Laughter gives you power, and the absurdity of life’s everyday experiences offers a fount of endless material to nurture that laughter, according to comedian Patti Vasquez.
The Chicago native takes the stage at YES Cinema for a single performance at 8 p.m. Saturday to benefit the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center.
A genuine fan of laughing from a young age, Vasquez said she always loved watching shows on television that made her laugh, especially “Saturday Night Live” skits featuring Gilda Radner.
Throughout high school, Vasquez consumed comedy as her friends did music.
If you go
YES Cinema Comedy Showcase presents Patti Vasquez
8 p.m. Saturday
Yes Cinema, 328 Jackson St.
379-1630 or firstname.lastname@example.org
$20 in advance; $25 at the door. Tickets may be purchased at Yes Cinema, the Cinema Cafe, or Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, 1039 Sycamore St.
“I collected albums of comics,” Vasquez said during a phone interview from Chicago. “To me, comedy was music. That was what spoke to me.”
While in graduate school at Northwestern University, Vasquez realized two things. Although she loved history and enjoyed writing, she wasn’t in love with the politics that often dominate academia. And after seeing Magaret Cho perform at a comedy club one evening, Vasquez knew she would become a comic.
Born of an Irish father and Mexican mother, Vasquez related to Cho’s stories exemplifying the push and pull someone from another country experiences in American society and how that influences the universality of mother-daughter relationships and family. Cho’s story was Vasquez’s story.
“If she could do it, I could do it,” Vasquez said. “I walked away from the graduate program, and I have never looked back.”
Vasquez began as an emcee at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago in the mid-1990s. Using nearly all autobiographical material, she’s since performed throughout the United States. Her resume includes one-woman hit shows, such as “Mamacita: Tales of a Diaper Diva” and “Pregnant Party Girl: From Stoli’s to Stirrups,” regular appearances on “The Bob & Tom Show” and a new sitcom, “My Life is a Joke,” airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Throughout her comedic journey, Vasquez has remained mindful of the emotional trauma words can inflict, especially the thoughtless words of strangers.
As a mother of a special-needs child, Vasquez said smiling and laughing is her coping mechanism. Her 7-year-old son, Declan, was diagnosed with hypoplasia of the corpus callosum, an abnormality of brain structure. Instead of internalizing the stares and comments made by strangers, she takes those moments and turns them around.
She said Declan’s story isn’t a tragedy. It’s a triumph, and she regularly shares it to let others know “there is another family navigating the waters and keeping their sense of self.”
“I get strength from my audience,” Vasquez said. “It buoys me.”
Diane Doup, outreach coordinator of the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, describes Vasquez as a humble comedian with an impressive resume.
“In a field typically dominated by men, Patti relates well with the audience, sharing hysterical observances from everyday life as a wife, mother, friend and just general spectator,” Doup said. “She says what many of us want to say in response to everyday occurrences in our lives; and when she says it, it’s funny.”
Doup said Vasquez’s show, which frequently is described as “comedy with a heart,” is PG-rated and great for the whole family.
Characterizing herself as cheerfully edgy, Vasquez said she enjoys playing venues such as YES Cinema because the relaxed atmosphere allows you to weave a story.
“I’m a comic who genuinely wants people to have a good time and not feel like they’ll be accosted by horrible language,” Vasquez said. “Not that I don’t get a little naughty, but the show’s a safe place to come and laugh.”