Comedy Q+A: Jessimae Peluso
As the Boston Women In Comedy Festival has begun, I’ve interviewed headliner Carol Leifer, of “Seinfeld” fame and more, as well as Boston-based comedian Lilliane DeVane. Today is Jessimae Peluso, who got her start in comedy in Boston before leaving for New York City in 2005. She’s been diligently working on her craft and had her festival debut at last year’s Women In Comedy Festival. Since then, she launched her own weekly show in NYC, has performed in other festivals, been in a YouTube video with almost 3 million views, has a TV pilot in the works, and more.
Peluso will perform at the Women In Comedy Festival’s Mary Dolan Comedy Hour Stand-Up Comedy Showcase, tonight at 10:30 p.m. at ImprovBoston.
Thomas Lewis: So you’ve done the festival two years running. How did you get involved in the first place?
Jessimae Peluso: I just applied. I hadn’t done any real festivals yet and thought it would be fun to come back. I had friends there, I had a history there.
Did participation in Women In Comedy help you do other festivals?
Well, I did the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, which was a lot of fun. I was in hush puppy heaven. I had the best BBQ I ever had. That was probably the best part of it because when you travel, it’s really lonely because if you’re traveling alone and alone all the time, I think it wears on you a little bit. So I made friends with hush puppies and baby back ribs.
Do you think your participation in Women In Comedy helped you get into the North Carolina festival?
I don’t know for sure, but I know a lot of people applied to North Carolina. I applied, sent in a tape …
Did you really send in a tape? A VHS tape?
[Jokingly sarcastic] Yes, I sent in a tape — no I sent a link to a performance I did. No actually, I sent in a flipbook of my comedy with an audio tape to synch the performance to. But [seriously] having a good recording of a show can get you a lot of work, but for me, my act, I’m not a one-liner comic. I’m not a setup-punchline comic. I’m very physical and animated. I try to do each show organically and make it seem spontaneous. That’s what I think is funny and that’s how I’ve tried to mold my act. So it’s been hard for me to get a good recording because of that,. I’ve had to discipline myself to work on a set, to stick to the writing, and it’s been a challenge, but it’s been what I’ve been working on. Having a solid tape is important, I want it to be representative and have it come across well which is sometimes difficult.
You have pursuits beyond standup, am I right? You have a TV pilot that you shot?
I’m working on the pilot right now. It’s about comedians, actually, a reality-type show, but I can’t say too much about it because I’m under contract. It’s a lot of fun and hopefully we can get a good network behind us. There’s a lot of funny ladies involved and it shows the reality of what goes on off the stage in the comedians’ lives. The hardships they have, the friendships they have, and all that.
You’ve been doing comedy for a while in a couple major cities, do you think it’s become easier for women to get involved in comedy? What about the weird politics about “women in comedy” that sometimes comes up?
As far as the whole “females in comedy thing,” I think it’s because there’s less females doing it that it’s something that gets noticed. I think if you feel that there is a real prejudice then maybe you’re a part of it, I’m speaking generally. I don’t see myself as a female comedian, I see myself as a comedian. I’m not up there talking about Tampax, I’m up there talking about life and my experiences. When I hear myself speak up there, I feel more masculine than feminine. I don’t think of myself as very ladylike. I also don’t think of myself as a dude; I just think of myself as a comedian. There’s just less females than guys doing comedy but that doesn’t mean that females aren’t as funny as guys, what does that even mean? It’s so irrelevant. Look at Joan Rivers, I don’t care what anyone says, but she is one of the best working comedians out there. Nothing compares to her energy, charisma, the controlling presence she has on stage, she’s an enigma up there, she’s amazing.
For more info on the fourth Annual Women In Comedy Festival including showtimes and performers, be sure to check out their website. (This interview has been edited for space and clarity.)