By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
When we last talked, in December 2010, Cathy Ladman was living in south Minneapolis. She had some shows booked in the Twin Cities, then was heading back to her southern California home base.
Last week, the veteran stand-up comic was spending Hanuka in Santa Monica — wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea, to quote the lyrics of Tom Lehrer’s Jewish holiday song.
Ladman is preparing her return to the land of ice and grime-encrusted snow to perform a couple of sets on New Year’s Eve at Big Laughs Comedy Club at the New Hope Cinema Grill.
The Queens, N.Y., native spent 16 months, over 2009 and 2010, living in Minneapolis, her husband’s hometown. She’s married to Tom Frykman, who used to be a stand-up comic, too; they met in Minneapolis. They have a nine-year-old daughter, Milan.
As it happened, during our phone chat on Friday, while discussing The Guilt Trip, the new Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy film, Ladman, who must have been scanning the Web, commented: “Apparently, there’s some kind of shooting happening… a school shooting. Oy, oy, oy! Oh, my God!”
We both caught up with the incredibly grim online news.
“That’s why everyone’s talking about gun control on my Facebook page,” said Ladman. “Now I get it.”
Then I awkwardly segued to her upcoming gig in New Hope.
“I can’t remember a time in my life when people haven’t needed humor,” she said, still processing the dreadful news coming out of Connecticut.
Although people need to get their minds off the grimmer aspects of reality, Ladman allowed that she hasn’t been so busy with comedy club bookings.
“It’s much changed for me… I’m almost like in a different generation,” she remarked. “I’ve been doing a lot more writing, and the kind of performing I’ve been doing has changed as well — more storytelling, a lot more spoken word stuff.”
Ladman been performing in something called Set List. “My friend Paul Provenza and Troy Conrad developed this together,” Ladman said, regarding the improvisational shows billed as “stand-up without a net, comedy in the moment.” The shows have been featured at comedy festivals in the United Kingdom and on Sky Atlantic TV.
“It’s basically improvised stand-up,” said Ladman, about the concept that provides a comedian with a brief phrase — “my favorite cheese or I never said that, or whatever.”
“It’s very fun,” she said. “It’s so in the moment, and it’s thrilling for both the performer and the audience.”
She mentioned that unlike stand-up, where there’s a mood of “aggression,” the audiences for Set List shows are more rooting for the comedian to come up with something funny on the spot. “The audience wants you to do well,” Ladman noted. “They have real compassion for what the comedians are doing.”
A true veteran of the comedy scene, Ladman has been doing stand-up shtick for 31 years. She had her own HBO One Night Stand comedy special, and won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-up Comic. She was on The Tonight Show nine times. In recent years, she has had small roles in acclaimed TV shows, including Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mad Men. And she was one of the three finalists in Nick at Nite’s Funniest Mom in America.
California has been the New York native’s home base since 1991, but she admitted, “I will always feel like a New Yorker. I miss everything that New York has to offer.”
Regarding her time here, she said, “I like Minneapolis, I had fun there, but I missed being here, I missed my life here. And it was horribly freezing in Minneapolis, as you know.”
So, I filled her in on the recent snowstorm and the current weather report.
Ladman’s shows at Big Laughs should be a lot of fun. You can get a taste of her humor from some YouTube videos out there (look for her bit about dying in bed, after having an orgasm). After all these years, she knows what works, as far as bringing the funny.
However, she observed that her comedic material has become “much darker” in recent years. “It’s just where I’m at. I can’t pretend to be otherwise.”
What topics crop up now?
“Like you say, death, the Holocaust, cancer,” she listed a few.
If I write about this stuff, it’s really going to pack them in at the Big Laughs Comedy Club, I suggested.
“But it’s funny — it takes the sting out of it,” Ladman responded.
And she mentioned that the mood should be festive for her shows on Dec. 31, because everyone will have “survived Dec. 21, the Mayan apocalypse. We’re home free.”
Cathy Ladman performs at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31 at Big Laughs Comedy Club in the New Hope Cinema Grill, 2749 Winnetka Ave. N., New Hope. Jon Wilson, recently featured in the Showtime comedy special Louis Anderson Presents…, is the opening act. For tickets, call 763-417-0017 or go to: cinemacomedy.com.
(American Jewish World, 12.21.12)