I recently had the pleasure of having a chat with comedian Tammy Pescatelli. She’s been in the business for years, appearing on television and across the country at countless comedy clubs. Tammy’s latest passion is being a mother and wife – and her new experiences are giving her comedy a new perspective. She never wanted to be a typical “female comic”, her new reality show on WE tv might be the last thing she would have wanted to do, but Tammy is breaking the mold and doing things her way…in rural Pennsylvania.
How did you get started in comedy?
It’s the typical story: I was a huge comedy fan. I used to sneak Eddie Murphy and George Carlin tapes into my house because my parents were super strict and wouldn’t let me listen to them. I also had a fake ID so I could go to Comedy Clubs. But it never occurred to me that I could be a comedian because most of the women, not to be offensive, that I saw when I was growing up were actually exactly where I am now; married, with kids, their whole lives were either male-bashing. I wasn’t a girly-girl, to say the least. I didn’t relate. And then one day in the summer between college and my internship, I got a job at a comedy club and this woman came through. She wasn’t a famous comic, just an emcee, and I thought ‘Oh my god! I can do that!’ and that was it; I did open mic night sponsored by a radio station, they hired me to do a morning show, I did that for 2 and a half years and then I went on the road. From that first week on the road on, I made so many contacts and so many of them helped me out along the way. John Pinette, DL Hughley, Carlin actually took me on the road a couple of times, Geroge Lopez; these guys helped me out and that was it. I trudged – I may not be everyone’s favorite comic or they might not like my sense of humor, but I didn’t skip any steps…and my breasts used to be really really high, so I could have skipped a lot of steps.
Was there ever a moment growing up where you thought ‘hey, I’m funny – I can do this’?
No, but I was always the smart-ass. I used to get in trouble for my mouth all the time. You know how within a group of friends, you have that one friend that says something and then they recall it at a party a year later and they’ll go ‘Remember that one time when you said this to that one?’ and that’s kinda what I was – I was the person that someone always wanted to hit, because I was just such a smart-ass.
How did the radio show and going on the road lead up to your new TV show, A Stand-Up Mother?
It’s been a long time – I’ve been a comic for 16 years. 10 years ago, I moved to LA. I worked hard, trying to break through. I had already been a comic for 6 years. I went to the Montreal Comedy Festival. A year later, I had my first ever television appearance, which was on The Tonight Show. That led to Last Comic Standing, which opened a lot of doors. Eventually, things tapered off. I got married, had a kid, said ‘Hollywood isn’t for me’, left and decided to be a road comic. That’s when my story got interesting to people – that’s when my material got real. That’s when I actually had life experience. A comic’s experience in life, if they’re single, is not real. I spent my entire 20′s on the road, waking up and not knowing where I was.
And now, you’re life is completely different. You’re in VERY rural Pennsylvania and you have cameras in your face all day. What’s that all like?
Every day that they were here filming, I would wake up and thing ‘I tricked them!’. Somehow, I conned Hollywood into thinking that this might be interesting. I worked a long time to get out of a small town – I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland – a little Italian area. I didn’t want to come back, trust me. But I just felt, at the end of the day as a comic, I have to be on the road, regardless. My husband’s a jack of all trades in the industry. He’s a producer, comedian and writer, so he pretty much has the same life as I do. So as long as someone was with the baby, we were good. We figured we might as well leave the chaos of LA and move back to the chaos of my family.
Meadville, PA seems to be very quant. When you go into town with the camera crews, what do the locals think? I imagine that they’re not used to that type of thing.
The great part of this season is that nobody paid too much attention. They know that there’s this comedian that lives here. They have a theater that seats 2,000 and it always sells out, so nobody really pays attention. They probably thought it was To Catch a Predator or something. Everybody was great. Every time we said ‘Hey, do you mind if we come over and film?’, they would say ‘yup – no problem!’, so if the show’s a hit, it’s going to be a pain in the butt. Then, everybody’s going to want something [laughs].
Your mother-in-law seems to be a big part of your stand-up. What does she think of all of this?
Can I tell you the truth? In my stand-up, she was only really one joke. Seriously – one joke. It was based on truth, but you have to watch what you say about people, you know? I’ve never been one to hold back, but you also have to spend the night at these peoples’ house for the rest of your life. So the moment the cameras clicked on, she just went into gear. She and my parents, I’ve created monsters. They’re all into it. We do this show a little differently than other reality shows, its not like we’re breaking any molds or anything, but I was a comic and I had an act, so we had to make sure it stayed funny. We had to make sure certain things stayed true. It’s not about my son, I’m not Kate Gosselin – my uterus isn’t the talent. We had to make sure that we made things make sense. I did an episode [of Curb Your Enthusiasm] once with Larry David, it got scrapped, but we tried to make it like that. We had outlines and then it had to make sense. And it’s WE, you know? I spent a lot of time trying not to be a female comic – I just wanted to be a comedian, and be accepted on that merit, and now I’m on a women’s entertainment channel. What can you do? [laughs]
Do you want to stay on the road-comic path or do you hope this might lead to something else?
I love being on the road. Look at a guy like Lewis Black. He’s not on a TV show, he does a movie here and there, but he’s an amazing road comic. There’s nothing wrong with that and that, to me, is a great career. So, sure, this show at the most will help me to sell more tickets for comedy clubs and theaters. At the least, I have the best home videos for my son that money can buy.
Do you think you’ll ever move back to Los Angeles?
No, we’re probably going to go to New York. We actually bought a house in New York after our son was born, but then we realized that it was one brooklyn-house away from my mother-in-law, which basically means the same building. It’ll be great for my career, but it will suck for my marriage [laughs]. So you never know – right now, Meadeville is the place. It’s simple and we have a LOT of support. When you work a lot, you need that.
Where can people watch A Stand-Up Mother?
I know it in my sleep – I wake up screaming it. January 25th at 10 PM on WE Network after Joan Knows Best. It’s going to be every Tuesday for 6 weeks. I also have a CD called It Is What It Is, which is available on iTunes and Amazon. I also have a DVD that we’re releasing called What The Hell Is Wrong With You, also available on iTunes and Amazon.