For Cathy Ladman, nothing is off limits in her stand-up comedy routine: not her age, her family orÂ her interfaith marriage. “My husband and I are very different,” Ladman says in her act.
“I’m from New York and I’m Jewish. He’s from Minnesota and was raised Swedish Covenant. I don’tÂ even know what that is; I think he made it up. But I think all religions are the same — they’re basically guilt with different holidays.”
Ladman performed two shows at This Place Is a Joke Comedy Club in St. Paul two weeks ago. She will return to the stage there for four more shows July 25-26 and Aug. 1-2.
“I love the Twin Cities and I’m really looking forward to working for these audiences here,” Ladman told the AJW prior to her first St. Paul performance. “They’re great audiences. It’s a great cultured and unjaded city.”
The Twin Cities are also where Ladman met her husband, Minneapolis native Tom Frykman, who is a former stand-up comedian. The two crossed paths at the Comedy Gallery in 1989. Ladman knew that she wanted to perform comedy from a very early age. At eight, she was particularly interested in her parents’ comedy albums, including Vaughn Meader’s The First Family (S’more Entertainment) and Mike Nichols and Elaine May Examine Doctors (Island Def Jam).
“I memorized the Nichols and May album,” Ladman said. “I memorized every single band, every track on the album. At night when I would go to sleep, my mom would come in and I’d say my prayers and I’d do a selection off the album for her.” By the time she was 13, Ladman had already decided to become a professional stand-up comic. She started her career just before she turned 26. “I started at a great time, I started in 1981,” Ladman said. “Comedy was really coming into a big boom then. There was no comedy on TVÂ except, of course, for The Tonight Show and the late night shows. A lot of people would come to clubs. The audiences were great back then. It was sort of a fringe form, standup, and then it started to come in to its own.”
At Catch a Rising Star in New York, Ladman worked with a varied group of performers — many of them Jewish — including Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Elayne Boosler, Richard Belzer, Gilbert Gottfried, Carol Leifer, Marjorie Gross and Paul Reiser.
“There was such good stuff to watch,” Ladman said. “It was just thoroughly inspiring, entertaining and exciting.”
Ladman appeared on The Tonight Show nine times and was the onlyÂ female comic to appear on the last two Johnny Carson Tonight Show Anniversary shows. She had her own HBO One Night Stand comedy special and was awarded the American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-Up Comic in 1992.
Most recently, Ladman was one of the three finalists in Nick at Nite’s “Funniest Mom in America.” She has guest starred on several television shows, including Just Shoot Me, Everybody Loves Raymond and Caroline in the City, and recently shot an episode for ABC’s Brothers and Sisters that will air later this fall.
Ladman has appeared in movies like White Oleander and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. And though her role was cut from 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War, Ladman did get to work with the film’s director — Mike Nichols.
“Working with Mike Nichols, whom I listened to and memorized his work from when I was a little kid, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him and doing one of the bits with him that I used to do for myÂ mother at night, was an amazing, surreal experience,” Ladman said. “That experience was probably the most full-circle experience I’ve ever had.”
She has also appeared in live Broadway run of The JAP Show: The Princesses of Comedy. She is currently working on a one-woman autobiographical show titled Does This Show Make Me Look Fat, which highlights Ladman’s struggle with an eating disorder.
“It’s really personal and it’s not all funny at all, but it’s definitelyÂ going to be funny at times,” she said. “That’s something that I want to take around to theaters and colleges,Â especially to younger women… I feel like it’s some way I can be of service, not that making people laugh
is not being of service, but just on a different level.”
Over her 27-year career, Ladman said her goals have changed. “At one point, it used to be, ‘If I could get on The Tonight Show, then that would be it,’” Ladman said. “It’s like anything. You have a goal, you reach it and as you’re reaching it, you develop other goals you want to reach. I remember way back, early, like in my first year of stand-up, doing these little tiny rooms in New York, and getting on the 104 bus going up Broadway and somebody recognized me… I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’ve arrived.’”
Ladman’s focus is also on her fiveyear-old daughter, whom she and Frykman adopted from China. In her show, Ladman talks a lot about her daughter — whom she described as “innately funny” — as well as other members of her family.
“The characters in my family are very strong, the personalities are very strong,” Ladman said. “They’re colorful. I don’t know if I talk about them so much as stereotypical Jews as much as I talk about them as
individuals… There are definitely characteristics about my family that are typically Jewish from New York,
but they’re not just cookie-cutter — or hamantaschen cutter.”
Ladman will perform 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25-26 and Aug. 1-2 at This Place is Joke, which is located inside the Holiday Inn, 2201 Burns Ave., St. Paul (near the 3M headquarters on I-94).
Tickets are $15; call 651-789-4503 or visit: www.thisplaceisajoke.com.
For information, visit: www.cathyladman.com.