Elayne Boosler "First Lady of Stand-Up' WAR IN THE GULF

March 08, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Elayne Boosler

When: March 10, 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. (both shows sold out); March 11, 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.

Where: Slapstix Comedy Club, the Brokerage, 34 Market Place.

Tickets: $14.

Call: 659-7528.

In the early days of the Persian Gulf war, stand-up comic Elayne Boosler arrived for one of the dozens of dates she does each year and was surprised to find that the show was sold out.

"I don't flatter myself it's me," she told the audience. "I think you're desperate to get away from CNN."

The quick defeat of the Iraqi army became grist for her comedy mill, as did the response of Americans on the home front.

"New York wants to give our returning troops a ticker tape parade," she said. "Do people think these soldiers really want more things falling on their heads?"

Ms. Boosler, who is scheduled to appear at Slapstix Comedy Club Sunday and Monday for two shows each night, said in a recent telephone interview that no subject is sacred.

"My act is based on real life," she said. "Everything that goes on is part of it."

Such topicality, not to mention her quick wit, has helped the curly-haired, "twenty-slash-eighteen" (read: 38) Ms. Boosler become one of the most popular comics in the country. In addition to her innumerable club performances, she has a fifth cable television comedy special in the works and has made frequent appearances on "Late Night With David Letterman." And Rolling Stone magazine has dubbed her "The first lady of stand-up."

While other comedians spew invective and expletives, Ms. Boosler instead emphasizes her pungent perspective on subjects ranging from pets to politics.

As one writer put it last year, "She sees life like most of us. She simply adds punch lines."

Ms. Boosler says what sets her apart from most other comics is "just my point of view. . . . There are 500 guys doing McDonald's jokes right now."

Others say this stand up stands out because she is a woman in a field heretofore dominated by men; comedian Richard Field went so far as to liken her -- in the New York Times Magazine, no less -- to the Jackie Robinson of female comics.

But Ms. Boosler isn't one of them. Asked if she would hang up the phone if she were asked once again about being a female stand-up comic, she said, "Probably."

"I just have no answer to that," she added somewhat wearily. "I don't categorize myself. I don't think I'm perceived as a female act by my audience. My fans include just as many men as women."

The Brooklyn-born Ms. Boosler said she always has had "a point of view about stuff," although she quickly added, "I don't remember much before my first 'Tonight Show.' "

"I wasn't funny as a kid," she allowed. "I remember enjoying comedians but I never understood it was a job choice or a profession."

In fact, she grew up wanting to be a Broadway singer and was working in the early 1970s as a singing waitress in a New York club that featured comics when she decided to take a crack at what was then the small, small world of stand-up.

A lot has changed since then, and not just for Ms. Boosler, who says the growth of comedy clubs across the country and the explosion of comedy on cable has created a situation in which the demand for stand-up comics exceeds the supply of good talent.

"There are a lot of people just passing through," she said. "It's like college. There are a million freshmen, but when you move up to do the real work, a lot of people drop out."

After nearly two decades of doing stand-up, Ms. Boosler, who is single and lives in Los Angeles with her dog Petey, is more like a professor emeritus.

"It's exciting to come on stage with 20 new minutes of material a night," she said of the enduring appeal of what she does.

In all, her shows have been timed at close to two hours.

"I stay on for spite," she quipped.

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