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Stand-Up Mom Kim Berns
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
By Maureen Mancini Amaturo
It’s no joke raising three kids, running an interior design business, and keeping up with a husband and home, unless you’re Kim Berns. The Rye resident had audiences rolling in the aisles when she performed at Caroline’s in Manhattan last month.
Comedy, who saw that coming? After earning a B.S. in Journalism and Communications from the University of Texas and a Master’s in Communications from Northwestern University, Berns spent over 14 years in regulatory work and was a lobbyist for the FCC.
“There is no better breeding ground for women in comedy than being at the center of corporate hijinks,” said Berns. Though she has been writing “forever,” she feels that she honed comedy writing during the two-plus years she wrote a mostly humor column for The Loop.
What did it feel like being on the most famous comedy stage in New York City?
KB: Knowing you’re going to be on that stage pre-occupies you like your own execution would. You can’t help thinking about it weeks, months prior, to the detriment of your family. If I hadn’t done a series of open mikes around Manhattan (the industry standard is you pay $5 to crack jokes for five minutes), then I might have bombed. It’s industry practice is to bring a certain number of guests to any show or open mike you do. This is a built-in humiliation factor.
How did you go from Rye life to Caroline’s? And don’t say Metro-North.
KB: Finding your way in comedy is a lot like improving your golf game–taking lessons from a pro is key. Being funny at the drunken family get-togethers does not necessarily translate. I did a show locally for some good-spirited pals but knew the next step required paying people to tell you you’re lousy. Stepping out of the Shuttle subway stop into Times Square every week. I whispered aloud, ‘I’m not in Rye anymore.’
What made you move from interior design to writing?
KB: The interior design business was a bi-product of a fledging writing career. Twelve years ago, we were living in Washington, D.C., and after being annoyed for not being paid to write or to help people decorate their homes (an old hobby,) I started the design business and in turn was published in design magazines. I was able to work on a House and Garden TV show.
When did you realize comedy was your thing?
KB: When Father Murphy in eighth grade hissed that I was a wise guy, and one of these days I’d be sorry that I wasn’t more like the lovely, soft-spoken Gina Broccolo.
What has been the reaction of friends, family, neighbors?
KB: I never sold my husband a bill of goods, like I could cook or that he wouldn’t find himself the topic of some ill-conceived plot to upend dull marriages. In fact, he didn’t come to the show, since he himself said it’s not a great idea to have the source of the material sitting in the front row. The rest of my friends and family rolled their eyes, and said, ‘What’s new?’ My material is not exactly age-appropriate for my kids, who never seem to get older.
What inspires your material?
KB: I’m inspired by every ridiculous thing that comes my way. Stressing over whether it’s worth it to put the garbage can out on the off day, disappointment in my family’s not having eaten all the bananas before they’ve turned brown. Actually, the nature of the beast produces sets that aren’t for print in respectable papers. I also like religious figures and politicians as topics of interest.
I think as you age you become more like who you were supposed to be. I’ve spent a lot of years doing really constructive things, partially so that people would take me seriously. Of course, there were also those many years as a lead singer in a rock band, a habit that has been hard to break, much to the horror of pretty much everyone. In the end, the fear of being a comic has trumped conformity.
Kim Berns is scheduled to appear at New York City’s Comic Strip for an open mike on March 6, and a 6 p.m. show on March 15. Check out comicstriplive.com.