Q&A: Vicki Barbolak
“Come on down! I’ll bring my box of wine and some Cheez Whiz and we’ll go ride the wheel at The Linq together!” That’s Vicki Barbolak’s invitation to me, and it’s impossible to turn down. The bubbly comedian and top-ten finalist from season of 13 of America’s Got Talent has made some time among her many national Trailer Nasty Tour dates to open Vicki Barbolak’s Trailer Park Tuesdays, a weekly stand-up residency at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at the Linq Promenade. She’s hitting the Strip every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. through Nov. 12 and she couldn’t be more excited about this chance to share her unique brand of trashy-in-a-sophisticated-way humor with Vegas audiences on a regular basis.
What was it like to step onstage for the first time at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club and start this new residency?
For me, there’s never been a show like that show. It’s my first residency ever, it’s in Las Vegas at Jimmy Kimmel’s club and it’s arguably the hottest comedy room on the planet. I was so excited, but I also felt like maybe it was my fifth birthday and what if no one came to my party? But it was almost sold out. And the shape of that room is amazing. You feel like you’re right there with the audience.
It does seem to be a uniquely designed room with a triangular shape widening from the stage. Does that really make a big difference for the performer?
If you were going to hug somebody and you’re putting your arms out as wide as you can, that’s what it feels like to be on that stage. It’s everything, the lighting, the sound, the shape. And it’s amazing that you can see a lot of the audience, which I love becomes sometimes (in other rooms) you feel like it’s so dark looking out. It’s very intimate even though it’s a fairly large room. And the green room is something else. It’s like, okay, Jimmy Kimmel is going to make a fabulous green room, but most of them look like closets. Some of them are closets.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in Las Vegas through the end of the year. Where is home for you these days?
It’s still my trailer park in Oceanside, California, but I haven’t seen much of it this year. I’ve been solid on tour and I’m coming into Vegas still on tour. But I’m really looking forward to being there and this is the most beautiful time to be out there in the desert. Maybe I’ll take some tennis lessons.
Your path to stand-up stardom has been different from most. What was it like when you first started performing?
I was 38 or 39, at home in my bathroom when I saw a flier in the trash for a stand-up comedy class. I was always a fat little kid who loved making people laugh and then when I started selling carpet in my parents’ store, I kept doing it, and if people didn’t laugh I was devastated. I didn’t care if they bought carpet. Everything good that has happened to me is because I made people laugh. I had never even gone to a stand-up comedy show before I started that class, and Sandy Shore, who taught the class and was (Comedy Store owner) Mitzi Shore’s daughter, she told me I was special and had a gift. No one ever told me anything like that. So I started going to open mics like crazy and I was terrible for probably the first four years, but I worked and worked.
And eventually Mitzi took you under her wing, right?
I used to go into the Comedy Store every Sunday and bring baked goods and watch the show and one day, she put me on. She didn’t know I’d been working so hard and had a good little set. I got to spend a lot of time with her and listen to all her stories, and she’d make me open the main room every Saturday when I was a terrible opener. Then she’d put me on after Chris Rock or George Wallace and just boil me, then go back to opening.
That sounds very intense but it must have shaped you into such a strong comedian.
I think it’s like any other job. If you want to be a bricklayer, you not going to know how to do that when you start. I compare comedy to that, a skill or a trade or a craft, and you start at the bottom until you get one person to laugh and that’s a miracle. You have to learn who you are onstage even if you’re funny off stage.