Stand-up comedians can echo your thoughts, prompt you to think harder or differently, and show the universality of most trials and tribulations. They can put tough stuff into perspective, reveal what you hadn’t noticed (oops), or best of all, brighten your mood.
Sometimes, all of this is accomplished within one set or show.
So, launch August with laughter.
At 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House, comedians Sally Love and Nancy Stanley will share the microphone at Chautauqua Speaks. The question they’ll be answering is: “How did Nice Gals like you Start Doing Stand-up?”
“There’s something serendipitous about making someone laugh,” said Love, who grew up on Long Island – as Sally Love Banks – and has lived in Washington, D.C., since the 1960s.
“I went to a stand-up show for a friend (who was dealing with a breakup and a fire), and I just knew I wanted to do it,” she said. That happened in February 2018.
At Chautauqua Speaks, she will share more – including about the morning that actress and stand-up comedian Maria Bamford called her up to the Amphitheater stage less than a year and a half later.
Prior to that moment, Love richly filled the decades.
After graduating from Tufts University, she said she spent five years in the Peace Corps. She worked in Guinea, in West Africa, until the country was kicked out of the Peace Corps. Moving to Tunisia, she was appointed associate director of the program there. In 1969, she helped to start the Peace Corps program in Congo.
Then, Love headed back to the United States and worked at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I met my husband, and we married in six weeks,” she said. “He had three kids, and we had a child.” Love’s surname changed to Craig, and she and her husband remained together for 40 years until his death. Only recently has she remarried.
Curious about the technology behind television and radio – including “how sound got there” – Love said she went to a school “advertised on matchbooks” in 1973 to 1974 and trained to be a radio and TV engineer.
“All the others were guys, who were there on the G.I. Bill,” she said. “I was getting sexually harassed, so I became a massage therapist.”
In 1973, Love came to Chautauqua Institution. “It was during the Watergate hearings, and a group of us would crowd around the one TV in the Athenaeum (Hotel),” she said. “I returned in 1978 and saw Margaret Mead’s last presentation. In 2011, I bought my apartment, after my husband died.”
Back in Washington during the 1970s, Love said she helped establish the first chapter of the National Organization for Women. Through NOW, she met Donna Allen. While Allen didn’t know much about technology, “she had a vision of a diverse group of women and put together five of us ‘Women in Cable.’ I was the only white person. Her idea was to lease a channel for women’s programs.”
Not surprisingly, Love got involved in local politics. In the early 1980s, the mayor of Washington, D.C. appointed her to work for the city’s cable television office on launching a cable system. Later, in 1999, she worked in executive recruiting for a different Washington mayor.
In between, a friend from her years with the Peace Corps in Tunisia – a Harvard economist who 30 years later was living in Chicago – became interested in Employee Stock Ownership Companies.
“I spoke Russian, Arabic and French,” Love said. “John had gotten money from the Rockefeller Foundation to help a Russian machine tool company called Red Proletariat. Between 1991 and 1995, I made 15 trips to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan working for Coca-Cola, George Soros and Red Proletariat.” This work involved training Russian factory workers in time management and teamwork.
Love said she took her first trip to the Soviet Union, in 1992, for a workshop for women there.
With a friend, Love started a group of 10 in 1992 that still meets every month.
“Our leadership rotates,” she said. “There are two ‘mothers’ per meeting. Our topics have included courage, ailing family members, relationships, sexuality and gender.”
In 1998, Harper San Francisco published a book she wrote during the following years, in part with Robin Deen Carnes, titled Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women’s Spirituality Group.
“I went on a (national) book tour,” Love said. “I would talk at a bookstore, like Barnes and Noble, and the next day, do a workshop. I’ve been very interested in small groups and consciousness-raising groups as part of my spirituality.”
For many years, Love also served as a yoga instructor. When she retired from teaching yoga, her love of fabrics and textiles drew her to quilting and other forms of stitching cloth.
At Chautauqua, Love has gravitated toward fellow comedians and spearheaded two “pop-up” shows at the CWC House. The first was performed in 2021 and included the late political satirist and Buffalo native Mark Russell.
The second comedy show – “Let’s Keep Laughing 2.0: Sally Love and Friends” – will be performed by Love and five other comedians at the CWC House on Tuesday and on Aug. 8. Registration is required, and the show Tuesday has sold out.
“I wanted to have a variety of different performers,” Love said. “I picked people I love laughing with and who are talented. Other than Stephen Stout, we’re all amateurs.”
Nancy Stanley will be among the eight, each of whom will perform a set. She said she first came to Chautauqua as an “empty nester” when the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, opened.
Stanley is renowned in Tucson, Arizona, for pioneering women’s comedy. She created and hosts “The Estrogen Hour,” which celebrates women in comedy, has “created space for dozens of first-time women comics,” and has raised nearly $55,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In 2019 – about eight years after being bitten by the comedy bug – she was honored as Tucson’s Best Comedian.
Born and raised in Tucson, Stanley knew from a young age that she wanted to be a lawyer. Before going to law school, however, she served as an advocate and case manager for disabled people. Then she worked for 11 years in television for the NBC and ABC local affiliates.
“I loved television, but I knew it wasn’t getting anything done,” she said. So in her 30s, she entered law school. “Then I immediately had two kids.”
Over the years, Stanley has taught at four different institutions, from the community college level to journalism school and law schools. Her courses have included political science, the federal constitution, the first amendment, and media law. For 25 years she served as assistant dean of the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law.
“I’m angry a lot of the time about politics,” Stanley said. “I feel vicious about it. We ought to appreciate the humor around us, and take time for it because we’re spending our time with many moments that aren’t good for us. Take time to observe things that are quirky or funny. We need laughter in all of the mess.”
Through her comedy, Stanley said she has felt like she’s been doing a public service.
“Anyone who spends any time at Chautauqua this summer ought to get over to the Comedy Center,” she added. “I’m a museum aficionado. It’s extraordinary what (Executive Director) Journey (Gunderson) has done.”
At Chautauqua during Week Seven, Stanley will be teaching a Special Studies course called, “Stand-up from the Ground up: Finding Your Funny.”
In the meantime, begin Tuesday morning laughing with Love and Stanley as they share their comedy origin stories at Chautauqua Speaks.