Liebman, Elwood bring unique comedy for holidays | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Liebman, Elwood bring unique comedy for holidays

Howie Nave

I’m feeling pretty special having Wendy Liebman here for the holidays, because she really is just like family. If you’ve never seen her, Wendy has a unique delivery. But does it run in the family? According to Wendy, “My mother is a ventriloquist – but not professionally. For 10 years, I thought the dog was telling me to kill my father.” Waiting a beat, she adds, “I got my brother to do it.”

Wendy, originally from Long Island, attended a college in Boston, where she studied psychology and histrionics. Wendy got her start in a class called “How To Be a Stand-up Comedian” at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. She began doing open mic nights at Boston comedy clubs and performed throughout all of New England for the next six years.

“I kept my secretarial day job, though I would call in sick a lot,” she said. “I would say I had ‘female problems.’ My boss didn’t know I meant her.”

When listening to her material, you can follow a pattern: Her stock in trade is the one-liner with the subliminal afterthought. The effectiveness of her technique lies largely in the unexpectedness of her timing. The punch line invariably falls after the joke seems to be over.

She has been a favorite of late-night talk show host David Letterman, who has had her as a guest numerous times. The Los Angeles Times raved, “She’s a master of the throwaway line, of making a perfectly rational observation, then adding, almost subliminally, the punch line which skews everything she has said before.”

In 1990 caught the eye of the talent coordinator of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” who invited her to be a guest the following week. Liebman was one of the few to work “The Tonight Show” with both Carson and Jay Leno.

And she was well-received on daytime television, too. Rosie O’Donnell gave Liebman the following introduction when her show premiered on June 12, 1996, : “When we sat down to decide who the first comedian on the show should be, only one name came to mind … the funniest female comedian on the circuit, Wendy Liebman!”

That same year, Liebman starred in her own HBO Comedy Half Hour special, one of the highest-rated in the cable network’s history. Soon thereafter, the American Comedy Awards crowned Liebman as Best Female Stand-up Comic, she received her award from Roseanne and Lily Tomlin. Where does she keep the award; In her shower so she can see it every morning.

This year, Liebman returned to headline the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, appeared for the first time on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and made her 20th appearance on Letterman. She also had a film role in “The Aristocrats,” out now on DVD.

Nave’s fave: Graham Elwood

Appearing with Wendy Liebman is another personal favorite: Graham Elwood. He has one of the most infectious laughs ever! Just thinking about it cracks me up.

His numerous appearances on both network and cable television have occupied the veteran performer, but Elwood realizes that there’s more to life than just making money and advancing his career. Wait – who am I kidding?

Seriously, Elwood is one of those talents who make it all seem so easy. He has honed his persona in comedy clubs and colleges into that of a sarcastic hipster, who can make light of any and all, especially himself. Effortlessly absurd and silly, this professional wise-ass is one of the most versatile comics working today. In the clubs, at a corporate event, colleges, coffeehouses, bowling alleys … anywhere there is a stage.

Elwood returned to entertaining our servicemen and -women in Afghanistan and has a new DVD, “Comedy From the Front Lines: Live From Afghanistan” chronicling his appearances. He says going overseas was the most rewarding experience of his career. I bet the military personnel overseas appreciated you as well.

Most people will recognize Elwood from his stint as host on the USA network show “Strip Poker.” He also appeared on “The Test” on the F/X network and was recently on “The Late Late Show” on CBS. He also directed a short indie movie, “Hello Junkie,” which received nice reviews at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.


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