Late-blooming comedian

A spontaneous joker whose name you should follow

photo by Nicole Fowler

Check out Wendy Lewis at Comedy Burger 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Momo Sacramento, 2708 J Street. Tickets are $10.

It’s almost a packed house at Momo Sacramento, the kind of crowd that came to laugh. But one thing is missing: burgers.

This is Comedy Burger, a monthly comedy series, where in addition to watching some of the best local comics, you can purchase $6 gourmet burgers. The show is the brainchild of local comic and SN&R columnist Ngaio Bealum, and it’s coproduced by the underrated local comic Wendy Lewis, who should be a household name around town and maybe soon will be.

Out of everyone, she’s taking the stress the hardest.

“It’s called Comedy Burger. It’s not called Comedy Tequila,” Lewis says. “I was freaking out because I have OCD bad. I want things to go a certain way.”

Rather than staying freaked out, she drives to McDonald’s and buys a bunch of cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches, passing them out to the crowd partway through the show.

“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my audience,” Lewis says. “I thought it would have been funny if I went to Wendy’s—being brand loyal.”

Later in the evening, Lewis takes the stage. You would have never known how stressed she was by watching her set. She exudes the kind of confidence that fully embraces her flaws, where it almost feels like she’s bragging about them, and she adds a borderline aggressive “don’t give a fuck” attitude. Her brain goes a mile a minute. She tells self-deprecating stories, dirty jokes, teases the audience ruthlessly and, at times, just comes up with new material on the spot, which does surprisingly well. She talks fast and switches things up with different voices. She has the best set of the night. People bust over laughing.

“Wendy is awesome,” Bealum says. “She loves comedy and knows all the comedians. Her stories are wicked funny and she understands the art of being herself on stage. I laugh every time I watch her.”

Her material can get crass: “Look at all the happy couples before Valentine’s Day. I hope you all get tongue cramps tonight,” she tells the people at Momo. But she’s all about love and giving people a relief from the stresses of day-to-day life.

“I feel like if you can use humor to put a hug around people, you forget the rest,” Lewis says. “You can only think about what’s making you laugh at that moment in time.”

At 43 and just about five years into comedy, Lewis not only coproduces the Comedy Burger series, which she started doing in 2016, but also hosts a weekly open-mic every Friday at Vince’s Ristorante in West Sacramento. Back in 2014-2016, she used to be the featured comic for the Darling Clementines burlesque troupe. She gigs wherever she can.

Lewis did her first set at the urging of a coworker at Nordstrom, where she worked as a counter manager in cosmetics. This coworker was annoyed at Lewis’ nonstop joking and silliness at work. Lewis took her advice and entered into a contest at Laughs Unlimited, but she didn’t prepare for it at all.

“I know it sounds kind of weird, but I know that I’m kind of naturally funny, and I have a lot of funny stories that have happened to me that are just true that I’ll just tell somebody,” Lewis says.

She was competing against working comics—ones who had actually written down material and prepared—and held her own. She scored in 11th place of 12. Plus, someone was so impressed with her that they offered her a gig at Punch Line. But she heard one piece of criticism: Her material was too self-deprecating.

Rather than change up her style, she just got better at it and developed a confidence in her foibles. At that Punch Line show, her second show, and with another unplanned set, she shared the stage with cult San Francisco comic Larry Bubbles Brown, who really liked one of her stories, where she talked about her dog accidentally getting into her cannabis edibles.

“Now he’s got the munchies all the time.”

Brown asked her: Was it a true story? The answer was yes.

“They say that comedy is 80 percent truth and 20 percent embellishment,” Lewis says. “I’m like, my life’s one whole big joke. I got plenty of material to work with. I don’t really have to embellish. If I can laugh at myself, you can laugh at yourself. We all have days when we fall flat on our faces.”

It wouldn’t be for 10 months into doing comedy that she would start writing her material down.

A lot of her style comes from working retail, specifically in the beauty industry, where she used humor to make folks comfortable. The same year she started comedy, she quit her job at Nordstrom and got hired as a makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics.

“As a big girl, I’ve always used to humor to buffer things,” Lewis says. “With customers, if you can make them laugh, it disarms them right away. Some of these girls I work with are so amazingly beautiful. They would say some mean stuff to me, so I would disarm them with humor and suddenly they’re like, ’You’re one of us now.’”

Telling jokes is one of the most natural things for Lewis. Her mind’s constantly thinking of material whether she intends to or not, and she easily finds humor in everything. Near the end of our interview, she sees a person walking their dog, gets distracted and writes a new joke.

“Dogs are great. They only shit on your carpet, not your heart,” she laughs. “I should make that into a T-shirt.”