Asia Biz Woman
March 31, 2001
Stand-up comedienne Karen Loftus - once touted as a 'surefire hit'
- has made it in a male-dominated arena, and wants to hear you bursting
out in laughter. Aaron Lye reports.
Think of stand-up comedians and automatically names like Jerry Seinfeld
or Tim Allen spring to mind. But Karen Loftus? "Who's that?", one
Whatever you do, however, don't look down on her. Though she may
not be exactly as world famous as the former two names, Ms. Loftus
is perhaps every bit as qualified a stand-up comedian, if the accolades
she has received are any guide. Called a "surefire hit" by the Scottish
Sun and the "woman to watch" in Ms. Magazine, Ms. Loftus was also
awarded the Critic's Choice by the London Times when she performed
during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ms. Loftus is currently in
Singapore as part of the Singapore International Comedy Festival
2001 to perform American Woman.
Touching on how she first got involved in stand-up comedy, Ms. Loftus
revealed: "I studied business in college but got into stand-up comedy
four years ago. I started as an actress and a writer and it was
a pretty easy tansition for me as I was used to being on stage doing
one hour one-woman shows, and I also did skits and impromptu performances.
"I've done film and TV and written a couple of plays and produced
them, having had them performed in several places in the States
and Europe. However, I started as an acress and most of what I did
ended up being comedic. Evern things that were meant to be dramatic
ended up having a wacky slant, so a lot of my teachers and directors
always encouraged me to go into comedy."
Recalling with a laugh, Ms. Loftus added: "Like every actress in
. I always got into trouble for clowning around while I was
supposed to be working, so it's great that I now have stand-up comedy.
It's a way to get paid for something that always used to get me
When asked about her sources for routine material and inspiration,
Ms. Loftus shared a very simple truth: "I get my inspiration and
material from life itself - it's so easy - life is zany and crazy
enough if you just look. Especially this particular show, American
Woman. It's based on my travels as I've worked in several different
countries. It's basically a crazy rocky road about being a woman,
being an American and being an American woman at home in the US
and around the world. For me, in every country I go to, I end up
with heaps of material about how we all perceive each other.
"That is essentially what American Woman is all about - perception.
In essence, I tell a lot of stories about where I go to, and it's
how I'm perceived and how I perceive. I'm more of a storyteller;
I don't just hurl jokes at people for no rhyme or reason. It's more
story-oriented and a lot from my own personal life. It's very observational,
and physical with a lot of characters."
It's a relatively well known fact - there aren't that many women
stand-up comics around. Ms. Loftus said: " Inherently, people don't
think women can be funny. But it came naturally to me. Plus, stand-up
comedy can be really challenging as you don't always know your role,
as it is with acting. It's like you're playing with fire every night.
Haveing done many forms of performing, I've come to believe that
the stand-up routine is the most interesting and challenging.
"However, I would definitely encourage more women to join the ranks.
I think it's obviously a lot easier for me to stand up there and
do that routine than it would have been for women 10 or 20 years
ago, and it should only get easier in the next few years."
But what about when the greatest nightmare of any performer strikes
- the apthetic audience? Ms. Loftus quipped: "Look at your watch
and see how many minutes are left. But, I hear local audiences are
very polite, meaning that they're usually very quiet. This obviously
concerns me as every performer feeds off the audience and their
response. There was this time when I performed for the American
troops stationed in Korea and they were similarly polite. Sure,
they had a good time but they laughed quietly and I was like 'I
came six thousand miles; I want to hear some laughter, people!'
"There was also this other time when I had to perform in the South,
right smack in the conservative Bible Belt and I was so nervous.
But they reassured me, saying that they brought me down there because
they wanted my particular brand of humour. So really, sometimes,
though you are sensitive based on where you are, you can't censor
yourself because it's who you are and what you do."