On the night of her stand-up debut, nearly a decade ago, Paris Sashay had a case of the nerves.
“We get to the club, and there’s about 60 people and a comedian on stage,” she recalls. “He’s not having a good set, because people are not laughing and were talking. Now I’m really scared. What if I don’t make these people laugh? So I go and hide in the bathroom.”
She stayed there until her mother — along with the show’s host — coaxed her out. “I went on stage, and I ended up doing thirteen minutes.” Sashay has been a mainstay on comedy stages ever since.
In recent years, she’s established herself at a number of notable comedy clubs, from the Comedy Cellar in New York to the DC Improv and the Arlington Drafthouse. In 2018, Montreal’s Just for Laughs, the largest comedy festival in the world, designated her a coveted New Face of Comedy.
“That was a great experience,” she says. “I got to be around all of the people that are the superstars of comedy” — Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and Patton Oswalt — “and you’re there as an up-and-coming star.”
Wanda Sykes not only praised Sashay after her set, she selected her for Unprotected Sets, an Epix TV docu-series highlighting comedians on the verge of stardom.
A boost from Sykes was extra-gratifying for Sashay, considering they’re both D.C. natives — and members of the LGBTQ community. “I switch between the ‘L’ and the ‘B’,” Sashay concedes.
She’s grateful to her mother for being so funny. “She’s hilarious,” says Sashay. “I often run jokes by her. She’s definitely part of where the funny comes from. She did go into labor watching Martin Lawrence, so I feel like the comedy was kind of installed in me.”
Sashay thinks comedy has a special healing quality. “I get messages and emails from people all the time saying how they were dealing with things, and coming to a show made them laugh and feel better,” she says. “So it’s deeper than just going up there to be funny. It’s more about taking people’s problems away from them for this time period [while] I have their attention.
“It helps me as well,” she continues, “because I lost my brother during COVID. I took a break for a long time — I couldn’t think mentally. But then once I got back out there, it was the feeling of hearing the people laugh that took some stress off of my chest to be like, ‘Okay, well, this is a part of my healing, so I need to make sure that I’m doing this.’ I’m healing them, but they’re healing me as well.”
“Paris Sashay & Friends” is Sunday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m., at the Arlington Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, in Arlington, Va. Tickets are $25. Call 703-486-2345 or visit www.arlingtondrafthouse.com. Learn more about Paris at www.officialparissashay.com.
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