Finding the Funny in Life
By Kelly Crigger
It’s easy to see the bad in the world. It’s easy to profile a middle-eastern teen and overlook the well-to-do white kid with a gun in his backpack or see an overweight mother of four in line for food stamps instead of the caring woman who tutors those same kids until midnight after volunteering at her church. When you’ve been to the mountaintop it’s hard to see the beauty of the valley below, so sometimes you have to be like comedienne Tammy Pescatelli and just find the funny in life.
“You just look at the world differently when you’re a comic,” Pescatelli says. “Cops look at a room differently than the rest of us. Military people drive down the street thinking about things most people don’t. My brain is trained in a different way. Comics are on the road a lot and are always alone, so we’re always watching people. We’re not participating in life much because we’re so interested in watching everyone else go through it, so I just find the funny in it.”
It’s a job she was raised for. Growing up in an Italian family with 11 male cousins and 2 brothers, a sense of humor was her body armor and a good comeback was her assault rifle. “They were faster and stronger, but could never outrun my mouth,” she laughs. “It was a survival mechanism. I wasn’t necessarily funny, but I was sarcastic.” I almost feel for her husband because I can see her standing over a hospital bed saying, “Anesthetic? It’s just a vasectomy you wuss!”
Pescatelli fell into comedy by accident or destiny, whichever you believe in. After watching a female comedian who bombed onstage, she looked at her brother and said, “I can do better than that” and was right. Soon Pescatelli was like Jed Clampett striking a vein of creative oil in her backyard. She plunged headfirst into the highly competitive pool of stand up and quickly made a name for herself. She made the finals of NBC’s reality TV show Last Comic Standing twice which exposed her to a whole new audience. She’s made appearances on over 30 TV shows, 3 movies, had her own reality TV show on WeTV, and done 6 USO tours overseas. And yet, you’re probably scratching your head trying to figure out if you’ve ever seen her before.
“I dig that actually,” Pescatelli says. “I like being the underdog because there are no expectations from those who haven’t heard of me. That’s a beautiful thing of comedy. We’re not exactly in the public eye everyday like the Kardashians. The days of three networks are over. Everyone finds their own patch now. I used to want to be famous and have everyone know my name, but now I just want my audience to really want to be there and be happy that I’m making them laugh.”
Pescatelli does that by firmly planting herself at the intersection of “It is what it is” and “What the hell is wrong with you?” She purposely avoids “chick stuff” like catfights and periods and eschews the prissy New Jersey Shore girl for the Teflon coated Italian ball buster; like a shorter version of Cher in Moonstruck. She turns over the rocks of life to find the funny nightcrawlers underneath and holds them up onstage, forcing you to confront them no matter how much they make you squirm. Her act is perfectly situated for thick skins, so it’s no wonder the USO has called on her several times to entertain the troops.
“[The USO] called and were like ‘would you like to go to Asia?’ I said absolutely, because I thought they were talking about Japan or China or something…moron. Next thing I know I ended up in Kuwait, but I loved it.”
So much that she admits crying herself to sleep one night out of sheer pride for America’s servicemen. The ballsy girl with the serpentine tongue was humbled by one of our nation’s most precious resources; our men and women in uniform.
“Their dedication is amazing. I have a ticket to go home. They don’t and they still do this. I was so taken back at how they’re willing to do this for us, to go out into the world to protect other people. When it comes to the troops I’m like the Little Drummer Boy. I give them everything I have because they give us everything they have.”
What she has is a repertoire of jokes 16 years in the making that range from her wacky family to the origins of NASCAR to getting kicked out of DisneyWorld. She has an uncanny ability to hold up a mirror to the world and point out the ridiculous things you already knew, but didn’t pay any attention to. But don’t look for political views in Pescatelli’s act.
“My place is not to get political or critical. I didn’t sign up to give my opinion. I voice my opinion in a voter’s booth. I’m there for morale. People who say bad things about this country have never traveled and seen how other people live. It’s truly the greatest country in the world and I believe that a hundred percent.”
You don’t need to tell us that twice. It’s easy to get stressed and look at life through blinders that block out the laughter. Kim Jong Un had his ex-girlfriend put to death? Probably not funny until you think a little deeper. Why would he do that? Did he catch her in the Imperial palace with Dennis Rodman? Now it’s a little funnier, albeit still kinda dark. Sometimes it’s hard to allow yourself a moment to smile, so maybe we all need to be a little like Tammy Pescatelli and try to find the funny in life.