MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER
Leighann Lord had not one, but two first loves: writing and theater. For the last couple of decades, she’s pursued both loves as a stand-up comedian.
“I love writing,” Lord said. “I love getting an idea, then writing about it, then developing it on stage in front of people to see whether it works or not. And when it does, oh my gosh, there’s no feeling like that. It’s absolute magic.”
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 in the Amphitheater, Lord will give a mix of a stand-up routine and a lecture, titled “I’m Not Funny, I’m Brave.” It’s part of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “The Authentic Comedic Voice: Truth Born of Struggle.”
She joked that her intention is to make people laugh, but if they don’t, then she’ll call it a lecture.
“That uncomfortable silence? I intended that,” she said with a laugh.
Lord has been in love with stand-up for about as long as she can remember.
“As a kid, I loved watching stand-up,” she said. “There was something about it — the ability to tell truths through laughter is a gift.”
Ultimately, Lord attended Baruch College at City University of New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and creative writing. She was then accepted into City University’s master of fine arts program, but she declined the offer.
Instead, Lord entered the corporate world for five years.
“I was miserable, absolutely miserable,” she said.
Whereas plenty of people get stage fright, Lord found the corporate world terrifying.
“Like, you go to work? In the same place? Every day? With the same people? Shudder, shudder, clutch the pearls. Like, I can’t,” she said.
Lord understands that others experience stage fright, but she has an opposite reaction to being onstage.
“I’ve talked to professional actors who are terrified of stand-up because it’s a very specific thing,” she said. “You’re on stage by yourself. There’s no fourth wall. … People say to me, ‘How do you get on stage?’ and I say, ‘How do you not?’ I understand stage fright, but the first time I stood on stage to do stand-up, I felt like I found my calling. I felt like I found my safe space.”
Currently, Lord is in the midst of recording Showtime’s third iteration of “Funny Women of a Certain Age,” the same name of a group Lord frequently performs alongside.
“This is big for me, to be attached to this special,” she said.
Throughout COVID-19, Lord has continued working through virtual shows, but she is now busier than any time she can remember.
“Everybody wants to go out, out, out now,” she said.
To Lord, the best part of stand-up is bringing positivity to people’s lives, especially if any audience members are going through a particularly negative period.
“To know that on really, really good days, I’m making people either forget about their pain, or laugh about it for just a little while. It’s a very brief respite, but that’s what art and entertainment does,” she said. “What I can do through stand-up, through laughter and letting them build up the endorphins and have a good time, I feel like I’m doing something good.”
During today’s lecture, Lord will make humor out of topics that she said, on the surface, are not funny. These topics include education, religion, health, politics, family, ageism and inequality. She said people will probably wonder how she will make those funny.
“I do, and I have for a while,” she said.
Part of the equation for good comedy is tragedy, she said.
“If you’re just having a lecture or a speech, it might not resonate in the same way that you can deliver a message or relief with laughter,” she said.
Lord wants attendees to feel entertained and enlightened. Her lecture will be a combination of stand-up, then spending time to reflect on what was said.
“I really feel like I’m from the George Carlin school of comedy, where he joked about very serious things and made people laugh,” she said. “I feel it’s after that laughter when you take that cleansing breath and realize what you heard, and you can laugh about it — then, maybe, we can now talk about it.”