Wilmington resident Shari Short is a stand-up comedienne who’s opened for performers such as Shawn Colvin and Sandra Bernhard. A graduate of both NYU and Columbia University who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) several years ago, Shari brings an amazing combination of intellect and perspective – with a healthy dose of snark! – to her shows. Last year, Shari performed her one-woman show, “It’s My Mother’s MS – I Just Have It,” to a sold-out audience at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts. This Thursday night, she joins local music comedy act Todd Chappelle and self-described “dork rock” duo Hot Breakfast for Comedy Rocks! at the World Cafe Live Upstairs at the Queen. Town Square Delaware sat down with this stand-up to talk writing and women in comedy.
Town Square Delaware: Last year’s “It’s My Mother’s MS – I Just Have It” certainly left us wanting more Shari! How did you get involved with Comedy Rocks?
Shari Short: Thanks! One of the producers from Gable Music Ventures was in the audience at my show and asked if I would like to be a part of this Comedy Rocks show with Todd Chappelle and Hot Breakfast. He also told me there would be food at the gig. So I said yes.
TSD: You’re emceeing this show versus performing your traditional stand-up. Why is that?
SS: Initially, I was going to do my own 25-minute set. But as those who struggle with MS can attest, my energy levels these days are far from predictable. I divided up my set so I can still do the whole thing as an emcee so I can have a couple of breaks. It made sense too, cause I am the only one of the three acts that is non-musical so this way I can introduce them. I mean, I am musical, very musical, just not onstage. In my car.
TSD: So it’s not because, as guys like Adam Corrolla and Sam Kinison said, women just aren’t funny?
SS: HAH! Well, clearly I think the joke has been lost on Adam Corrolla. I mean, just to make the decision that an entire gender has a better sense of humor than another is frightening. I grew up watching and worshipping Gilda Radner and then later, in the 80’s every woman from Joan Rivers to Paula Poundstone. I have a lot of respect for women comics because they paved the way for me to do what I am doing now. Many of the comediennes and comedic actresses I “studied” and still study are considered legends in this business. So for Adam to just chalk women up to sub-par “chicks” around the writing table is ironically laughable. If anything it just goes to show you that women comics have a level of pressure on them to not just be funny, but to be funny enough for the industry that has male comics being so vocal with this prejudice.
As for Sam, he had some great lines, he really did, but any lines about women not being funny just were not on that list.
TSD: What should we expect from your show at Comedy Rocks?
SS: You should expect to laugh and be entertained. It’s good music, good humor, good people. My comedy will focus on totally relatable things – the inconveniences of social media, my crazy family, what it’s like to be Jewish at the holidays.
Todd Chappelle is so talented – he does these songs where he impersonates Neil Diamond or James Taylor, but they’re singing Bon Jovi songs – so good! And Hot Breakfast is super engaging and entertaining music duo; they have their own following, who will undoubtedly be well-represented at the show. I really lucked out being on this bill with these acts.
TSD: Comedy isn’t new for you, is it?
SS: Not at all! I grew up in Philadelphia and in the mid-late ’80s, there was a thriving comedy scene in the city. I was a high school freshman discovering Joan Rivers when I wrote a letter – yes, with pen and paper! – to the owner of Comedy Works at 2nd and Chestnut, asking how I could get in the business. He told me what I now tell others who ask me the same thing: Study other comics! I tell people other stuff too, but that’s a big one. Get a feel for your style by watching how others have found their own. I went to their shows and learned everything I could – it was like a master’s class. These neurotic, chain-smoking guys adopted me like I was their little sister, and at the age of 14, I performed my first stand-up act on stage.
While in high school, I performed at Oxford and in Israel. I went on to college at NYU, where I performed with the New Group (which later became the State). At one point, I won “funniest comic” and got to open for Sandra Bernhard. Later, I got a gig opening for [singer/songwriter] Shawn Colvin.
When I was at NYU, I was friendly with Sarah Silverman, who decided to drop out of school to pursue comedy full-time. She told me she was ready to go for it and she was. I am ridiculously proud of her. In this business, you really have to want this. I wasn’t quite as brave as she, so while I scheduled an audition with [famed comedy proving ground] Second City in Chicago, I also applied to grad school at Columbia. I figured whichever cam first, I’d take. I was accepted to grad school, and nothing was funny anymore! Developmental psychology is hardly the thigh-slapper that it used to be. It was a lot of work and basically I just changed directions.
TSD: And what made you decide to dive back into the comedy scene?
SS: I’ve just really missed it. And trust me, if you met my mother you know that I have so much material just on that topic alone. The one-woman show I did was based on all my material about living with MS, but I have tons of other sources of material and for me, stand-up is the right outlet. I love to be in front of an audience, making people laugh. That makes me happy.
I remember when I first got paid to do stand-up, it was surreal because I really always believed a sense of humor is a gift, don’t abuse it and don’t rely on it in order to pay the rent. I have turned a corner there: I am happy to accept as much money as I can for it so please, buy tickets to Comedy Rocks!
TSD: So what’s next for Shari Short?
SS: I’m taking it one gig at a time! The Delaware comedy scene is emerging, and I would like to be a part of it. I’m considering turning my one-woman show into a book, and I am also writing a brand new one about all my celebrity crushes entitled Cougar Beat. In the meantime, I’m getting to use my humor through my health and wellness blog on Delaware Today. Comedy is a lot of writing and rewriting; the more you hone your craft, the better you get. And hopefully funnier. One can hope.
Tickets are available for Comedy Rocks! at World Cafe Live at the Queen, Thursday, October 25th. The show is upstairs and starts at 7:30 pm.