The Harvard Crimson, February 20 1998 THEATER

Comedy Goddess Liebman a Real Laugh Machine

It was late at night in Boston, and the Comedy Connection at Faneuil Hall was packed. On stage, Wendy Liebman brushed aside a lock of highlighted hair and gave an enormous grin to the audience. The topic of discussion: her recent trip to Hawaii. "I bought a three-piece bikini," she confessed. "It's a top, a bottom, and a blindfold for you." But what did she do on vacation? Well, what didn't she do? "I didn't surf," she answered. "I don't like to surf. I don't even like to channel surf. You guys like it don't you? You like to change the channel. We like to change...you."

Over the past few years, Wendy Liebman's status in the stand-up comedy world has soared from cult favorite to nationally known sensation. The secret? Her ability to drop nuclear-strength punch lines in a palpitating heartbeat. Donning a huge, friendly smile, Liebman breezes through her quips with a voice full of sunshine, you'd never believe that girl just said that.

I'm an insomniac, so I spend a lot of time at Kinko's," she told the audience this past weekend. "They're open 24 hours, and they have to be. Their employees are so fucking slow." She stopped. Her eyes widened and her hand flew over her mouth. "Oops- I just said the F-word!" She stopped and grinned again. "Well, it's okay. I spelled it with a 'ph."

In an MTV-generation world where sound bites are gospel and cynicism is a religion, Liebman's comedic style is a virtual gold mine. She rips into her subjects with the speed and voracity of the average piranha. If you're not paying attention, forget it- her delicious bomb shells-on-crack fly by so quickly that if you stop to find out what the last one was, chances are you'll miss the next three.

Although her basic delivery remains the same throughout the performance, Liebaman's jokes themselves do not fall into a particular genre. They range from self-deprecating (I'm the worst driver. I should drive a hearse and cut out the middle man") to gender-related ("I like it when a man cries...when I hit him. No, I would never hit a man...if he were awake") to the just plain bizarre ("I don't do drugs because I saw what they did to my friends. I got really stoned, and they looked really weird").

Although her repertoire at the Comedy Connection Valentine's Day performance consisted mainly of jokes recycled from Liebman's stints on HBO, MTV's "Half-Hour Comedy " and "Politically Incorrect" (to name just a few of her television appearances), the lines still kept the crowd obviously-avid fans roaring with laughter.

Liebman, winner of the 1997 American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-up, even introduced some local flavor to into her show. After realizing that a group of Harvard students were in the audience, Liebman smiled in approval. "In '79, my brother went to Harvard. Now he's a sophomore," she quipped. "He's on that layaways plan."

Thankfully, the crowd that night was almost entirely free of hecklers. But the show did have its occasional bumps. At one point, Liebman had just been kidding around about...kids. "I can't have kids. They're not in my lease," she laughed as silence filled the room. "Okay, what the hell happened?" she asked. An audience member informed her that in the opening act, a local comic named Brian Kylie, had told nearly the exact same joke: "My wife's about to have our second child, and we're very happy, because we were told we couldn't have kids...by our landlord." Never missing a beat, Liebman pointed toward the backstage area where Kylie was waiting and, to the audience's delight yelled, "So we both stole it!"

Overall, however, the mood of the evening remained enjoyable, alternating between delightfully mellow and raucously fast-paced. Kylie, the opening act, lacked Liebman's razor-sharp style, but delivered a truly enjoyable program without having to fall back onto overly crass humor. "I had to work to put myself through school. I sold encyclopedias in college," he reminisced near the end of his performance. "When the librarian found out, she was pissed. No, seriously, school has always been scary for me. The very first day of school, my parents dropped me off at the wrong nursery. I didn't know anyone...(and there were) lots of trees."

Despite the huge amounts of money raked in by greeting card, candy manufacturing, and floral-arrangement companies, Valentine's Day is still mourned every year by many people in America, single and single-at-heart alike. Fortunately, the mood this past weekend at the Comedy Connection was anything but mournful, thanks to the charmingly hyper comic humor of Wendy Liebman.

Much more than a mere professional male-basher, Liebman once again proved herself to be the sensitive yet vicious mistress of stand-up comedy that keeps audiences laughing again and again. "Is there a doctor in the house?" she asked near the conclusion of her act, "My mother wants me to marry you."

If the crowd's reaction proved anything, it proved that laughter is better than any kind of medicine as a cure for the Valentine's Day blues.

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