After appearing on lists of Top 10 Comics to Watch by Variety Magazine and Comedy Central, Loni Love makes a stop in New Orleans Friday, Nov. 18 at Harrah's Casino for her national "Love Train" tour. Here, the comic discusses the differences between TV and live performances — she's been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Chelsea Lately and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and has a recurring role on the Nickelodeon's Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide — and sheds light on why there are so few female comics.
You went from being an engineer to being a comedian. How and why did you make the switch?
I did stand-up in college for extra money, and when I moved out to Los Angeles, I wasn’t happy having a traditional lifestyle as an engineer. I went to a comedy club and there was one female doing comedy and all these males, so that’s what made me get into stand-up. I ended up getting really good at it and got a couple showcases. Then we had layoffs in my job. I was devastated because they were laying people off who’d been there for 30 years. I went to my boss and said, “Save someone else’s job and lay me off.” And I did that in 2001 and never looked back.
There aren't a lot of female comedians. How is it for you being a woman in that industry?
Comedy is very hard, especially being a female. It took me three years just to get into a mainstream comedy club. It hasn't been an easy road at all, because there's a reason you don’t see a lot of females (in comedy). It's very cliquish in this industry, and you not only have to prove yourself to the club, you have to prove yourself to the audience. All that takes time and that’s what I’ve been working on.
Are there any other factors that make comedy a tough industry for women to break into?
People like pretty things, and they like women to be pretty. If women aren’t pretty, there needs to be something (audience members) can look at or joke about or that they like. We’re just not accustomed to seeing women do comedy. I headline clubs across the US, but I may be only one of five women that actually headline. Women may be featured, but I can’t count how many times guys walk up and say, “I’ve never seen a woman close the show.” And the reason why there aren’t a lot of women in comedy is because if you get married or have a baby, it’s hard to do that and pursue standup and really be good at it. You really have to sacrifice.
What sacrifices have you made for your career?
The decision I made was I didn’t want to get married or have kids. (Marriage and children) slow your career down, because even if you take nine months off, that’s a lot of time. A lot of friends I started doing comedy with, their careers backed off because they have to take care of their families. I'm not saying you can’t do both, it’s just hard. But you know you're taking a risk, because your 30s and 40s are a good time to become a comic. It’s a delicate game you play. We're doing a tribute to Phyllis Diller — she waited until after she had kids to start her career, and the same thing happened with Roseanne. I joke and say a lot of great comics are lesbians — you have Rosie (O'Donnell), Ellen (DeGeneres), Wanda Sykes — I don't know, there's something to that.
You do television and live stand-up — do you have a preference among these?
I like doing television because it (reaches) more people in a shorter amount of time. What I like about a live show is it's different every night. That’s why I still do the road: You can talk about things happening now. With television, you’re sometimes restricted in what you can say. It’s two different types of muscles. I like exercising both of them.
Right now I’m on Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, and I really like doing that show because it helps people. I became a comedian because I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to entertain them. In my stand-up, I try to be inspirational and talk in an encouraging manner and make them laugh.