Tammy Pescatelli fashions successful career in comedy
The Kent State University grad returns to Ohio for a show at The Funny Farm this weekend.
By JOHN BENSON
From an early age, Northeast Ohio native Tammy Pescatelli was entranced by comedy.
While other kids her age were watching MTV, she spent her time listening to old comedy albums. Perhaps the biggest sign she was destined to become a stand-up comedian came in her late teens when she got her hands on a fake ID.
“My friends used to go out to the Flats, and I’d go watch a set at the Improv,” said Pescatelli, calling from her Los Angeles home. “I wouldn’t drink or anything like that. I just loved it.”
She added, “But I did so having no idea I should be a stand-up. At that time, the only female stand-ups I saw were in their 40s talking about their husbands, and their kids and facelifts and sequins. Then one day, just a regular working comedienne — she wasn’t famous and I don’t know if she ever got on TV — came through. I was encouraged. And then dared by my brother, I did an open mic and just kind of went from there.”
That open mic experience actually took place in Iowa, where she was visiting her parents. At the time, Pescatelli had just graduated from Kent State University with a fashion design degree. Her future was all set in New York City, where she already had an apprenticeship lined up.
However, fate stepped in when a local radio station DJ caught her first open-mic set and offered her a gig as a morning show host in Rock Island, Ill. Pescatelli quickly accepted, spending the next two years honing her act at local comedy clubs and sharpening her comedic wit on the radio.
Eventually she moved back to Cleveland before she finally made the leap and relocated to Los Angeles in 2001. On the West Coast, things happened quickly for Pescatelli, who parlayed appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “An Evening at the Improv” and Comedy Central’s “The World Stands Up” into what was her biggest break as a comedian on NBC-TV reality show “Last Comic Standing 2,” where she was a finalist.
While she enjoyed the exposure, Pescatelli wasn’t a big fan of how she was portrayed as an Italian comedian.
“That was NBC’s version of who I was, and that’s a very difficult thing,” Pescatelli said. “I am Italian. There are like three jokes in my act about being Italian, but the truth is that was NBC’s perception of who I was, just like Alonzo (Bodden) was the angry black man. The network attempts to make characters out of people.”
Currently there’s plenty of momentum in Pescatelli’s career, with two new movies — “Everybody Wants to be Italian” and “Made in Brooklyn” — due out next year, along with another Comedy Central special in the works. Pescatelli makes her long awaited return to Youngstown with appearances Friday and Saturdayat The Funny Farm in Liberty
“I’m in a really fun place in my life because my life is transitioning,” Pescatelli said. “I’m getting married, and I still talk about my family. I also have a bit called ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ It’s about stupid stuff you see everyday when you open up the newspaper or turn on the television. You see people doing something dumber than the day before.”
No matter where her career takes her, Pescatelli said she cherishes her Northeast Ohio upbringing.
“It was amazing,” Pescatelli said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Especially when I came out to Hollywood to see how whacked out all of these people are.”