Growing up, I had a personality that could stop a room. A favorite family story is when I was two-years-old, and my uncle taught me how to cluck like a chicken, and like a sexy chicken.
“Stephanie, what’s a chicken say?”
“Stephanie, what’s a sexy chicken say?”
“Baawwwwk bawwwwk,” I crooned as I fluttered my eyelashes.
He would use this to his advantage in restaurants, at the mall, anywhere he could, and it was always received with laughter. I was the first child and would dance, sing, and make fun of others for little or no attention. My love for making people laugh only grew stronger when I found the great Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Dan Aykroyd on a television show that I wasn’t allowed to watch, Saturday Night Live. Although it aired way past my bedtime, I often snuck behind the couch to listen to my parents laugh—a rare sound in that home.
I vividly remember the day my secret obsession with The Festrunk Brothers on the infamous show was let out of the bag. I was in trouble, and my mother asked me why I did something. I answered her by dancing back and forth, imitating my idols’ accents perfectly, as I told her “Because I’m a wiillllld and crazzzy guy!” Her shock turned to laughter and that year, she purchased a t-shirt that would become my favorite. It said “I’m a wild and crazy kid.”
In the years after my parent’s divorce, we moved a lot. I attended several elementary schools and three high schools, and fitting in was hard. Humor has a place when you feel so out of place, and I made fast friends with people by impersonating the teacher, the principal, and other kids. I wasn’t a bully; quite the opposite in fact, but I had a knack for imitation, and I used it to survive in these new, established groups of peers. I loved performing in plays and theater shows. I auditioned with confidence and perfected my improvisation skills because I couldn’t memorize words for the life of me. This often led frustrated teachers to cast me in the background. I did those roles with pride, but my dream was to be on the front of that stage, singing, dancing, performing, and ultimately landing a coveted role on SNL in front of millions of fans. As time went on, that dream was cast to the side.
I moved out when I was 17, and created a life for myself with the help of my silver tongue and a knack for speaking my immature, yet clever, mind. As the years went by, I cringed when people would suggest to me that I should be a comedian. I knew that. What I didn’t know is how. By the time I figured it out, I was 29 years old, a mother and a wife, and my dream seemed impossible.
I wasn’t the only person who was tired of not accomplishing my dream. My girlfriends had listened to my “what-ifs” and pity parties for years, and so one day, they decided to stop listening and, instead, they started acting. They found an open mic contest in my area and told me point blank, “This is what you’ve always wanted to do. Sign up, or we will sign you up.” I signed up and they drove almost three hours to see me perform that Tuesday night. The stage was set at a real comedy club in Old Sacramento. I was intimidated, but excited. Not nervous, but anxious. And then, it was my turn. I still remember stepping onto that stage with the hot lights on my face.
The warmth of them didn’t compare to the laser beams of energy that zinged throughout my body after I received my first laugh from the crowd. Yes, they were full of my friends, my family, my coworkers…but there were strangers in the front row, and they were laughing, hard.
In that moment, I heard a voice within, and it changed my life forever. The voice said, “Ohhhh, so this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.” It was my first time performing my material on stage, and although I placed second, that night, I left as a winner. I’ve been lucky in this unforgiving industry. I’ve met celebrities, performed on The View, The Talk, and Food Network. I have been nominated for best comedian contests, and competed against the best in national competitions. I’ve worked with humble headliners like Dave Coulier, and burned-out legends like Gallagher. Through it all, making people laugh is the only thing I’ve ever done professionally that reinforces the feeling that this is what I should be doing with my life and I can’t wait to get back on that stage.