Arts & Culture

Four-woman comedy show brings laughs to StandUp for Autism! show

Just like Roseanne Barr, San Diego comedian Vicki Barbolak believes in being herself.

“Roseanne is my hero in my grown-up life,” said Barbolak, who often draws comparisons to Barr with her brassy attitude and big hair. A thrice-married mother of two, she lives in a gold mobile home and prefers sexy outfits that show off her curves.

“Even though I’m up there in age, I think I still got a shot at being hot every night,” she said with a laugh. “People always say, ‘You give me hope.’ ”

Barbolak will join three other female comics for Saturday’s comedy showcase StandUp for Autism! Proceeds benefit the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center, which provides education, support and other services to families living in San Luis Obispo County.

Barbolak said she’s particularly excited to do Saturday’s fundraiser because her 7-year-old grandson has autism.

“You have to have a huge sense of humor about the situation, and when you do, it makes everything a lot easier,” she said.

Barbolak first discovered her gift for comedy growing up in Southern California.

“There was a lot of competing in our family for attention,” she recalled, “and the best way to get attention from my uncles or my parents was to make them laugh.”

Barbolak also used jokes as a form of self-defense. “I got really good at using humor to deflect attacks on me,” she said, describing her younger self as “a chubby little kid.”

Although Lily Tomlin and Totie Fields ranked among her early heroes, she remembers being most impressed by Roseanne Barr.

“She was totally honest about who she was,” Barbolak recalled. “I just thought she was so natural and real and approachable.”

Despite her gift for comedy, Barbolak’s show-business dreams seldom extended past entertaining customers at her parents’ carpet store, where she worked for 15 years.

“I didn’t care about selling carpet, but if I couldn’t make them laugh I was really bummed,” she recalled.

Then Barbolak took a comedy class from actor Pauly Shore’s sister, Sandi Shore. That gave her the confidence to begin honing her act at venues such as The Comedy Store in La Jolla, where owner Mitzi Shore — Pauly’s mother — saw her perform one night.

“She said, ‘You’re a regular,’ ” Barbolak recalled. “When that happened, everything changed a lot.”

Barbolak became the first winner of California’s Funniest Female Contest in 2004, and won Russian River’s Gay Comedy Festival in 2006. In 2007, she took home the title of Nick at Nite’s “Funniest Mom in America,” hosted by Barr. The comedian later hired her as a writer and as the opening act for Barr’s show at New York New York Hotel& Casino in Las Vegas.

Barbolak, who has appeared on TBS’s “Minding the Store,” is currently touring with two groups, the Funniest Housewives of Orange County and her own Wild Girls of Comedy.

Her act covers such topics as divorce, aging and the travails of raising teenage daughters. “That’s just a constant barrage of terror,” she joked.

Although she doesn’t “do a lot of political stuff,” Barbolak said she has to find humor in America’s current economic and political turmoil.

“It’s a funny time to be a comic because it can’t get any more absurd,” she said. “Everyone is so relieved to laugh. Everything’s so scary.”

On Saturday, Barbolak will be joined onstage by comedians Shawn Pelofsky, Roz Browne and Christine Nittrouer.

“She looks a little like Barbra Streisand and she’s just as fiery,” Barbolak said of Pelofsky, whose television credits include “Community,” “Chelsea Lately” and “Last Comic Standing.” “She’s hugely energetic and very fun.”

She also had plentiful praise for Browne, who has appeared on ABC’s “The View” and BET’s “Comic- View.” “She’s just really savvy and smart. She brings a really great, fresh perspective,” Barbolak said.

Nittrouer, who received a doctorate from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

“She’s fearless and brilliant and gorgeous,” Barbolak said. “I need to actually kill her. I’m going to put a pillow over her head, she’s that great.”

Barbolak said she’s happy to be headlining an all-female comedy show.

“Women in comedy are getting strength in numbers,” Barbolak said. “Women love watching women that are funny. We love a good laugh.”

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