Telling it like it is
Carole Montgomery entertains us with stories from her memorable career
Brooklyn native Carole Montgomery remembers her first stand-up show, in Sheepshead Bay, when the Italian-American men in the crowd heckled her by asking her to make them pasta sauce. Thankfully, that harrowing experience did not derail her dreams of pursuing comedy professionally, and she has enjoyed an almost 40-year career, with stints in LA, Vegas as well as tours in places like Iraq and Kuwait to perform for American troops.
Now approaching 60, Montgomery still recognizes the relative dearth of women performing comedy, and that those who are on the older side have it the hardest. To address that disparity, she created a show for a few of them, assembling a rotating cast of veteran female comedians over the age of 50 for “Women of A Certain Age Comedy.” Tonight, they will be performing at The Kraine Theater in the East Village. The troupe has plans to take the show on the road and possibly turn it into a TV series in the future.How did you get your start in the comedy world in New York?
The real reason I started doing stand-up was many, many years ago my dad was a bartender in the Catskills during the heyday of the Catskill Mountains comedy. So when I was a child, I would go and hang out with him while he was setting up the bar, because we stayed up there. And you know, in would walk Rodney Dangerfield, at the time he was Jack Roy. And Tony Fields would come in to check the mic and everything. So I guess somewhere in my head, comedy was ingrained into me at a very young age.Where was your first stand-up show and what was it like?
I started at a comedy club in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, called Pips. There weren’t a lot of women, and it was a very Italian-American audience, and they kept yelling at me to get off stage and make them some sauce. But I still stuck with it, even after that terrifying first day. And actually, the people that I met that first night were Richard Jeni and another comedian named Andrew Silverstein, who was an impressionist who went on to become Andrew Dice Clay.You’re turning 60 next year. How can you describe the show you created around that?
“Women of A Certain Age Comedy” was invented because with stand-up in general, there are very few women still to this day, on a show. And there’s hardly any old women on the show. One of the things I say about sexism and ageism is that if I had to choose, I would take sexism over the ageism, because nobody is booking women over a certain age. So that’s why I came up with the idea, and it’s women pretty much over 40 and they’re all strong. There’s not a weak comedian in my cast of rotating comics.Describe what the show is like.
It’s women over a certain age who just don’t give a crap anymore and they’re telling it like it is. And it’s a show for all ages. I always want to let people know that this isn’t just for people who are older, because the premiere show that we did in September was sold out. And half of the crowd was young people. All of these women are veteran comics; they’ve been doing this for 20-plus years, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working. They’re doing cruise lines, private parties. They’re still around, they just aren’t household names.You also did comedy in Vegas. Tell us about that.
I was in two different shows in Las Vegas. I was in a show called “Crazy Girls” and another called “Midnight Fantasy,” and they were burlesque, topless revues, basically. To give the girls some time to relax between numbers, I would come out and do comedy. And I wasn’t topless. [Laughs] I always say that. People are always like, “Were you topless?” I say, “Why would they want me to be topless? You got stunning women next to them. Why would they need that?”Can you tell us a funny story from that time?
I think the funniest story was when my husband came to the Strip to pick me up one night and my son, who was 4 at the time, was with him. So I came out to meet him after the show, and all the girls were like, “Bring him backstage!” So I did and of course, they were all in robes, but were all still in full makeup. And they all kissed him. I wish I had a camera, because his face was covered in lipstick. And when we left, he goes to me, “I really liked those girls, mom.” [Laughs]You’re married and have a 25-year-old son. How do you incorporate your family into your comedy?
My comedy is very truthful. My idol is Richard Pryor; he always talked about his life. And that’s all I’ve ever done. When I was single, I talked about being single. When I was dating, I talked about that. When I got married, I talked about my husband. Now I have my son. You know, there’s never not material, because there’s always something happening. So I always incorporate my family into every bit.I also read that you did shows for the military. How did that come about?
One of the producers for a small festival here called the New York Underground Comedy Festival, got a call from Armed Forces Entertainment. They were having a tough time finding comedians, so we set up an audition for a bunch of comics. And I figured I wasn’t going to be able to do the shows because I tend to lean on the dirtier side of comedy. And we did an audition and I closed out the show while the people got their checks. And the woman who was in charge of Armed Forces came right up to me and goes, “Oh, you’re going.” I’ve done 11 tours. The first one was in Iraq during the actual war. I had a great time on every one of my tours, but the first tour was one of the greatest experiences of my life. If it was up to me, I would do stand-up for the troops all the time. That’s all I would do, because they’re the best audiences in the world.You mentioned Richard Pryor. Who are some other comedians you look up to?
Now we have 8,000 television channels, but back when I was a child, there were three networks, channel 5, 9 and 11. I remember vividly having dinner every night, and Monday through Friday they would play the reruns of “I Love Lucy.” So obviously, Lucy was one of my idols. My father introduced me to the Marx Brothers, who are right up there with Pryor. On Sundays, they would have the Bowery Boys on and then Abbott and Costello, and my dad and I would watch that. So a lot of the old-time comics are who I look up to.What are your future plans?
I just want to keep doing comedy. I hope to be like George Burns who wanted to do a show when he was 100. I hope to be doing stand-up or some form of comedy until they have to just say, “Okay, that’s enough. We have to put you in a home.”
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