Comedian Smith likes her comedy fresh
Although the Egyptian Theatre books monthly stand-up comedy shows, the performances during the Park City Kimball Arts Festival weekend are a little more significant.
That’s because the Kimball Art Center partners with the Egyptian Theatre and other artistic organizations, including the Sundance Institute, the State Room, and the Summit County Fair ,for the Festival After Dark program.
On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 12 and 13, the Egyptian Theatre will present stand-up comics Tracy Smith and Kjell Bjorgen. The laughs begin at 8 p.m.
The Park Record caught up with Smith during one of her fishing trips to Sun Valley, Idaho, last week and talked with her about her goals, material and stand-up career.
“I came from a family with nine kids and that was an attention-starved crew,” Smith said. “So, when I saw that there was a profession where I could have my own microphone and spotlight, that was the draw for me.
“Just having that focus on the words that come out of my mouth and usually not get interrupted or having to wait until someone finished their story, was the biggest appeal for doing stand-up comedy,” she said.
Like most comics, Smith did some open mic shows and got her start 25 years ago.
“I entered a contest just outside of [Washington] D.C. and my group of open mikers were Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt and Blaine Capatch,” she said. “Yes, this was my group.”
After a couple of weeks, someone asked Smith if she wanted to be a comic and she said yes.
“From then, my only goal at that point was making a living doing stand-up,” she said. “I was 24, and designed my life accordingly, so every job I got was a means to do stand-up.
“I was a comic working towards that goal,” Smith explained. “I could be a receptionist, while being a comic.”
After a while, Smith was making enough money to quit that receptionist job.
“In the early days, when you quit your job to do stand-up, it was like earning your Master’s Degree, while still paying off a debt and paying your dues,” she said. “Even 10 years ago, I didn’t have the education in stand-up that I do now.”
That goes for life experiences as well.
“I couldn’t do what I do now when I was 24,” she said with a laugh. “I mean, those of us who are over 50 have a whole other sense of entitlement. Yes, I can be nasty and say curse words.”
That all comes with the material, Smith said.
“I’m 52 years old, so my family’s life is behind me,” she said. “So, I draw from life experiences and various struggles of a ‘normal’ middle-class life, trying to stay afloat and stay attractive while being single at 52.”
Smith also draws from observations of a bigger world.
“I can see the generation behind me and the generation in front of me,” she said. “I can see what each of them takes for granted and what they are afraid of. That’s the fun thing about being middle aged. You really get a good view from both sides — and it’s terrifying.”
The picking is good, as long as you know what to pick and how far you can throw the fruit, according to Smith.
“You do worry because when you play a show, it’s the audience’s turf, but you want to push the envelope a little bit,” she said. “Good comics know where the boundaries are and then step outside of that.
“Anyone can play it safe, but the fun part is finding how far I can push this,” Smith said. “I mean, you don’t want to offend somebody, but you want to take them to a place where it feels a little unsafe and make them laugh.”
It helps when comics add a little custom-made flair in their acts.
“When something stands out about a place so much or if it’s so different socially or economically than any other part of the country, you can’t ignore it,” Smith said.
Doors of opportunity have opened to Smith because of her comedy.
“You know, all I wanted to do at first was make a living but as I got better at it, things began to happen,” she said.
One of those opportunities was becoming a consultant for Roseanne Barr.
“Rosanne’s influence on comedy was amazing and showed stand-ups could be stars of sitcoms,” Smith said. “Then sitcoms and those types of opportunities came my way.”
However, that eventually became a burden.
“The more times when people see you on stage and just see dollar signs, or if you’re on stage trying to convince people you can make money for them, it all becomes less fun,” Smith said. “If you go on stage just to go entertain, that’s the most fun you can have.
“Right now, I just like doing stand-up,” she said. “If they are laughing, that’s good enough for me, because it’s more pure and fun and I give less of a crap of who I offend, which means I can give a truthful performance.”
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand-up comedians Tracy Smith and Kjell Bjorgen on Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m. Friday’s tickets range from $15 to $25 and Saturday’s tickets run from $19 to $29. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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