She realized she was not happy and wouldn’t be unless she dealt with her attraction to women, something that had been there since age four. After she came out to herself, she had to figure out how to come out to her audiences. It’s all part of her process and one she wouldn’t change for anything.
Now Vickie Shaw is a headlining comedian, regularly playing at gay pride events, Olivia cruises, TV specials and one-woman shows. Vickie Shaw sat down with Lesbian Life on a recent Olivia cruise and talked about her journey.
Lesbian Life: Tell me a little bit about how you got into comedy.Vickie Shaw: My entire life, everyone had always said, you should do standup comedy; And I'm like, people like me don't do standup comedy. That's stupid. Standup comedians are gods and I was a worshipper of standup comedy.
I would run home from school to see Merv Griffin or I would sneak out of my bedroom at night so I could watch some Johnny Carson if I knew a standup comedian was going to be on. I just craved it.
And you got the humor at a young age?Yeah, and what's interesting about that is I’m adopted and my parents don't have a sense of humor. Nobody in my family does. And it's really weird, because not that they're unhappy. They're not unhappy people. They just have no sense of humor at all.
I spent a lot of my childhood with my mother looking at me like, “She just didn't…” I was always trying to make somebody laugh. I loved laughing. But, nobody laughed. Nobody liked comedy. My mom and dad didn't - - comedians almost annoyed them.
So, it wasn't until I had my children and, I was being a mother, and I said, “Follow your dream, follow your passion, do what you love and do what you're good at.”
I've been telling my children all along, you have to figure out what your gift is, go towards that. That'll lead you somewhere that you're supposed to be. And I said, “Oh, my god, I've never…” It wasn't about a career. It was about being able to look back at my life and say, I did it. And if I fell flat on my face, I fell flat on my face, but I can say, I did it.
So, I went and the very first night I got an open mike. I had five minutes. I froze. I literally couldn't speak. I couldn't talk. It was the longest five minutes of my life. I couldn't remember my children's names. I was just nothing. There was nothing there.
And to this day, I honestly I don't know why I went back. But, I did. I was a little more prepared the second time. And then, I just began going every Monday night to open mike, because that was my time. I wasn't someone's wife. I wasn't someone's mom. I wasn't anybody. I wasn't anything. And I was all alone and it was just me, by myself, having to be creative and having to force myself to think and be on my feet and in the moment. And I began to slowly make people laugh.
Then I began to work with comedians and they said, “Oh, you should open at this club. You should go to this club and I recommend you for this and da, da, da.” And then, those doors began to open.
How long was that process before you went from open mikes to when you first opened at a comedy club?Wow, it wasn't very long, once I began to hang out every Monday night with the comedians, then you begin to understand the art of it and you talk to each other and everybody goes, “For that, you should do this joke.” Or “Here's a good line for that.” And you begin to pick each other's brain and it's kind of a - - you learn what goes into it. From the time I started probably my first paying gig, which makes you actually professional, I'm going to say, maybe six months.
But, it was just there in Houston and it was local. And then, I began to make a name for myself opening and then began to feature. You’re constantly working on your act. In that process of learning the art of comedy, which is about pain, you know, if you think about it, comedy is about frustration and pain and emotion. You can't pick and choose your emotions. I was in that process comedy was my catalyst to coming out, because I had denied those emotions all my life.
I'm not like a lot of older women [coming out] that fall in love with someone. There wasn't a woman. It was because I couldn't deny my feelings or lack of feelings anymore. And so, comedy was my catalyst for coming out. And there's a spirituality. I have a spirituality and I believe that it doesn't matter what you call your god or your higher being or anything like that, but I do believe that there is a purpose and that our gifts and who we are, there's a purpose to learn on this earth. And my being gay and coming out of the closet and - - even though it was painful and hard, there was a purpose in it.
So even when I would get really down and very depressed and very scared I would always just say, I know I can't know the purpose of this, give me a sign that what I'm doing is what I'm supposed to be doing.
And I mean every time within 24 hours, something would happen to verify this is. I believe that there's a bigger picture than just my comedy and making people laugh. It's a gift and an obligation and a responsibility. I love what I do and I'm very fortunate. But, it's not always easy. It's not always safe.
So, how old you were when you made this leap?I was about 38. So, I was older and I was a mom and had kids. I had everything safe and everything was secure and comfortable. Everything was perfect. I had a perfect husband. I had perfect children. I had a perfect house, perfect friends, perfect everything. My life was perfect and easy.
But it wasn't what I was meant to be; it wasn't who I was supposed to be and I was miserable. That's a life journey that so many of us, not just women, but men, go through. This couple came up to me after the show and one just came out to her husband. Her girlfriend said, “You've really given her encouragement. She's scared and the world isn't easy.” It's a challenge and yet a blessing at the same time.