When Momfilter friend and photographer Ali Smith offered to introduce us to her friend, stand-up comedian and actress Heather Lawless, we were pretty excited. Good comedians have rock-star status in our book, and a good female comedian, and a mom to boot (with possibly the loveliest, most charming Southern accent ever)? That pretty much upped Heather to astronaut status. We knew Heather was going to be funny, she’s an award-winning comedian, has had a very successful stand-up career, and has performed with the likes of comedy bigs Flight of the Concords and Zach Galifianakis. What we didn’t necessarily expect and what we were so delighted to discover, was how humble, wise and kind Heather was. We absolutely loved hearing what she had to say about her career and being a mother, and we think you will too. Look for her, along with Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal, in “The Heart, She Holler” a new live-action series this fall on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block for adults).
Were you the funny kid growing up? The performer? Absolutely not. I sucked my thumb until I was around eleven so I didn’t talk very much. I would just suck my thumb and stare at people.
How did you come to comedy? My parents exposed my brother, sister and me to the arts really early. My sister was with the Atlanta ballet at one time and my brother excelled in art. I thought plays and acting were thrilling and mysterious. I decided to audition for a performing arts high school. My mom and dad were both supportive of the idea. I started doing plays there. A couple of my teachers at that school felt I had strengths in comedy and encouraged me to pursue it further. I discovered stand-up way later in life.
Do you have any pre-show rituals? Nerve tamers? I’m almost always nervous before a show, but I’ve realized writing a lot before I perform helps me. Even if I don’t use one idea from hours of writing it can sometimes save me from being engulfed by a nagging doubt.
There seems to be such vulnerability involved with performing and no shortage of critics, how do you deal with this aspect of the job? I get bummed if I read harsh things about myself but I try quickly to remind myself that performing wouldn’t be nearly as interesting to me if it were an easy pursuit with no critics.
What’s your proudest moment in your career so far? I think it was the first time I did stand-up. I was just so blown away that I had actually done it and maybe even more amazed that I wanted to do it again.
Has being a mother changed you as a performer? If I have a bad show I get over it a lot quicker because I don’t have the time I used to have to dwell on too much for too long. I think it has also made coming home after a show more appealing.
Best place in the U.S. to see stand-up? I think any place where people are doing something different and unique is the best.
Anything you miss about living in the South? My family.
What’s the least nutritious meal you’ve passed off as dinner? Chips and salsa.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Given? Having a healthy sweet boy. I also feel so lucky to have the parents and family I have. My parents still say my happiness is the best gift I could give them…I’m always working on that.
How do you balance parenting and performing? My husband is tremendously helpful. he also strangely likes what I do so he encourages me to perform as often as I can.
What has your son taught you? I have more hang ups than I realized.
Guiltiest pleasure? I foolishly feel guilty about most things that bring me pleasure.
Activity you don’t really love, but do anyway because your son loves it so much? Socializing.
What were your parents right about? Teaching us to try and treat people the way we want to be treated. The golden rule.
What’s your meltdown-prevention tactic? Sleep, and thinking about how grateful and lucky I am to be my son’s mother, and sleep.
Favorite moment of the day? When my husband walks into the door from work…with alcohol.
What are you currently reading? Freedom.
The most annoying thing you see other parents saying or doing that you pray you aren’t subconsciously saying or doing? There is only one right way to do things.
Photos: Ali Smith