Say Your Piece - Wendy Liebman
Updated: Jun 10
I gotta say, for my fourth series, "Say Your Piece", I was able to snag a few of my faves. One of them is Wendy Liebman. I've been following the talented comedian ever since stumbling across her guest appearance on David Letterman. Mind you, this was when Letterman had his late night television talk show on the networks, not Netflix.
What caught me was her delivery style. A perfectly paced balance of timing and word play. After Letterman, I would eventually catch her stand-up on various shows and specials. From Jimmy Fallon to Showtime to America's Got Talent.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled at the chance for Wendy Liebman to say her piece.
(Y'all see what I just did there?)
KD: Okay, so right out the gate. Past the comedian, past the career, who is Wendy Liebman?
Wendy Liebman: I’m 62, still trying to find my voice. My favorite thing is when my friends become friends with each other. I want people to feel light. I’d rather be thought of as nice than funny.
KD: And now I see you as both nice and funny. How do you kick back, relax, and unwind?
Wendy Liebman: I play the piano. I play word games (Wendyell on Words With Friends). I watch Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Diagnoses Murder.
KD: Shout-out time to your corner of your world.
Wendy Liebman: I live in California which I find so gorgeous — the ocean, the flowers. I’ve performed in 48 states and I’ve found wonderful funny people all over the country.
KD: Okay, now I'm curious to know which two states you haven't performed in? Meanwhile, when I say summer, what comes to mind?
Wendy Liebman: I grew up in New York on Long Island and my mother used to make delicious summer dinners which we would eat in the backyard. I don’t eat meat anymore but she would grill steak and chicken and corn and serve a beautiful salad and ice-tea (she would add orange juice). It seems simple, it is, but it was delectable. It smelled like fresh cut grass and the cicadas would come out at night.
KD: Gotta admit, I love that image. Orange juice and ice tea, though? I'm just intrigued enough to give it a try. So, readers of my previous interviews will be familiar with this question. What genre of music/movies & shows/reading do you listen to/watch/read more than others?
Wendy Liebman: Lately I’ve been listening to classical music (Beethoven’s Eroica, Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite).
My husband’s music is my favorite - it’s hard to categorize (Jeffrey C. Sherman - The Wishing Tree), and my stepson Alex Sherman is a beautiful singer-songwriter in the vein of John Lennon/Neil Young/Jackson Brown (Paint The Roses Red).
I watch TV series more than I watch movies these days. My husband and I binge all the British crime shows on BritBox and Acorn. We just finished Succession (I especially loved Kieran Culkin and the theme song) and earlier this year we watched all 15 seasons of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. (We’ll watch the new season when it comes out.) I also love Ted Lasso and Shrinking on Apple TV.
What do I read more than others? I have hundreds of books and I’ve read all of the titles.
KD: I'm probably one of the few people on the planet that's yet to see Succession, but as I was putting this together I just had to YouTube the theme song. Catchy! Speaking of Succession, how do you balance your career with home?
Wendy Liebman: I used to travel all the time. Now I mostly perform in town a night a week and I run a monthly show (Locally Grown Comedy). I’ve been booked to do a few corporate gigs later this year, and I’m taping a special at the end of June, but I have a lot of time at home with my husband.
KD: So, this I just gotta ask, because I’ve been following your career for a good minute, what and/or who inspired you to be a comedian?
Wendy Liebman: When I was six or seven I remember trying to get a laugh at Thanksgiving — I put on a tutu after dinner and pushed one sock down, thinking that the asymmetry of the socks was hilarious. Later I loved watching comedians on TV, and I would always be so nervous for them until they got a laugh. Comedians who inspired me include Phyllis Diller, Steven Wright, Garry Shandling, David Letterman, and then there was Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, Lucy, Barbra Streisand and Cher. Today I love Brian Kiley and too many to list.
KD: That's a whole entire list unto itself. And now the most crucial question of all. Coffee, tea, or…?
Wendy Liebman: I’ve tried and tried and tried to like tea but I just don’t.
KD: So then we're talking coffee, huh?
Wendy Liebman: I am a coffee addict, though I’m currently doing a purification thingy and I’m not supposed to have caffeine but I’ve been drinking decaf and I think I’m a decaf person now. Someone showed me a picture of what spiders’ webs looked like after taking different drugs (cocaine, LSD, marijuana, coffee) and the coffee web was very disturbed. That image has stuck with me.
(Okay class, as part of this interview, Wendy Liebman sent me the spider web images. I saw a few...let's just call them "interesting"...images within the coffee web image. Sooo...)
KD: How would you describe yourself as far as personality and character?
Wendy Liebman: I don’t love talking on the phone. I’m thoughtful. I love giving presents. I’m reliable. I try never to lie (except in my jokes). I practice Tonglen (a breathing technique where you breathe the negative all around and breathe out positive vibes — it works). I’ve never gone to sleep or woken up at the same time.
KD: And how do you think your friends would describe you?
Wendy Liebman: She hates talking on the phone. She listens. She sends me presents. She's funny.
