''When I was young I started by doing Bette Midler impressions,'' Michele Balan says. ''I was a female female impersonator.''
But Balan, it turns out, didn't see comedy as a successful career until much later. A couple decades ago, in fact, Balan was working in sales for a computer company. Even then, she found humor as a ticket to success. ''I should really give classes on how salesmen can make a better deal if they have a little humor,'' she reasons now. ''Because I'd make them laugh over the phone and then they'd go, 'All right, why don't you come in for an appointment?'''
(Photo by comicbalan.com)
Balan long ago gave up that job to pursue standup. These days she's probably best known for coming in fourth place on 2006's season four of Last Comic Standing – she was the ''last female comic standing'' that season. Actually only one woman has gone further than Balan in the reality competition show's seven seasons: Iliza Shlesinger, who won season six.
Next Thursday, Aug. 16, Balan appears at Virginia's Birchmere Music Hall as part of this year's Queer Queens of Qomedy, organized by show host and fellow comedian Poppy Champlin. Balan has appeared as part of Champlin's touring comedy variety show before. ''I do so many straight cruises and [straight] stuff,'' the lesbian comic says. ''It's great to have a different audience and work with my friends.''
''It's definitely going to be a variety of flavors,'' Champlin says about the Birchmere event. ''I try to vary the comedians because comedy is so subjective. This one should pretty much cover everything.'' In addition to jokes and a couple song parodies from Champlin, British musical comedian Zoe Lewis will offer a show built around playing funny-sounding instruments, from the ukulele to the spoons to the kazoo.
Balan, a regular Pride performer who's also appeared on Comedy Central, offers more traditional observational humor, appealing to a wide variety. She calls herself ''bi-comical,'' adding that in particular she usually impresses the men, gay and straight, more than they expected.
''There's still a lot of sexism, and especially ageism with the sexism in comedy,'' she says.