From upper crust on down, Chicago crowds get comedian Tammy Pescatelli
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As both a hard-nosed female comedian in a male-dominated field, and the mother of a 10-year-old, Tammy Pescatelli admits that she is never quite sure what she might encounter around every corner of her crazy world.
But this moment stopped her in her tracks.
“So my son was watching ‘Full House’ on Hulu and ‘The Cosby Show’ was listed as one of the suggestions,” recalls Pescatelli during a recent phone chat. “He started watching it and he was like, ‘This guy is so funny, Mommy.’ ”
When: Through May 13
Where: Chicago Improv, 5 Woodfield Rd., Schaumburg
The moment broke Pescatelli’s heart.
“I had to address it and I had to tell my son that he was a very funny man who did some bad things to women. But it was rough for me,” she says about the fellow comedian, who was recently found guilty of sexual assault. “I mean, a crime is a crime, but the hard part is he was one of my comedic idols. I knew every single word of every one of his albums. I just hate it.”
But like she has done so many times before, she moves on, next landing in the area for a run of shows at Chicago Improv in Schaumburg.
“I love Chicago audiences,” says Pescatelli, who got her first big break as one of the final five on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” “They have a great balance. They are both educated and hardworking. I mean, you could have a neurosurgeon sitting next to a union rep out there in the crowd and they just get it. They let me go and be me. There are so many politically correct people out there. Some of the markets I play in can be uber-sensitive. But not in Chicago. I grew up in Cleveland. I understand Chicagoans.”
What she says she doesn’t understand is people who go out of their way to try to become part of the show. “With social media, people need so much attention these days,” said the comedian, who isn’t too keen on getting into the whole political jokes game, either. “There was a time when I would slam people for interrupting, and my friend Jenny McCarthy told me that I was scaring her. I have had to be a tough broad every once in a while. But I don’t want those people to distract me or anyone else. My fans don’t get to go out much. They have had to pay a sitter and sit through traffic and pay for a fancy dinner just to be at one of my shows. If a fan gets distracting, you can bet Mama is going to shut it down.”
Still flying high over the success of her 2013 Netflix special “Finding the Funny,” Pescatelli recently returned to her roots to film her next special, “Tammy Pescatelli’s Way After School Special.”
“We went back to my old high school and they wanted to interview some of my teachers, and I had to laugh because I wasn’t sure if any of them were still around,” Pescatelli said about the special, which she’s ‘”not sure where it’s going to go.”
“Everyone laughed at me back in high school when I told them I wanted to be on TV. They told me I would have to rob a bank in order to get on TV. But heck, that night [on her return visit] we got 700 people from that small town to come out, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
What does the future hold for Pescatelli? She has one idea.
“I would love to be a recurring character on a series where I could play a cop or something,” she said. “But seriously I don’t think I have ever been better at what I do than I am now. I want to find a way to help people and use my powers for good. And my son is 10. I want to make sure he is fully formed and functional.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.