KD: Funny indeed. So instead of asking a comedian what’s the funniest movie she’s ever seen, I’m going to flip the script. What is the saddest movie you’ve ever seen? I’m talking, “break out the Kleenex, squirt some tears, call someone up and tell them you love them” type of movie.
Wendy Liebman: I bawled like a baby after Marley and Me. Not sure I called anyone up though.
KD: Now the funniest movie? I mean, yeah, I am interviewing a comedian, y'know?
Wendy Liebman: Two of my favorite comedy movies are The Wrong Missy, and Planes Trains and Automobiles.
(I loved the movie BAPS unironically.)
KD: Okay, hit me with your three sentence career advice.
Wendy Liebman: Pick a job based on what you want to wear to work. Recognize that you’re always on a team, no matter what job you have. Prepare, show up, do your best, and learn for next time.
KD: Sooner or later that job that'll have me in pajamas and a Batman onesie will find me. What, to you, is the greatest aspect of America?
Wendy Liebman: Right now, it’s democracy.
KD: Flipping the coin, what do you feel is the greatest challenge facing America?
Wendy Liebman: Injustice. Inequality. Racism. The threat of fascism. Education. Climate change. Civility (or rather, the lack of). Idiocy.
KD: What are your other passions outside of stand-up?
Wendy Liebman: My husband. Our dogs.
KD: Name a few things you wish you would have learned so much earlier than you did.
Wendy Liebman: To take my time. Save money. That my parents are just people.
KD: Pet peeves?
Wendy Liebman: When the perforation isn’t on the fold, like on a bill. When an adult obviously made a sign that’s supposed to look like a kid did it, like LEMONADE when they have lemonade stands in commercials. Rudeness.
KD: Definitely with you on that last one. Back to comedy. What would you say has been a couple of your most memorable stand-up shows?
Wendy Liebman: I once got to open for Bob Hope in Indiana in front of 2000 people in the mid nineties. That was thrilling. I also remember a show I did in a basement of an Italian restaurant in Dearborn Michigan on a Sunday night for eight people. The only way I can describe it is I felt like a puck on an air hockey board.
KD: Wait, Bob Hope? Wow! Can you tell me about a "wow" moment you experienced? That is, assuming Bob Hope or the Italian restaurant basement didn't qualify?
Wendy Liebman: Earlier this year David Spade wrote to me on Instagram and asked me if I wanted to open for him. I didn’t even know he knew who I was.
KD: That definitely qualifies. Okay, so I feel almost obligated to ask this…do you have a dad joke, mom joke, bad pun you can unleash upon the world?
Wendy Liebman: Not sure if this fits the question but I used to say, “Someone thought I was Lady Di. Then I found out he was just telling me what to do.”
(Yeah, I'm still smiling at that one.)
KD: What was your biggest accomplishment of 2023 thus far? What's a goal you have for 2024?
Wendy Liebman: I’m about to tape an hour special in New Jersey! For 2024 I hope to publish a book of my jokes to be illustrated by artist/comedian Teresa Roberts Logan.
(Teresa Roberts Logan, if you read this, get at me. Let's talk about an interview.)
KD: What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?
Wendy Liebman: Oy. I’m not a fan of Elvis Costello (crouches — don’t hit me!).
KD: While I resist the urge to make an Elvis Costello joke, your stand-up style is quite…well…unique. I daresay call it your brand. I mean, can it be considered a brand? How did it evolve into your signature style?
Wendy Liebman: I didn’t like being on stage in silence, so at the beginning of my career I would just add tag lines to my jokes. That said, I started in Boston, and I think your art is informed by what’s around you, so I got to listen to the greats, Kevin Meaney, Don Gavin, Jonathan Katz, Brian Kiley, and Bill Braudis. It’s also just the way I think :). (For example: My cousin got married and she asked me to be in the wedding. . . cake.)
KD: What are things that you wouldn't mind others knowing about you and your world?
Wendy Liebman: I’m a little bit lazy — I have an electric hairbrush. (Joke)
We have two dogs, Jindos, rescued from a meat market. (Not a joke) It's the reason I don't eat meat anymore. They run our life.
I love the Minimalist movement even though you would never know it to look at my house.
I buy way too much on Amazon — the neighbors think the Amazon truck is our third car.
I ride my exercise bicycle for 10 miles a day.
I’ve taken anti-depressant drugs for 30+ years.
I was hit by a car while walking across the street in 2018. It took a while for me to recover. I’m grateful for every day.
KD: Once again...wow! If peeps wanted to reach out and connect, what would be a preferred method?
KD: Got it. I put them as a clickable link to make it easier. Anything else ya wanna add before we close out?
Wendy Liebman: I've been writing a novel for 20+ years called "AS ISABELLE". Thank you so much for these questions! You made me think!
Thank you so much Wendy Liebman for being my guest. Like, all while I was typing this out I was just smiling sporadically and thinking, I got to interview Wendy Liebman...how kewl is this? And thank you to my readers for once again taking the time to read another entry in my "Say Your Piece" series.
And yeah, I've said it before, I'll say it again. Take a break from your world...visit for a while in mine. Come often. Stay for a spell.