Venue: Comedy Club of Jacksonville
Date: January 29-31(8:04pm each night; 10:10pm the 30th and 31st)
In the world of stand-up, Elayne Boosler honestly needs no introduction. She is one of those few talented comedians who has been doing it so well for so long that her name is now simply synonymous with the craft. Performing on stage since the 70s, artistic renditions and signed publicity photos of her are fixtures at just about any chuckle hut of note throughout the country. Most importantly for me, she once sat on Dr. Jonathan Katz’s couch back in the 90s as one of the psychiatrist’s patients in the brilliantly ahead-of-its-time animated TV series, Dr. Katz, where different comedians, transformed in Squigglevision, would come on each week and basically regurgitate their stand-up material during the sessions (Google it, trust me).
When EU caught up with her in late December in anticipation of her show at the Comedy Club of Jacksonville on January 29th through the 31st, she was in the painful position of having recently fractured her wrist, about the worst thing a writer can break, right in time for the holidays. “First night of Hanukkah and I broke my wrist, only seven more bones to go,” said Boosler, never missing an opportunity to crack a joke, adding, “I’ll have you know I broke it during a karate fight jumping out of a twenty story window on acid to protect the President. I fell on the way to bed on the one night I wasn’t drinking and realize that it is very dangerous to drink and stop.”
One of the things Boosler and I quickly learned we had in common was a love of baseball. Boosler is an avid New York Mets fan and really knows her way around a diamond. When out on the road touring, she will sometimes coordinate her schedule around opportunities to throw out the first pitch at games and even duck into the announcers’ booth to provide a little on-air color commentary. “My joke is that now that we’ve normalized relations with Cuba, the pitching is going to be unbelievable,” said Boosler. “I can see those Cuban boats coming in, they’re gonna skip immigration and go right to spring training. I’ve been a Mets fan because you’re born into what team you root for, and I think that they’ve let the fans down enough that I’m not going to watch baseball unless they actually play it this year.”
Speaking of baseball, in Jackie Robinson-like fashion, Boosler’s self-financed 1985 Showtime special “Party of One” was a groundbreaking moment in comedy during a time when the cable networks wanted nothing to do with female acts. “All the guys had specials by then and I kept going to HBO and Showtime and begging for a show and they kept saying, ‘no one wants to see a woman do a full hour,’ and I say, ‘my show on the road is two and a half hours and I sell out everywhere…they were just wrong, and they wouldn’t let me have a special. So, I met a filmmaker who said, ‘we can do this,’ and we did and it still didn’t sell for a year, that’s how completely archaic the management was. Finally, some really hip young guys took over Showtime, got rid of the old sexists and said, ‘wow, this is great,’ and gave me a deal for four specials. But, you know, it took years of trying and then another year of having the most expensive home movie in the world on my living room shelf, and I owed everyone who worked on it. It was pretty demoralizing for a long time and then, of course, the minute it came out the roof blew off because the New York Times went crazy over it and so did everyone else.”
On par with Boosler’s love of comedy and baseball is her adoration for animals. On her official website, www.elayneboosler.com, she describes herself as a “Comedian, Writer, and Animal Activist,” and this appreciation for our furry friends is made abundantly clear in her act as well as the many charitable tie-ins associated with her shows, where you can sometimes get discounts on tickets by donating food and toys to animal causes. One of Boosler’s greatest passions is Tails of Joy (www.tailsofjoy.net), a completely volunteer operation where you can make donations and purchase various items with 100% of the benefits going toward animal welfare such food, medicine, spay/neuter programs, and helping them get pulled from shelters. “There’s life and work and they’re two different things and I’m glad they overlap. This overlap is the nicest because I can use the comedy and the shows to help the animals more than if I wasn’t doing that. When I founded Tails of Joy in 2001, it actually made such a closer link to people who liked comedy. People come up after the show with their phones out and their animals pictures on there, and it’s such a heartfelt connection that really deepened the bond with people. Be funny first, but then have the message.” One of her life philosophies posted on her website is, “If you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty.” Given that I now have two small children in lieu of pets, I asked her if baby puke is interchangeable with dog hair in this instance. “No,” said Boosler without hesitation. “I don’t revise the quote. Baby puke comes and goes but dog hair is forever.” Catch Boosler at the Comedy Club of Jacksonville January 29-31.