Houston Chronicle, Wednesday April 22 1998

Liebman's dreams may be closer to reality after tonight's special.

It's not the hair, although it does appear to have some glitter in it. It's not the body-even she would admit that. "You know that expression, hourglass figure? Well, I've got an hour and a half." What's new about Wendy Liebman, is that the self-deprecating queen of the one-line afterthought is blossoming into a full-fledged comedian.

She schoolhouse-rocks tonight in a half-hour special that mixes her stand-up prowess with skilful sketches about a high school reunion. And she's got a wicked time slot to show herself off, 9:30pm on Comedy Central, or right after the "Who is Cartman's father?" episode of South Park.

Those familiar with Liebman, either through appearances on HBO or Letterman or her recent gig at the Laff Stop here, know her strong suit is her ability to toss away a punch line-appendaging a statement with a funny, under-the-breath afterthought.

"Like most women, I love to shop. Lift."
"My love life is like a fairy tale. Grimm."
"My last boyfriend had no trouble committing. Adultery."

But tonight, Liebman broadens her career by combining her comedic style with skit. In between her still-funny stand-up, performed at a New York club, she works in routines about a high school reunion.

She's in toilet paper roll curlers (with paper still attached) in one scene, striking up a conversation with someone in a red lobster suit in another ("Are you gay?"). She's trying to be inconspicuous in a dress that reveals her behind one moment, wrestling with her kindergarten nemesis the next.

It's hilarious work, and even Liebman agrees that the time was right to branch out. "People have seen my stand-up," she said in a recent phone chat. "It's time to re-invent. I think people will be surprised, 'Oh that's another side of her'."

To her, the chance to show her talent in a half-hour , basic-cable setting is "Willy Wonka's golden ticket. Hopefully, there's candy in it, too." What does she hope will come from this? What are her wildest dreams? "World peace and to win the Miss America pageant," she said without hesitation.

Well, the pageant thing may be out of reach-she's 37- and the world peace idea, that's a toughie. But there's always sitcom work-if the part was right and she liked it and a network wanted her, she said. "I get a little impatient sometimes and think that I should be somewhere else, but I'm not sure where that somewhere else should be. I know I want to host the Oscars when I'm 45, so that gives me eight years."

"Oh you're laughing, but I also wanted to get on Letterman once and I fulfilled that goal. If I don't have these dreams for myself, who else is going to?"

Based on the welcome lift tonight's show should bring her, it would be wise not to bet against her.

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