“We went on Good Morning America and BET for the site,” Ms. Peretti said. “We came off like assholes on BET”
In 2004 she formed comedy troupe Variety Shac with comedians Andrea Rosen and Heather Lawless, as well as Shonali Bhowmik, the front woman of the band Tigers and Monkeys. “We wanted to work together but we weren’t really [getting booked for] shows on the same nights because people tend to put on one female [comedian] per show,” Ms. Peretti said. “It’s actually considerate because otherwise we might step on each other’s tampon jokes.”
In their stage shows and short films, the group lampoons the staple activities of modern friendships, like book clubs, road trips, TGIF parties, potlucks and bake sales.
“Book clubs are a great way to catch up with the most annoying people in your neighborhood,” Ms. Peretti said. Their film on that particular subject also stars Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and Andy Milonakis and is available at http://www.varietyshac.com.
But her stand-up material is her, um, baby. In fact, if you go see her, prepare for pedophilia jokes. “I was in this café, and this lady was sitting there with her baby, and I went towards the bathroom and the baby was watching me,” she said recently at Union Hall. “And the lady was like, ‘Aw! He likes you. He’s such a flirt!’ And I was like, ‘I know. (breathily) I want to fuck him so bad.’”
NEW YORK’S UNDERGROUND COMEDY SCENE revolves around the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Chelsea outpost, which runs cheap (or free) stand-up and sketch shows virtually every night of the week. Nazi, bestiality and bulimia jokes are all in a night’s work. Cast members from Flight of the Conchords, The Office and Human Giant regularly deliver foulmouthed stand-up routines, and the venue serves as a networking hub for comedians.
With her Variety Shac show in the works, Ms. Peretti could soon join the boob tube regulars. She’s befriended the best of them at clubs like UCB, Pianos and Mo Pitkin’s and has played on bills with veterans like Chris Parnell (of Saturday Night Live) and Michael Showalter (of The State), as well as with critically feted up-and-comers like sketch-comedy group The Whitest Kids U’Know.
Though the testosterone-heavy scene is decidedly short on ladies, Ms. Peretti is holding her own. “She’s definitely a female comedian, and does a lot of material about being female, but it’s material with balls,” said Sam Brown of The Whitest Kids U’Know. “It has such a bite. In comedy—more so a couple years ago than now—there’s always been this ‘girls aren’t funny’ stigma. But whenever people are having that conversation, Chelsea is usually one of the first who’s thrown out as a counterexample.”
Ms. Peretti said that, thanks to the TV and Internet gigs, she’s been feeling more financially secure than any time in recent memory. But don’t expect her to give up performing live.
“I think in stand-up I’ve found much more of a voice of who I am onstage. Before, I was talking about vegans and strippers, shit that isn’t a huge part of life. But I would walk around all day, like ‘I’m a loser, I’m ugly.’ And I realized, ‘Why don’t I actually talk about what I’m thinking about, and then I’ll feel much more connected to what I was saying?’ So, about a year ago, I made a shift. The comedians I personally like to watch are the ones who actually say something real about their experience as a person.”
As if aware that she had veered into uncharacteristically sincere territory, she added, with a wry smile, “Don’t quote me on any of that.”