Why did you get into comedy so late in life?
I’ve always loved comedy. I was raised on Carlin and Pryor. My parents didn’t believe in censoring anything I read or watched, so I knew things I shouldn’t at a very young age. I started being actively funny in my teen years as a defense mechanism. Disarm and charm was my goal. And it worked. I was always the “funny friend,” and that just continued for years.
In 2001, I took a stand-up class at the Boston Center for Adult Education. It was taught by Katie Grady, and our “graduation” was at the Comedy Studio. I remember being on that stage thinking, “This is where I belong, this is what I want to do, this is my calling.” I did really well that night. But I was terrified to do it again, and I had also just met my husband-to-be. Being madly in love with him and terrified of comedy was a bad combination, because I ended up just walking away. But I thought about it all the time.
It got to the point where being funny for my friends just wasn’t enough. So four years ago a friend and I took another stand-up class at BCAE. This time the teacher was Dana J. Bein, and I fell in love with comedy all over again, and I stayed with it; the timing was right. I came into comedy older, wiser, slightly less scared, and 100 percent committed to seeing it through.
Besides being a mother, a wife, and a comedian, what is it you do?
I’m at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. To put it succinctly, I oversee the fiscal management of a departmental budget of $2.3 million and a $43.7 million majority federally funded research program. I manage nine people including two assistant directors, six research administrators, and one accounts payable person. I have an amazing team and am grateful for each and every one of them. … There are moments of utter silence and then bursts of activity and noise. We’re a hardworking, dedicated group.
A lot of comedians who have “real” jobs worry about their job finding out about the comedy they do. Are you one of those people?
Yes and no. It depends on who knows. Some colleagues and peers know. They’ve come to shows. I really don’t mind if people at my level or under me find out I do comedy. I’m more worried about the next level up of management finding out. Also, when I first started working there I contacted HR and explained I was a stand-up and asked what the rules were regarding that. They were very cool about it and said what I do outside of work is my business and so long as I didn’t name specific people in my set there was no issue. So I just don’t do that. … well, except for one specific joke, but I cleared it with that person and he’s seen me perform it and loves it, so it’s fine. I do have work jokes, but they are an amalgamation of my previous job and my current job.
Unlike a lot of your peers, you have children. Do you think being a mother influences your comedy differently?
Absolutely. There’s only a handful of parents on the scene in Boston, so there’s very little overlap or parallel thinking with the younger comics because I’m doing parent humor. The thing is, I never started out trying to be a mom comic. In fact, in the first two years I was doing comedy I barely mentioned my kids. They were young then and weren’t particularly amusing. As they get older they seem to be providing me with an endless supply of material. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of that. But I also work hard to have variety in my sets because I am many things. Being a parent is just one of those things.
Does it change the way you interact with other comedians or how they interact with you?
I think so. I think people are more respectful to me because I’m a mother. And I’m older than 95 percent of the people on the scene too. People have treated me with respect and kindness and patience. An example would be that if I’m late to a show, they know it’s not because I was goofing off but rather because I was dealing with some sort of child drama. I think people give me a lot of leeway, and I’m exceptionally grateful for that. I try my best to repay that by getting on their stage and giving them my very best.
Have your kids grasped the concept that you’re a comedian?
Oh yeah. They know. I’ve taken my son to open mics and shows. We also sit around the dinner table and tell jokes. My kids are both very funny although my youngest is shaping up to be a wicked hack.
Your comedy is very personal. I know your kids aren’t old enough to see a show, but when they are, are you worried they’ll be offended by the jokes you tell people about them?
They have seen me perform. In fact I did a show where I devoted an entire 10 minutes to my son’s circumcision. … while he was in the audience. I then did a reverse heckle and called him out for peeing all over the toilet. He loved it. Like any kid, or human, they like attention. So no, I’m not worried about how they’ll feel about my jokes. Comedy is a way of life in our household, and nothing is off the table.
Have you ever used making a joke about your kids as a threat or punishment?
No. But I have said, “I’m writing that one down. That’s gold. Thank you for my next three minutes, you moron.”
How do you feel about your kids getting involved with performing?
I have no issue with that. I 100 percent support my kids in whatever they want to do. I want them to do whatever will make them happy in life. If it’s in the arts, so be it. It will be a long, hard road, but I’m raising tough, smart kids who can and will do anything they want. I only want them to be well-rounded, gracious, hardworking, respectful humans who love their lives, give back, and make the most of the time they have on this Earth.
How do you manage your time between work, kids, comedy?
I have a small army of people I trust and rely on to help me out. From my parents to my babysitters to my parent friends, I have a network of people that will jump in and help out. I’m very lucky; everyone in my life is supportive of my comedy and understand when I say I have to go. I can drop my son off at football practice and there are 10 parents there that will take care of him. … I have a husband who supports my comedy goals and parents alongside me. He takes up a lot of the slack. I will say this, though: I am very tired, and things do fall by the wayside. I haven’t had my hair done in four months. I need to work on making more time for myself.
How does Boston Comedy Chicks fit into your schedule?
BCC is run by women, and the majority of us have children, so there’s a ton of flexibility and understanding. We all pitch in and help each other out. If one person can’t do something, someone else will pick it up. We expanded our producing team this year; that has been a godsend.
What are the things that get the most preferential treatment in your life?
Husband, kids, comedy. Then everything else.
Does your husband have a hobby, or passion similar to you and comedy?
He loves to play pool, he’s a huge sports guy, he’s a reader, he’s big into music, crossword puzzles. He’s also a web developer/computer geek, and he loves his job, so it’s not unusual for him to be on his laptop well into the night. Does he have a driving force in him like I do with comedy? I would say his No. 1 priority is us, me and the kids. He’s an incredible human being. I’m very lucky.
Check out one of Laura’s upcoming shows: April 4 at 730 Tavern, April 8 at the Boston Comedy Chicks Showcase at Doyle’s, and April 19–22 during the Women in Comedy Festival. For more info about these shows and other comedy shows in the area, be sure to visit bostoncomedyshows.com.
Deadair Dennis Maler is a comedian, actor, writer, & podcaster who has been heard on radio stations throughout the country including SiriusXM, DC101, The Party Playhousewith Jackson Blue and more. He has been featured on comedy festivals throughout the country, founded BostonComedyShows.com, is the Comedy Editor for DigBoston, and hosts the iTunes podcast So What Do You Really Do? He’s funny, loud, abrasively social, and allergy free since 1981.