Favorite response to a heckler or troll?
One time a woman in the audience told me that she was a comedian. Later in the show she yelled out that she could have written a better punchline to one of my jokes. I said, “And where are you working tonight?”
BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).
I’ve blocked it out like childbirth. But one time I was performing at a Nike Holiday Party. They had flown me and a friend first class and gave us Nike gear and paid me more for one show than I had made for a year as a secretary. But the show was in a huge room and half the people were playing basketball and about 20 people sat on 6 couches and I was standing on a stage that was 20 feet above the audience and it was just a disaster and I thought to myself, “Just Do It!”
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?
Perform as much as humanly possible. Try new material all the time. Tell the truth.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
I was about to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Steven Wright told me just to play to the studio audience, 400 people. Not to the audience at home. That made a lot of sense! Someone else told me to think about my feet touching the floor. And I swear, when I’m grounded, I’m funnier.
Worst comedy advice you ever got?
Sell something after the show like a plastic hamburger (you know, “Wendy’s).
Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?
I’ve never been a man in comedy so I don’t know the difference.
How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?
After college I moved into a house with really really smart people and I felt really really stupid around them so I made them laugh. I was also really depressed, and I remember thinking, I’d rather make 100 people laugh together than cry by myself.
Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?
I used to watch Lily Tomlin on Laugh In and I would do two of her characters for my dad (Ernestine and Edith Ann) and I LOVED making him laugh (I still do). Other performers that shaped my sense of humor: Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, Cher, Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) and The Harlem Globetrotters.
Feelings about the word “comedienne”?
As long as the check clears.
Wendy Liebman took a class “How to be a Stand-up Comedian” at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in 1985. Since then she has performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, Ferguson, and Hollywood Squares, in comedy clubs and events throughout North America. Wendy has starred in specials for HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime, and was a Semi-Finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Season 9.
CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith