Elayne Boosler is one of the busiest and most popular comedians touring the country today.
Elayne Boosler has been a touring standup comedian since 1973. She explains her burning desire to graduate from performing in clubs to performing her one woman concert in theaters: “I really wanted to be able to deliver a full circle, rich evening of entertainment to the audience without distractions, and I also wanted to get off work early enough to be able to get food.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. right around the time the Dodgers were leaving, her first memories are of grown men crying. Not understanding, she felt responsible, and decided to go into comedy. Her most recent memories are also of grown men crying. Different story. Her tool-and-die-maker father and her escaped Russian ballerina mother encouraged her from an early age to leave them alone. She attended public school in Brooklyn, plus a nefarious (a word she did not learn in public school in Brooklyn) year or so at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she avoided class, has no credits on file, and swallowed many strange substances while she watched her hands multiply and listened to Janis Joplin albums.
Her sole goal in college was to turn eighteen so she could legally leave school and move to Manhattan to fulfill her dreams of waitressing. That she did. She waitressed in no less than every joint in Manhattan, and her number was retired upon her hundredth firing (“I didn’t know they wanted silverware!”) One night a waitress called in sick at a music and comedy club (the singing waitresses performed after every second comedian or so, to give the crowd a chance to talk), and she filled in. The club was one of very few of its kind in the country at that time, as comedy was as low key and specialized as jazz in the early seventies. Bingo! She was an instant success! Although no one did get any silverware that night, during her eleven minute rendition of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, she emptied the club sufficiently for the owner to close early, thus allowing him to go home, save his marriage, have a second child, and offer her a job as the club doorman, which she kept for three years. Noticing how naturally funny she was, comedian Andy Kaufman, a regular, convinced her that she should do standup comedy. Actually, what he said was, “You really shouldn’t ever, ever publicly sing again”. She and Andy lived at her West Village apartment for three years, stayed friends for all the rest, and he guided her all through her comedy education, as did the rest of her peers: Freddie Prinze, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Richard Belzer, Jimmie Walker, Ed Bluestone etc. As the very first young (she was eleven), unmarried, dressed-up-for-a-date female comic, she was an instant success with audiences. They were more than ready for a slice of life approach to comedy from a woman just the way they had accepted it from the new breed of current male comics of the time like Robert Klein, Richard Pryor, etc. She did countless appearances on all the talk shows of the day. She appeared often on music shows like The Midnight Special, Rock Concert, Friday Night Videos, did countless variety specials, and toured the country as the opening act for every single musical group in America.
Those appearances ran the gamut of performance venues, including playing clubs, 35,000 seat fairs, Las Vegas, Tahoe, concerts, theaters in the round, colleges, Atlantic City, rodeos, speedways, festivals, full moon goddess ceremonies, and sometimes she’d just stand on a street corner and mumble. Always a writer, in the 1980’s she joined the Writer’s Guild of America and began splitting her time between touring and writing for television and print. She currently writes for the Huffington Post, and is working on two books. In 1995 she wrote city by city customized material for Barbra Streisand to use on her comeback tour. She did this as a favor as she does not write for other people’s acts, but the four months of daily work was very satisfying when it was so well received. Almost the entire New York monologue that she wrote for Streisand was quoted on the cover of the New York Times entertainment section, and the political material in particular was quoted everywhere. A top ten list that she wrote for Streisand was printed in its entirety on the cover of the Los Angeles Times entertainment section, excerpted in newspapers across the country, and run on CNN and all the networks. It almost made it all worth it.
In 1985 cable TV was sweeping the country, and comedy cable specials in particular were making headliners of any comic lucky enough to get one. Well, you didn’t have to be lucky actually, you just had to be a guy. Elayne watched the specials and thought, “Hey, I’m as lousy as those guys, why don’t I have a special?” But it was not to be. Not one to whine, we won’t dwell on how she was told TO HER cute little FACE that no one would watch a woman do an hour of comedy, it was too big a risk, it hadn’t been done , etc. etc. Long story short, knowing that indeed people would watch, as she was by then headlining clubs everywhere and doing two hour shows, she put her little life savings (“We din’t haf no stinkin’ credit cards!”) where her mouth was, formed Brooklyn Productions, Inc., her production company, and funded her own special. This could be done only because she was lucky enough to team up with a director/producer from New York who taught her how to produce, direct, line produce, etc. a show so they could stay within their limited budget. “Party of One” aired on Showtime in 1986. People magazine gave it an ‘A’. John J. O’Connor in the New York Times wrote, ...”how refreshing, a woman who doesn’t have to tear her own skin off for our amusement… an attractive human being simply standing there being funny, the first to feel she doesn’t have to be a grotesque..” (note: sometimes she does tear her own skin off at home, but it’s not for anyone’s amusement.) Showtime immediately gave her a deal for three more specials, HBO immediately announced its own new series of specials, “Women of the Night”. And suddenly women comedians were everywhere! All kinds. And life was good. Do they ever give her credit? Nah! But she’s just happy those bitches can now get work.
Elayne’s list of show business credits is too long even for the internet. To read it (what are you, in prison?) See CREDITS below. Elayne is also extremely pro active in politics and issues of the day. She hosted the Presidential Democratic Candidates forum at the National Organization for Women’s Washington convention (C-SPAN), and was recently honored by the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project.
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