During an era in which women comics are nearly as prevalent in clubs as men, it’s hard to imagine a time in which women were not given a fair shot in the comedy business. But Elayne Boosler remembers, because she was a trailblazer who in 1986 became one of the first woman comics to have her own one-hour comedy special.
While Boosler continues to perform frequently in shows nationwide, she has placed her focus in recent years on raising money for small animal adoption shelters that are often struggling to get by through her own charity, Tails of Joy. Most of her hectic show schedule is devoted to fundraisers for animal rescue groups, including a show this Sunday with the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra in which she will read her original story “Rescue — A True Story” while backed by the ensemble.
Sunday’s show will feature Boosler reading to an original score written by Carol Worthey. She will also perform a full stand-up comedy show on Oct. 12 for the Escondido Humane Society.
“I had been to see the Glendale Philharmonic perform several times and last year my friend Emo Philips, the great comedian, did ‘Peter and the Wolf’ there,” says Boosler. “It was a huge success, and a great balance of comedy and music. I think that’s when Ruslan Biryukov, the forward thinking creative director of the Phil, decided to try an original comedy/music piece. He said, ‘What would you think about writing an original story about children?’ I said, ‘Why yes, brilliant, I’d love to write about dogs.’ Ha! Luckily, the composer he hired, Carol Worthey, is as dog crazy as we all are.”
“Rescue — A True Story” is the imagined story of the last rescued dog Boosler had, named Annie. “It’s really the story of most rescued dogs,” she notes.
Since Annie came to her at a very old age, Boosler imagined numerous scenarios from earlier in its life that would reflect the reality of many homeless animals’ lives before coming to Tails of Joy.
While she is debuting the story in Sunday’s performance, Boosler hopes it will be received well enough to merit being performed at other similar benefits around the country. She grew up having a Boxer dog from the age of 5 and credits the experience with teaching her “kindness, compassion and love,” and that she felt destined to spend her life working with animals ever since.
“I’ve always loved animals of all kinds,” says Boosler. “I’ve been a road comic for 40 years. After my shows I always met rescuers, saw their needs, their challenges, and decided I could do more than just write small checks. Tails of Joy’s ‘Little Guy Grants’ fund rescue organizations nationwide, helping dogs, cats, wildlife, bunnies, rats, sea life, horses, burros, farm animals and more. If I ever win the lottery I have a blueprint for how to do great things around the world.”
Boosler first entered the world of comedy in the early 1970s, when she worked as a doorperson for the Improv comedy club in New York City. It was there that she met legendary comic Andy Kaufman, who became her boyfriend for a few years and remained her best friend for years afterward until his untimely passing.
Boosler vividly remembers the struggles that she and other women comics faced at that time, as audiences were open to newly emboldened female voices but the club owners made it difficult to succeed due to old stereotypes that women couldn’t be as funny as men. She will compile her favorite memories of that prime era of comedy — in which she was surrounded by the likes of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin at the peaks of their live-performance careers — in a book called “Big Fun” next year.
“You’ll be relieved to know it’s not an autobiography,” she says. “No childhood stories. Just the great, hilarious stories I witnessed being around during what I call ‘the second golden age of comedy,’ and none of these stories have been told. I was the ‘doorman’ in the club and I’m the one who witnessed them. The book is a very funny love letter, and I think people could use a laugh these days.”
While her book is coming out in 2014, Boosler’s focus right now is on her two upcoming shows. She selects the local rescue organizations her shows benefit, and allows their rescuers to attend for free while also introducing them to the audience to help spread word of mouth for their efforts.
Boosler also allows the groups to collect donations and sell their merchandise, and all of her after show merchandise is sold for their benefit. In each city, she leaves behind 100 percent of the after show sales to benefit local rescues in the communities in which she performs.
“My greatest joy is that now, my bond with my audience is so much deeper because it’s rooted in our mutual love for animals,” says Boosler. “I love the passion in people’s eyes after my shows when they tell me about their rescued pets. Yes, I look at a thousand pictures a night, but everyone is so proud to have rescued and not bought. I am so happy that my real voice helps those who cannot speak for themselves. I’d just like to say, please visit tailsofjoy.net. Rescue, don’t buy. And people, learn to work your damn phone cameras. I can’t stand here all night.” n
Elayne Boosler performs with the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra Sunday at 4 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Glendale, 209 E. Louise St., Glendale. Tickets are $15 to $100. Call (323)663-3601 or visit glendalephilharmonic.com.
She performs for the Escondido Humane Society from 5 to 9 pm Oct. 12 at Vintana at Lexus Escondido, 1205 Auto Park Way, Escondido. Tickets are $125 to $225. Call Development Director Jean Russo at (760) 888-2240 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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