From writing to comedy, performer Tracy DeGraaf’s journey has been both organic and inspired. She spoke with Our Town about inspiration, God and Phyllis Diller.
Our Town What route did you take to comedy?
Tracy DeGraaf It wasn't my idea. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 12. I did everything one would do to pursue that dream. I met my husband, Ron (I call him Muffin) and we got married in 1989 and proceeded to fill the Earth as we had our five sons (we call them the mini-muffins). My writing career was put on the back burner for 20 years. I
refer to the 90s as my "Silent Decade,” not because my world was silent but rather because living in a home with 6 males was deafening and I seriously was incapable of putting two sentences together let alone writing a book! It wasn't until I turned 40 that I got back to my dream.
OT How did that come about?
TD It was two weeks before my 40th birthday, and with a giant laundry basket hiked up on my hip, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror of my dresser. A picture of my husband
and I along with our parents on our wedding day was on the dresser. My mom died only 4 short years after the picture was taken. She was only 51. She died of bone cancer. If you've ever lost someone who was too young to die, you know that they remain the age they died in your
brain. So while everyone else in the photo had aged, my mother was still 51 in my brain. So here I was about to enter my 40s and as I caught myself in the mirror and looked at that photo, it hit me, I look way more like the mother of the bride than the bride. That was when I decided to be a writer no matter what. Muffin bought me a laptop for my birthday and I started a blog. No one read it. It was just for my therapy. I told my friends to read some funny stories and one of them
said, "Tracy, you want to write a book and you have all these hilarious stories.....there's your book."
OT And comedy...?
TD I had a blast writing it but when I finished the manuscript I had no idea what to do with it so I hired a publishing coach to walk me though the process. He read the book and said, "Tracy, your book is funny. If you could do stand-up comedy along with it, you might really have something here." I paid this guy big bucks for his advice. Muffin
had to sell a tractor so I could consult with him. (Muffin is a heavy equipment operator.) So, I hung up with the consultant and dialed up The Second City in Chicago and they had just started a Stand Up course. I signed up and took a giant horrifying step. It's one thing to be funny when you write or when you are having a conversation with
someone....it's a totally different thing when it's you and a microphone and the crickets if you're not funny. I did open mics and mostly free performances around the city and suburbs for two years.
OT What was that like?
TD My audience is moms. You know who is NOT at the open mic on Wednesday night? Moms. They are at home
thanking God the kids are asleep. I performed mostly to drunk 21 year olds and alcoholic 55 year old men. It wasn't pretty but they laughed and I knew if I could make them laugh the mom crowd would be a piece of cake. Now I perform my own one woman show called "Life Happens Laugh Anyway." It basically brings the stories from my book, Laugh Anyway Mom to life on the stage.
OT Who are your influences?
TD Phyllis Diller and Erma Bombeck. Phyllis Diller was kind enough to endorse my book and she sent me a Christmas card that she drew with a Bob Hope stamp. I treasure it. She was a mom of 5. She started her comedy career when she was middle aged. She was from the Midwest. We have a little in common.
OT What's unique about your show?
TD It combines evangelism with comedy. So if Phyllis Diller and Billy Graham had a kid....that would be me......a little whacky but totally in love with Jesus.
OT Who's your dream audience member?
TD MOMS. MOMS. MOMS. All ages. Plus young twenty-something females because I have a lot of material about
the funny stages of our lives as women. My goal is to encourage women with humor and truth (the truth of the Bible).
OT Women aren't funny: your response?
TD If the stand-up comedy world had a theme song it would be "It's raining men." Yes, it's a culture that is mostly men but many women have made their mark.
Catch Tracy DeGaar March 28th at 7 p.m. at Southbridge Church.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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