Standup Jessimae Peluso: "My dream is coming true, but my life is crumbling around me"
Though she's a hilarious standup comedian, Jessimae Peluso's life, as of late, makes her sound like she should be a country and western singer. "Really," she agrees. Newly arrived in southern California, she's had a run of bad luck. "My car got totaled the week I got here, and then the vet told me that one of my dogs is basically dying," she says.
Like a good comic, though, she can still laugh about it. "My dream is coming true, but my life is crumbling around me."
Actually, apart from her vehicular woes and her dog's health, things are going well for the Syracuse native. "I just shot two pilots for the E! Network, I'm developing a pilot of my own, and I'm working on book proposal. It's all about having multiple sources of income. You have to diversify," she says.
Peluso started out doing sketch comedy in Boston, where she says moved to for a boy. "He was playing drums and waiting tables. Real steady stuff. The type of thing your mom and dad tell you to go for: 'Go for a musician who works in a restaurant.' Actually, he's doing good now. He's with the Blue Man Group. Take that, Mom."
Growing up in Syracuse, Peluso had the instincts for comedy, but didn't quite know what do to with them. She had very few avenues to hone her craft. "Only for my Mom's home videos," she says. "There aren't too many opportunities to perform in Syracuse -- that's why I left. I wanted to do something creative, but Syracuse doesn't provide the platform you need to cultivate those kinds of skills." Even after arriving in Boston, she wasn't sure how she was going to proceed, until some friends told her about a sketch troupe that was holding auditions. "So I went and auditioned with tons of people. At the time there was only Improv Boston and Improv Asylum, then this one that was being created called the Tribe." She was a member of the Tribe for three years. "We did musical improv," she says. "Oh, my God."
"It wasn't just singing, we used instruments," she says. "We had a basket of random things. I always went for the finger cymbals, because I figured I could do a gypsy thing every time. We just had these random instruments, and we would break into songs in the middle of sketches. I laugh now, because improv is a really difficult thing to do and be good at. If it's bad, it's so bad. Bad as in cringe-worthy." She feels that standup is a little more forgiving. "If standup is bad it's only one person up there, so it's not as painful to watch. There's no art to bad improv."
Stand-up also appealed to her for another reason. "I just knew I had something to say. I knew I had been through stuff," she states. "Growing up, my dad and I always watched comedy specials. I really didn't watch live comedy as kid, but we'd always watch Richard Pryor, and I was big Gene Wilder fan and a fan of the movies they did together. I just wanted to try and see if I could do it. The improv thing was fun and I enjoyed it, but I was like, 'Well, let me see if this other thing can work. It was a challenge for me, and it still is. Standup is a continuing process. No matter what level you're at, you're constantly working on it."
Before heading West, Peluso moved to New York, where she was able to perform a lot more and develop her craft more quickly. "One of my best friends was going to law school in New York, and she wanted a roommate," Peluso says. "She didn't really know anyone else that she wanted to live with, and she wanted this opportunity, and I knew there were so many more opportunities for me there to perform standup."
Having moved from a small city like Syracuse, to a bigger one like Boston, the move to New York wasn't as scary. "A little bit more of a shock," she recalls. "You just have to be careful about where you're walking and when you walk. A street savvy attitude is what you have to have in certain neighborhoods, and in New York City in general. It's such a big city and there are so many people around you. Everyone's trying to hustle you whether it's legal or illegal. You have to have that third eye open comedically -- and in general."
IF YOU GO:
The House of Comedy
Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558
7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
18+; 21+ later shows
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Minneapolis & St. Paul and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.