Dorothy threw the water on me, and the audience just laughed. I liked the sound of it and I said, ‘Hey, I think I’m doing something right.’
Would you say that you caught the bug at an early age?
Yeah, and then I went to the USC School of Theatre and everything I did there was funny too. I think maybe I played a serious role in a play maybe once or twice out of all the times I’ve performed. If I’m going to do something it’s either going to be the clown, or I’d make a killer Gilbert Grape.
Do you ever have the desire to get back into sketch?
It happens quite a bit where people will call me in for The Tonight Show to play Streisand; it happens quite a bit. I recently did a viral video last year, where I spoofed Lady Gaga, and then I got the name Lady Haha from that.
What did you think of Lady Gaga’s entrance into the Grammys this year inside of an egg?
I think she’s brilliant; everyone’s still talking about it aren’t they? It’s very smart. I mean who doesn’t want to come in an egg, my only problem is that R. Kelly tried to inseminate it and I thought that was a little weird.
What was the process of you getting passed at The Comedy Store in Hollywood?
I had been doing stand-up a couple of years, performing in the Belly Room upstairs with amateur shows, and word got around that Mitzi Shore was looking for female comics to put together an all-female show in the Belly Room, to put the Belly Room at peace because apparently it was kind of haunted back in the day and the only time that the room or, dare I say the spirits, were at ease was when she had like, Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne and Sandra Bernhardt. She had all the women playing in that room and she wanted to kind of bring back that vibe. I showcased for Mitzi at The La Jolla Comedy Store, which was a blessing, because if you showcase for her in L.A. there’s comics that try and talk to her and they c-block you from getting any type of time. I remember driving down and being so nervous, and if she likes you or not she’ll stop you after your set and it’s kind of like the Godfather, she’ll shake your hand and she makes you. That’s what happened after my set; she just pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re funny.’ From then on she has been my mentor and has been one of the major club owners that has believed in me. I’m very grateful because she’s made me what I am today.
You perform at The Comedy Store in La Jolla quite regularly. When did they start sending you down from Hollywood?
I came down to La Jolla for a Halloween weekend, with Kelly Kursten and Vicki Barbolak, I want to say like eight or seven years ago. Again my timeline's really bad, but then I don’t want people to figure out how old I am anyways so I blurred it all out. The people in San Diego are great, they’re super loyal and they’re all good looking, let’s face it there’s no one ugly in San Diego so it’s a very distracting audience. I may be up there telling jokes but in my head I’m like, ‘Oh my god, he’s good looking, she’s good looking.’ You have to be a super model to live in San Diego. It’s the best looking city in the United States of America.
How long have you been working on the material that’s on your album?
That’s a period of over ten years work, from jokes I’ve done in the beginning to stuff I came up with the night before. Some are joke-jokes, some are pop culture jokes but a lot of them are stories from my experiences working with the all-gay male cruises and just kind of catering to my audience.
When would you say you found your voice as a comedian?
I think I always had my voice. I’ve always been outgoing , I’ve always been into comedy. I think I’ve always had my voice to be honest. I was always funny as a kid. To find my niche of what I’m in now, I think that took me a solid 12 years.
Does Shawn Pelofsky have a message for the children?
Yeah, make a lot of gay make friends. They will provide, provide, provide! And they have disposable income.
Shawn Pelofsky headlines The La Jolla Comedy Store February 25-26.